I prune the suckers off my tomatoes. I always have. A sucker is a shoot that grows out of the joint between the main stem and a limb on a tomato plant. as seen growing in the picture above. I use my Felcos to cut the suckers as close to the plant as possible. If you don’t have a pair of Felcos handy, you can usually gently break the sucker off the plant.
We prune suckers because we grow our tomatoes using stakes for support and tying them to the stakes with old pantyhose or t-shirt rags. Pruning the suckers keeps the plant more open, and less top heavy. Pruning also allows me to fit 10 plants per bed instead of just 6 to 8.
A few years ago, when late blight was rampant, pruning the plants and keeping the space around them open helped to keep the plants drier and less likely to get the late blight. It’s also easier to spot early signs of late blight such as brown areas on stems if a plant is more open. Late blight is a community response disease which means any infected plants must be promptly removed and destroyed, and your local cooperative extension office notified to help with controlling the spread of the disease.
The one year I decided to skip pruning our tomato plants, I found the plants to be very dense and the harvesting to be more difficult. The plants got very bushy and too heavy for some of the lighter stakes. They also took over space that I normally use for companion planting bush beans.
In addition to catching up on my tomato pruning this weekend, I will be mulching the rest of the tomato plants with grass clippings. Not only do grass clippings help add nitrogen to the soil which tomatoes love, they also suppress the weeds around the plants. I definitely think less weeding is a good thing.
Weeds around tomato plants can harbor diseases and insects which will attack the tomato plants. According to this article from Tomato Growing Tips, using grass clippings as mulch is not ideal since grass clippings have a tendency to clump and block water. In my experience, the grass clippings keep the soil around the plants more moist. I haven’t noticed any blocking of water. When I check under the grass clippings and push my finger down into the soil, it’s always damper under the clippings than the bare soil.
Do you prune your tomato plants? What’s your preferred way of growing tomato plants?
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