For many years now I have been growing my own organic tomatoes! When I first started growing tomatoes I quickly noticed that there were a ton of varieties and that some varieties did better than others.
I seemed to have better luck with certain varieties like bush tomatoes and Roma tomatoes but had no luck with others that were heirloom tomatoes, Beefmaster or Brandywine varieties. What was I doing wrong? Why was it that I couldn’t get these varieties to grow and produce a lot of tomatoes?
So I began to research and found out a ton of information and began making some changes! Over the next few years I implemented these changes and have had tremendous success ever since! Here it what you need to know!
Different Tomato Varieties
There are two different types of tomatoes plants, determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes. Both variety of plants are very different and it is important to know which kind you have so you can properly care for your tomato plants.
Determinate Tomatoes – determinate tomatoes are tomatoes that do not require staking or pruning and do not require the removal of “suckers”(explained below). These tomatoes are usually bush varieties and only grow about 3-4 feet and then produce their fruit. Plants blossom and develop at the same time over a 4-6 week period of time.
Indeterminate Tomatoes – indeterminate tomatoes are tomatoes that grow throughout the season and usually need to be staked up and require weekly pruning or the removal of suckers (explained below). They will continue to grow and produce until a frost comes.
To find out which kind you have in your garden, here is a list from The Henrys’ Plant Farm:
So as I stated above, my determinate tomatoes were doing great and did not require the removal of suckers. So the problem I was having was with indeterminate tomatoes. These plants would grow nice and tall but very few tomatoes were being produced. After doing some research I realized that I was not removing the suckers on my plants. Suckers?? Yes, suckers. Let me explain.
Suckers are little plants that grow off of the main stems or leaders. They form at the “Y” of two branches like pictured below. When these suckers form they strip the main plant of its nutrients and the central plant will not have the energy to produce a lot of tomatoes. So in an indeterminate variety, it is imperative to remove these suckers so that the main plant has the energy to produce a ton of tomatoes!
Here is how you remove suckers from your indeterminate tomato plants. You want to wait until your suckers are at least 2-3 inches in length. Look at the photo below. At the “Y” you can see a sucker that is about 3 inches long. It is important to note that you want to remove suckers that are below a flower cluster as shown in the picture. Do not remove suckers above the flower clusters. This is new growth and will produce more tomatoes, so only remove the suckers that are below flower clusters.
Now with your fingers, follow the sucker to the base of the plant.
Snap off the sucker at the base and discard. By removing the sucker off of the main plant you are allowing the central plant to have more energy to produce more blossoms or tomatoes and you will dramatically improve your production of tomatoes.
You will need to remove your suckers on your indeterminate plant every 7-10 days. Make sure the leaves on your tomato plants aren’t wet when removing suckers so that you aren’t spreading diseases. You can remove suckers any time of the day, it will not harm the plant. Again, I want to stress, only remove suckers on indeterminate varieties and not on determinate varieties. Here is the Tomato Variety List, once again from The Henrys’ Plant Farm.
I hope this information is useful to you and you are able to have a ton of delicious tomatoes this year in your garden! Happy Gardening Everyone!
Bobbi Erdmann Lazewski says
Awesome article ! Thank you
I understood not just sucker but the leaves also were supposed to be removed under the lowest blossom?
Carol Ann James says
Instead of discarding the suckers you can pop them in pots of potting soil and growm on as new plants. I got 6 plants off 1 I bought this year and all are doing very well! I got the idea from The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener.com
Whole Lifestyle Nutrition says
I suppose you could…thanks Carol, I will update the post 🙂
Whole Lifestyle Nutrition says
So Carol, did you put the plants into water and allow the roots to form first, or did you plant directly into soil?
Donna Putney says
You can put them in water and they will root, or you can put them in a pot of soil in the shade for a few days and keep moist till they root.
@LetThisMindBinU Thanks. I was aware of the suckers but didn’t know it was only for the indeterminate varieties. Great link!
@cosibar Ack, I didn’t even know about determinate/indeterminate varieties. Mine are all indeterminate this year, so I’ll see what happens!
@LetThisMindBinU Hope so too.
Cult of Kale says
Great information! Thanks for sharing!
love this hint! going out to check my plants now!
The fact that you shouldn’t remove suckers above flowers was unknown to me…..nice pics and information…
Thank you for this information, Halle! I’m going to try it! Thank you for sharing at Rural Thursdays this week. xoxo
Hey Halle! Awesome tips and instructions! I was told to do this, but
your explanation and photos helped me ‘comprehend’ the reason why.
Thanks!! Thank you for sharing with us at Healthy 2Day Wednesday. Hope
to see you again real soon! Blessings! Carrie @younglivingoillady.com