Just a Snip Here and There ....
Tomato plants have the tendency to grow wild, especially when they ae happy. Long sinuous stems beget even more stems with flowers, fruit and leaves competing for space, air and light. Shoots bend and break under the weight of the ripening fruit. Tomatoes rot on the vine as they go unnoticed, while others become diseased due to the crowded conditions. Suckers run rampant taking up precious space and blocking light, while they pump out even more flowers and fruit. The season just isn’t long enough for all those flowers to produce harvestable tomatoes.
Ongoing maintenance throughout the growing season is beneficial. Plants generally respond favorably to some judicious pruning and training as they grow. Since plants grow quickly, it should become a weekly task to keep them in check to make sure stems are supported and to remove overcrowded growth. If you leave it too long, then you’ll be removing too much at one time – which causes stress followed by wilting and disease. Only remove one quarter of excess growth at one time. Water well after pruning and fertilize with an organic fertilizer to help the plant bounce back.
In August and/or September growing healthy fruit that ripens in time before frost arrives is the name of the game. Flowers and immature fruit should be removed. So should foliage that shades developing fruit and stems that continue to pump out flowers at the expense of existing fruit.
What to Remove
- ongoing: Remove suckers as they develop and preferably when they are small.
- ongoing: Ensure all stems are supported so they don’t bend or break.
- ongoing: Straighten and secure all bent stems.
- ongoing: Remove suckers that develop on existing fruiting stems.
- ongoing: Remove any diseased or damaged fruit and plant parts asap.
- late summer: Cut back stems to a cluster of ripening fruit.
- late summer: Remove flowers and immature fruit clusters that will not have time to ripen before frost.
- late summer: Expose ripening fruit by removing or cutting back some of the leaves that shade them. Be cautious not to remove too much foliage, especially if the fruit hasn't seen the light of day.
- after pruning: Water and fertilize with an organic fertilizer.
Tomato Taming & Ripening
There’s a few techniques to encourage tomatoes to ripen and to prolong the harvest.
- existing flowers and buds. This allows the plant to concentrate its energy on ripening existing fruit instead of growing new ones.
- stem ends. Cut just above a cluster of ripening fruit.
- lower leaves especially ones that touch the ground.
- diseased foliage and fruit, split and overripe tomatoes.
- small fruit to allow bigger tomatoes to mature.
- excess fruit on overloaded plants.
- small and new suckers
- any diseased, sickly, buggy and sick fruit
- Apply Epsom Salts: Provides magnesium. Mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salts to one gallon of water. Either apply the solution to the soil or mist the foliage. Or apply a cup of Epsom salts around each plant and water it in well.
- Stop watering. The lack of water encourages ripening, however, don’t allow plants to wilt.
- Milk: Spray plants with 1 part skim milk and 9 parts water. Repeat every two weeks.
- Cover plants at night. This not only keeps plants warmer it keeps plants drier reducing blight and other diseases. Use breathable fabric such as tablecloths, floating row covers. Don’t forget to uncover plants in the morning.
- Watch for frost. Extend harvest by covering plants when frost is predicted. Use floating row covers, sheets or other breathable fabric. Plastic has no insulating value.
- Inspect & harvest daily
But Wait...There's More...
There's certainly more to growing veggies than this article. Check out the links below for more information.
- Spring Veggie Gardening
- Crop Rotation, Succession and Companion Planting.
- Taming Tomatoes
- Speeding Up Tomato Harvests
- Tomato Tips
- Tomato Troubles
- Tomatoes Seedlings to Plants
- Growing Potatoes
- Winter Veggie Gardening
- Building a Potager (French Kitchen) Garden
- How to Build an Easy Veggie Garden Trellis
- Plant Pests Part 1
- Plant Pests Part 2: Controlling Insects
- Slugs & Snails
- Growing Seeds Indoors
- Growing Seeds Outdoors
- Soil Building
- Compost Tea
- Fertilizing & Feeding Plants