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Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

The Garden Chronicles - Breast Feeding the Tomato Plants

Backyard Homesteading, Gardening, Pruning Tomato Plants, Tomatoes

A half-dozen posts ago one of my readers suggested that I get back to breast feeding my tomato plants. The reader also inferred that I was manifesting symptoms of dementia.

I was working on my tomatoes just the other day and recalling that comment actually made me smile. The mere fact that my short-term memory was working was evidence enough that I remain in command of all of my marbles.

And the tomatoes were doing great.

That’s because I’ve been pruning them. This is pruning session #4 and I’ve actually had to prune them twice in as many weeks because in this heat they’re growing exceedingly fast.

You prune your tomatoes? What’s that all about?

Excellent question. And the simple answer is you have stronger, healthier plants and better fruit production when you prune.

Here’s what you do.

Early-on, as your plants are establishing themselves and leafing out, you want to do a couple of things.  Begin pruning them from the bottom-up cutting-off branches and suckers until you reach the first group of blooms.  Also begin training your plant to grow with whatever you’ve stuck in the ground to support it. 

For my Champion and Early Girl plants I’ve been using these nifty spiral stakes.  You simply train the main stem to grow up through the spiral. It’s like a spiral staircase supporting the plant stem. For my plum tomatoes – which will be huge fruit producers - I use sturdy ladders.

If you're new to this stay at it as your plants continue to put on new growth and don’t worry about always getting it right. It takes practice. Try to remember to always work from the bottom-up, keep the plant balanced and symmetrical and avoid nipping off branches with blossoms if possible.

The up shot of the pruning and training is strong stems and making sure that the plant’s resources are directed properly.  Left to itself an uncared-for tomato plant will be all leaves, minimal fruit and collapse under its own weight. Been there – done that.  It’s chaotic and disappointing.

Think of a tomato plant as a manufacturing facility that produces carbohydrates.  However, it’s a very undisciplined place and without a foreman production breaks-down and mayhem ensues.  A pruned and trained plant makes efficient use of available sunlight, nothing is touching the ground  - therefore blight and fungus are avoided and the carbohydrates are directed to fruit production. 

If you ride herd on your plants then later in the season watch-out!  You might just find yourself experiencing an avalanche of tomatoes.

 September 2011

I suppose breast feeding is analogous to nurturing.  But I'd like to think of it as good Teutonic discipline. 

Order out of chaos.

Before-

After-

Lean, mean, tomato machine...

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