In the world of organic gardening, maintaining the health and productivity of plants is of utmost importance. As one of the most popular crops, Tomatoes require careful attention and management to maximize their yield. One common practice recommended by gardeners is the removal of tomato suckers. These small shoots that emerge in the leaf axils can divert valuable nutrients from the main stem and hinder overall plant growth. In this article, we delve into why removing tomato suckers in an organic garden is beneficial, supported by scientific evidence from reputable universities and research institutions.
What are tomato suckers?
Before diving into the benefits of removing tomato suckers, it's essential to understand what they are. Tomato suckers, also known as side shoots or axillary shoots, are small branches that grow in the leaf axils of tomato plants. They emerge as new growth points from the main stem, often between the main and leaf stems. While these suckers have the potential to develop into productive branches, their removal is advocated in organic gardening for various reasons.
Diversion of Nutrients:
One key reason for removing tomato suckers is to ensure optimal nutrient allocation. The removal of suckers helps channel nutrients toward the development of the main stem, foliage, and fruit production. When left unchecked, tomato suckers compete with the main branch for resources, potentially reducing the plant's overall vigor. According to a study by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), removing suckers improved nutrient availability and enhanced tomato yields .
Improved Air Circulation:
Another benefit of removing tomato suckers is improved air circulation within the plant canopy. When suckers thrive, they contribute to denser foliage, impeding air movement. Inadequate air circulation can create a favorable environment for diseases like fungal infections. By removing suckers, organic gardeners can promote better airflow, reducing the risk of diseases and improving the overall health of tomato plants. Cornell University's Vegetable MD Online provides comprehensive information on tomato diseases and management .
Enhanced Sunlight Penetration:
Sunlight is a vital component for the successful growth and development of tomato plants. Tomato suckers can create dense foliage, which may restrict sunlight penetration to lower parts of the plant. By removing suckers, organic gardeners allow more sunlight to reach the leaves, stems, and develop fruits. Increased sunlight promotes photosynthesis, leading to healthier plants and potentially higher yields. The University of Florida IFAS Extension highlights the importance of light in tomato production .
Pruning and Training:
The removal of tomato suckers is closely tied to pruning and training techniques. Pruning refers to the selective removal of specific plant parts to improve overall plant structure, while training involves guiding the plant's growth along a preferred pattern. By removing suckers, gardeners can shape the tomato plants, focusing their energy on the main stem and a limited number of productive branches. This practice facilitates better support, easy maintenance, and efficient harvesting. The University of Illinois Extension provides detailed guidance on tomato pruning and training .
Size and Quality of Fruits:
Removing tomato suckers can contribute to more prominent and higher-quality fruits. When tomato plants have too many branches, the energy available to each fruit becomes diluted, resulting in smaller and potentially inferior fruits. By limiting the number of branches through sucker removal, organic gardeners promote the development of larger fruits with better flavor, texture, and nutritional value. Ohio State University Extension offers insights into factors influencing tomato fruit quality .
Removing tomato suckers in an organic garden offers numerous benefits. It ensures the efficient allocation of nutrients to the main stem, improves air circulation, enhances sunlight penetration, aids in pruning and training, and contributes to the size and quality of fruits. Incorporating the removal of tomato suckers into your organic gardening routine can help maximize the productivity and health of your tomato plants, leading to bountiful harvests.
- UCCE Sonoma County Master Gardeners. (n.d.). The Art of Staking and Pruning Tomatoes. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Source: http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/files/27112.pdf
- Cornell University. (n.d.). Tomato Diseases: Diseases Affecting the Foliage, Stems, and Whole Plant. Vegetable MD Online. Source: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/DiagnosticKeys/TomFoliarKey.html
- The University of Florida IFAS Extension. (2018). Tomato Growing in the Florida Home Garden. Source: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh028
- University of Illinois Extension. (n.d.). Pruning Tomatoes. Source: https://extension.illinois.edu/tomato/pruning.cfm
- Ohio State University Extension. (2017). Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden. Source: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-1611