Tomato growing advice
June 14, 2010 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Hey tomato gardeners! I have some questions. Do you use blossom set spray on your tomatoes? Would you recommend it? Do you pinch off suckers? Do you remove some blossoms in pursuit of fuller fruit?

My plants are healthy, but I'm intrigued by the claims of faster yields on the bottle of blossom set spray. I'm growing Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Mexico Midgets, all started from seed if it matters. Two of each variety are growing in self-watering containers on the Earthtainer model and those are packed with blossoms. The rest of the plants in my raised-bed garden are doing well, but they're not looking to be as packed. Might spray help one situation and not the other?

My mom has suggested that I prune the suckers, but I'm wondering if it makes sense in the container plants (which seem to have the resources to grow as much as they want) or even at all-- the garden plants are doing very well thanks to the early New England heat and my attention to good growing practices this year and pruning seems to limit yield.

Some Internet sources also suggest thinning out blossoms. This might make sense for the big fruit plants (especially the ones in the garden), but I'm not sure.
posted by Mayor Curley to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Pinching off suckers--I do know people who swear by it. I've never felt the need to, myself.
posted by gimonca at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2010

I've never heard of the spray you mention. Tomatoes are generally self-pollinating (not dependent on insects) so I just shake the plants once in a while to help jar the pollen loose. Seems to help.

Otherwise, I would vary my methods among the plants just to learn what difference it makes. If you prune, you'll have fewer but larger and more uniform fruit. If you don't prune, you'll still have plenty of fruit. It's a matter of preference, not right or wrong. I train some tomatoes up a string, pruning suckers and giving them a twist once in a while. They'll get nine or ten feet tall, with a single main vine. I also grow some in cages and don't prune at all. I like both methods.
posted by jon1270 at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2010

re:pruning suckers

Remember that there are two types of tomatoes, Determinate and Indeterminate. The determinate ones will only grow to a set size, fruit, and then stop. If you prune the suckers from this type of tomato plant, you will reduce how many tomatoes you get from them. I think it is recommended to prune the suckers from the indeterminate type though, since they grow and set fruit along their stems throughout the life of the plant.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:37 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: All three varieties you mention are indeterminate, so they'll all benefit from judicious pruning. Fine Gardening magazine has a detailed article on how and why to prune your tomatoes. From there I also found a couple of extremely helpful videos detailing early pruning and how to prune.

As for blossom set spray, I've never used it, and I still have enough to give away. I do use a blossom-end rot calcium supplement spray though.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:41 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you use blossom set spray on your tomatoes? Would you recommend it? Do you pinch off suckers? Do you remove some blossoms in pursuit of fuller fruit?

posted by govtdrone at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2010

That fine gardening article is worth the read.

Oh and Cherokee Purples are delicious.
posted by Max Power at 8:55 AM on June 14, 2010

Indeterminate tomatoes do indeed benefit from pruning. I'm hesitant to call them 'suckers' though; these vining tomatoes will just keep going, and trying to produce fruit, so pruning forces the plant to put its energies into the fruit already on the vine.
Otherwise, no to your other questions.
posted by dbmcd at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2010

I prune. Only the bits growing inbetween the stem and another branch.

Never used any spray stuff, but I find a shot of worm-casting tea when the plants are first flowering helps them produce a lot of fruit.
posted by Kurichina at 9:12 AM on June 14, 2010

One thing-don't wet the blossoms when you water the plants.

I've picked off suckers and gotten good results. Don't know that it matters that much tho.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:20 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: I will give you the #1 most important piece of advice about setting the blooms: do NOT let the plant wilt, EVER, when the blooms are open and pollinating. If you let the plant get dehydrated while blooming, the plant will reserve its water for sustaining the plant rather than flowering, and the little flowers will drop off. It only takes one good wilt for the abscission layer between the stem and the bloom to die off and let go.

Otherwise, just let the plants do their thing. If you want to increase the amount of fruit, just plant more plants next year.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:36 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, no, yes, no. I pinch off blossoms if they appear when the plant is pretty small, otherwise I let the plant have at it. I also pinch off branches in between the stem and another branch, and generally try to keep it growing in a single upright stem.
posted by electroboy at 9:43 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: I have used set spray and I felt like I was getting results from it. I wouldn't bother on plants that are doing really well, but you might try it on the others.

I pinch a bit as the plant first gets going, but then it gets hot and I just want to pick my tomatoes and get the hell back inside.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:30 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: I tried that spray on a plant last year that seemed to be quite slow to fruit. It seemed to work but who knows, maybe that plant was just late and going to start setting fruit shortly after the time I sprayed it anyway.
posted by caddis at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2010

I prune indeterminate varieties, but for me it's more about space management. Every sucker on an indeterminate tomato would, if given enough time, grow into a big vine with both leafy branches and fruiting branches. The problem is the space this takes, as well as the tomato's annual nature - lots of the vines those suckers will turn into won't yield you ripe tomatoes before the plant dies, wasting the energy the plant spent on making that vine.

I like to prune my plants down to just two or three vines - the main stem, and one vine that starts right below and one right above the first flower cluster on the main stem. Every other sucker gets pulled. The plant's sugar gets concentrated into a smaller number of larger fruit this way.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:55 PM on June 14, 2010

I remove the suckers, but mostly to save space as I grow mine all close together in pots. But if space was not an issue I would probably just leave them.

If you have a long growing season, you can root some suckers in a glass of water and then grow them into new tomato plants for a fall crop.
posted by missanissa at 6:03 PM on June 14, 2010

I pinch suckers and break off early flowers.
posted by sulaine at 6:34 PM on June 14, 2010

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