Friday, September 4, 2009

Celebrating Suckers

My father is not much of a gardener, but he is a tomato fanatic, and he put much effort into his tomato plants when I was growing up. Now that I have tasted our own home-grown tomatoes, I understand why he chose tomatoes as his pet gardening project. I don't recall much about his tomatoes, but I distinctly remember him complaining constantly about all the suckers on his plants.

I never learned what suckers actually were until growing tomato plants myself. As tomato plants mature, they develop little stems growing at a 45 degree angle between the main stem and side branches. In our garden, these suckers are particularly prevalent on the cherry tomato plants I planted in early August. Suckers should be pinched off to enable the plant to focus all its energy on developing the main stem and branches. Suckers eventually make for a messy, sprawling plant that is hard to control, and they take resources away from fruit development once the plants start flowering.

But suckers are not all bad, because each one can easily be turned into a new tomato plant that is a clone of the original. First, pinch off the sucker gently to avoid crushing the stem. Next, plant the sucker in a grower pot in moist soil, and then keep the pot shaded and the soil damp for several days. The stem may look wilted at first, but it will quickly develop roots and transform from a sucker to a tomato seedling. If you've purchased your plants from a nursery, this is a great way to save money by creating additional plants for free. Our plants were started from seed, and we don't need any more tomato plants in the already-crowded garden, so I'm going to pot the seedlings up and give them to my dad so he can have his own fall tomato harvest. I love the irony of giving him plants grown from his old enemy, the sucker.

1 comment:

  1. You learn something new every day! Thanks for the great info!


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