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Stop That Sucker! for Healthier Tomatoes

Gardeners go through a lot of trouble to be able to pick a vine ripened tomato at the peak of their perfection.  There’s preparation of the soil, starting the seedlings, planting, watering, weeding and dealing with pests and varmints.

Then there’s the variability of the weather and temperatures that must be planned and dealt with to gather the most desirable fruit.

There’s one trick that I find is a must with tomatoes especially when all the other elements have provided their cooperation.  And that is the pruning of non-productive plant growth.

Cut the sucker!

Plants that are grown under near ideal conditions or with extremely fertile soil tend to over produce their non-fruit growth: multitudinous stems and leaves.  The below picture shows a typical tomato plant with its main stem, a leaf branch and the unwanted sucker or shooter growing from the “Y” of the main stem and leaf branch.

tomato sucker growing between stem and leaf


Check Your Plants Often

Every tomato gardener must regularly review Ripening Tomatoestheir plants and remove these shoots or “energy thieves”.  They may produce a few flowers and smaller tomatoes later in the season but the whole time they exist they are robbing fruit production capacity from the rest of the fruit producing tissue of the plant.

In the picture below you can see the shears (rusty ones at that) getting ready to dispatch a sucker or shoot.  I made reference to the structure as a sucker on a common gardening site and was reprimanded by some Englishman stating that it was a shoot and that a sucker is something that sprouts at the base of trees.  Checking with other references I found the two terms were used interchangeably here in America.  So, sorry tiny, little island gardener but that’s how we garden here on the North American continent.

Snipping the Tomato sucker or shoot with shears


yellow cherry tomatoes ripening
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes


And when all the variables come together and you have exercised your duties as a backyard gardener, you too will be looking at the opportunity to pick fresh fruit right from your own correctly pruned tomato plants.


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