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You will find few gardeners that do not grow tomatoes each growing season, and many treat this particular plant with extra special care. The entire growing season is spent in anticipation of fresh red tomatoes growing on the vine, destined to be the star of countless salads on the dinner table. In this episode I’ll talk about things that you can do to optimize the health and yields of your tomatoe plants. I will also speak to the best problem a gardener can have in August: what to do when your garden is producing more food than you can eat!
Indeterminate vs Determinate
Tomato plants can be either of a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate tomato varieties grow to a specific height – often around two or three feet high, and then they stop growing and switch to producing fruit. Determinate varieties are preferred among gardeners in regions with short growing seasons because they tend to set fruit much faster than indeterminate varieties. Indeterminate varieties grow very tall, and continue to grow until the frost kills them.
Pruning – Why Bother?
To begin, and speaking in general, pruning is about light, air and space, because good pruning ensures that all leaves have access to light, all leaves receive air and can stay dry (which makes them more pest resistant), and all branches have enough room to move in the breeze without rubbing against other branches. With that said, there are a number of key good reasons to prune tomatoes:
- Pruning prevents/mitigates blight: prune blighted branches back to the main stem. They have no future and will ruin the health of your plant. Get them out of there!
- Prune to increase your yield: Remove suckers, and ensure that your plants send the majority of their energy to the big, heavily producing branches
- Prune to accelerate harvest: with indeterminate varieties, topping the main stem will send a message to the plant to stop growing stems and leaves, and start setting fruit. If fall is around the corner, top your indeterminates, because any new fruit will not likely have time to ripen before the frost begins.
Don’t look at pruning as reducing the amount of plant you have – view it as removing the deadweight, because your tomatoes will thank you with healthy growth and far better yields.
Let the garden drive your diet
One of my favorite times of year is when my garden is producing so many different things that I have to practically become a vegetarian to keep up with the production. There is something wonderful about changing your eating patterns for a while, and just letting the soil tell you what is on the menu. Over time, the effect of just giving yourself over to this process will be that you learn many new ways to prepare food, and greatly broaden your diet. With that said, sometimes there is too much to eat, and you need to either give it away, or find some way preserve your surplus. Most resources on canning/pickling/etc. tend to deal with very large quantities, and such endeavors tend to be overwhelming for beginners, or difficult to fit into a busy schedule. Over time I have found it far more convenient to just can a jar at a time, at my own convenience. If you search the internet you will find a number of easy ways to do this. Another very easy way to preserve things like beans (I have them coming out of my ears right now) is to quickly blanch them (drop in boiling water for 2 minutes), then cool them off in a cool bath, then spread them out over a cookie sheet and place in the freezer over-night. The next day, you can put them all in a plastic bag and you will find that they will not stick together in the freezer, and will store nicely like that for months.
Enjoy this time of year try to let your garden drive your diet. It will save you money, broaden your culinary skills, and benefit your health!
Great podcast. Will topping accelerate ripening? I have a ton of semi-determinate Stupice tomatoes…planted to many, too close together. They are ripening….but a bid slow. Do you think topping help speed up ripening or just getting fruit to set?
Topping will divert the plants energy from growth, to the setting of fruit. This should result in earlier ripening as well because the plant will stop making new tomatoes, and put all it’s energy into bringing the ones that it has to maturity. Where did you get your seeds for the Stupice tomatoes? They are a very interesting variety and well suited to the zone 5 climate.
Hi Greg, the seeds were from Annapolis Seed and given to me by a friend. The packages were very old (back when AS was using little brown envelopes for their seeds) and I had them sitting around for at least two years. I decided to use them for a germination test for a course I was doing. 100% germination and all 25 plants transplanted perfectly and are strong producers of delicious tomatoes.
when is the best time to plant tomato???