|Know what you’re pinching|
How can you tell the difference between a tomato plant’s sucker and a fruiting branch when they’re both just beginning to grow?
If you don’t pinch suckers, I suppose you don’t have to worry about the difference. You just let everything grow. But if you want to pinch suckers—I explained in an earlier posting why you might want to do that—you certainly don’t want to prune off the fruiting branches by mistake. If you do, you’re removing future tomatoes.
Most information about suckers mentions that they grow at the junction of a main stem and a leaf. That junction is called the “axil.”
But don’t fruiting branches grow from axils too? No, fruiting branches grow from the main stem, not at the intersection of Main Stem Street and Leaf Avenue. So when you’re removing suckers, make sure you’re removing new growth at an axil.
If the new growth is just beginning and you’re just not sure if it’s a new fruiting branch or a new sucker, let it continue growing for a few days. A fruiting branch soon will display its buds and then blossoms. A sucker, by contrast, continues growing as a potential new main stem with new leaves and eventually fruiting branches also.
The first photo shows a fruiting branch and a sucker on an Amish Paste tomato plant in the Tomato Patch this morning. Note the fruiting branch growing from the main stem and the sucker growing from the axil.
|My mistake: Roma plant without
a main stem
Do I ever make a mistake when I’m pinching suckers? Am I human? I haven’t pinched a fruiting branch this year—yet. I’ve done worse. Somehow I managed to pinch the main stem of a Roma tomato. Now, several weeks later as you can see in the second photo, I seem to have created an 18-inch high tomato shrub that apparently will remain forever fruitless.
If you want to read my more detailed posting about removing suckers, “Tomato Patch: Pinch that sucker?” (June 20, 2011), CLICK HERE.
|Shadow-portrait: Ancient Gardener in straw hat|