From the Veggie Patch: Suckering Your Tomatoes

Jul 27, 2020, 13:00 PM

Our summer garden series kicks off with every gardener’s first veggie: tomatoes! Easy to grow in pots, plots, or raised beds, tomatoes are a common starter vegetable. They are easy to keep fruiting all season and brighten your summer table with their ruby red sweetness. 


A raised garden bed of tomato plants.


Today, our resident new gardener, Nick, walks us through the mysterious yet very important process of ‘suckering’ your tomato plants.


Showing off the tomato plant suckers


Suckering is the process of removing side branches from the tomato plant when they are small off-shoots or ‘suckers’. This is done in order to keep the plant to one stem or ‘leader’. Keeping the plant to one stem will ensure that the fruit grows more consistently, instead of allowing the natural chaotic stems tomatoes instinctually create. Extra branches suck energy away from the clusters of tomatoes we are trying to keep consistent in growth. Nick recommends regularly pruning the suckers for the entire life span of the plant. Here’s what you need to do:


Nick’s Simple Guide to Suckering


Yellow tomato flowers


First, be sure to leave the main stem and clusters of flowers it produces intact. These flowers are eventually going to grow into your next crop of tomatoes.


A sucker branch is plucked from beside a tomato


Next, pluck the small branches that off-shoot from the main stem. This allows the clusters of tomatoes to get the nutrients they need and continue to grow consistently throughout the plant. 


Green tomatoes not yet ready to pick


That’s it! Soon enough you’ll have beautiful tomatoes. These will be ready for harvest once they are a half pink-half green colouring known as the breaker stage or Vine Ripe. As you can see, the cuties in our pictures are not yet at this stage. Though you can let your tomatoes ripen fully on the vine, picking at breaker stage may keep hungry wildlife away from your perfect ruby red tomatoes. Every gardener has a bitter memory of a cherry tomato plant picked over by raccoons, birds, and neighbours!


Two tomatoes hanging on the vine


Suckering your tomato plants leads to a greater yield and an overall healthier plant. Hopefully, this guide has given you a road map you can follow.  Good luck with your new garden!