Tomato Plant Experiment

Pruning - leaves or suckers???

An experiment to find out which is the best thing to prune - leaves or suckers.

2021 - I had planted tomato plants with mild success in quite a few previous years. 2021 was the first year that I took my vegetable garden seriously. I had success with herbs and flowers the 2 years before.

  • I had a dedicated raised bed with good dirt (the bed was a little too wide so it was difficult to reach all parts of the garden at once).

  • I grew cherry tomatoes from plants (2 stocky ones and 3 vining ones), and corn, beans, zennias, dwarf sunflowers, marigolds, and mini-pumpkins from seed.

  • The daisies never really sprouted or grew.

  • I harvested lots of cherry tomatoes, 3 tiny ears of corn, 3 dinners worth of beans, 2 mini-pumpkins, about 8 dwarf sunflowers, tons of zennias, and a few marigolds.

  • I pruned the tomatoes in August when they looked terrible and they started to fruit again, but I plowed them all down a month later because the tomatoes were all splitting.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • Good dirt makes a difference.

  • Start marigolds early so they can get enough sun.

  • I needed to feed the tomatoes and prune them.

  • Tomatoes will split when they don’t have enough water.

  • You can pollinate pumpkins with a clean paint brush.

2022 Tomatoes

Over the winter of 2021, I read up and watched videos about growing tomatoes. There seemed to be 2 schools of thought. (There might be more that I haven’t come across yet.)

  1. Prune the excess leaves, especially the ones that don’t look healthy, up to 1/3 of the plant at a time.

  2. Prune most of the suckers (the little growths that come out of the corner of the sections where the leaves grow off a main stem).

What they both seem to have in common is that you need to keep the plants pruned so that most of their energy goes into the fruit AND they need to be fed often.

So for the winter, I made the raised bed “L” shaped so that I could reach everything that I planted. I covered the bed in leaves from the yard. Right before planting I added a big pot of compost, worms and all, and turned in the leaves gently. I added a 7’ trellis in the back and cages for each one, so that the plants would be supported.

I started with #1 style pruning, pruning the excess leaves. They are growing so tall that they were hitting the roof within about 2 months. And I feed them seaweed fertilizer about every 2 weeks in the water. I also put in a drip hose system for watering and planted them pretty deep in the beginning. They are producing about 10-15 tomatoes a day from 5 plants.

Cuttings - multiple ways

June 5, 2022 - I trimmed off most of the wrinkled, brown leaves and all of the tops over 7’ tall. Most of them did not have fruit yet, so it wasn’t too painful. (See pictures below.)

I took about 8 cuttings:

  • trimmed off all the flowers

  • trimmed off all the lower branches

  • filled a self-watering pot with compost, peat moss, seed & starter dirt

  • watered the dirt until it was thoroughly wet and the well was full

  • used a pencil to make a hole for each cutting

  • sprinkled some bone meal into each hole

  • stuck each trimming in one hole, covered with more seed & starter dirt

  • gently patted them down and watered one more time to get out air pockets

  • they are drooping in the sun, but I am hopeful they will make a comeback

I took another 6 cuttings and stuck them in a jar of water with a little bone meal sprinkled in. They are sitting in the garden in an empty space, because I don’t have a window that gets 6 hours of sun each day. They still look very fresh.

The idea is to take some of these plants after they root, trim half with the #1 method and trim the other half with the #2 method and see which produces the most tomatoes.

The cuttings.

From left to right, cuttings in water in the garden, cuttings in the self-watering pot in soil, and the original plants that they were cut from.

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