Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Run for your lives!

This year's first tomato plant has broken its cage! I came home this evening and went down to the greenhouse, contemplating what I was going to do about the jungle in there and just as I came to the door I realized the German Strawberry was toppled over. A gnarled and twisted cage was lying underneath. I always let the tomato plants take over during the summer, but this is just a bit much. It has taken more space than the Golden Currant Cherry tomato did last summer. So tonight, I've got to figure out if I go in with a machete or just a chair and a whip.

Next year's experiment: tomato pruning; does it affect yield? I am of two minds when it comes to "suckering" tomatoes. I understand "suckering" is pinching out the branch growths that appear at the top of a leaf along the main stem. I recently changed methods and instead of taking the entire sucker, I wait until it has 2 leaves and then pinch. Granted, keeping up with 40 tomatoes is daunting and I haven't done the best job. But according to the gardening books I read, suckering is done to improve the vigor of the plant. Does anyone really need to improve a tomato plant's vigor? From what I can tell, it's hard to keep them in check. Suckers are supposed to divert energy from tomato production. Now with dahlias, when you pinch the 2 side heads while it is growing a bloom, the main bloom does become larger as all of the energy goes to the remaining flower. Fruit trees are similar. I have already thinned the pear tree so there is only one fruit per spur. This increases the size of the fruit. But tomatoes?? The sucker produces flowers, and then fruit. So where is the problem? I sometimes think the garden writers are talking about determinate tomatoes, but not making the distinction. I grow indeterminate tomatoes almost exclusively. They are supposed to be aggressive vines. So next year, I'll plant 2 of the same tomato in the greenhouse and pinch suckers on one while letting the other go wild. Then I'll know for sure.

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