Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Adventures in Tomato Gardening: New Roots, Growing Fruit, and Over Pruning

I performed a little experiment a few weeks ago. I read in Mel’s SFG book that you can place a sucker in water, and it will sprout new roots after a week or so. I decided to try this method.

I had finished pruning my tomato plants, and I didn’t have the heart to throw away the suckers/offshoots (I don’t know the correct term). So I filled a plastic, tall cup that I bought at the Renaissance Festival and I filled it with water. I placed the suckers in the water.

Below: The Offshoots/suckers in water

Because I don’t quite know what I’m doing, most of the little suckers died. I did have one that survived through the week. And one day, I was amazed to find all the roots that grew out of it.

Take a look!

I ended up deciding to plant it. The roots seemed to be a good size, so I planted it near one of my mint plants. Here’s what it looked like after it was transplanted.

Surprisingly, it does actually look pretty healthy. My only dilemma now is that I have no idea what kind of tomato plant it is. Because of the different varieties of tomatoes in my garden, I didn’t label any of the branches that I cut off. So this plant could end up being a cherry tomato… or a larger variety. I guess I won’t know until it produces fruit. I’ll be exciting to see if it does end up producing!

Below: The transplanted branch is doing very well two days after being transplanted.

My other tomato plants seem to be producing fruit and flowering very nicely. I think the summer heat is making them grow like crazy. It won’t be long now until a few cherry and grape tomatoes start turn red! I can’t wait. I think the larger varieties will take longer. Maybe late June or early July. (I am just guessing here).

Photos 1 & 2: Grape tomatoes (same plant)

Below: Cherry Tomatoes (2 different plants)

Below: I think this is the Bonnie Original tomato. It will produce regular sized tomato fruit.

When Cam and I visited the nursery last Sunday, we bought three additional tomato plants. We bought two large varieties for us to plant in our square foot garden and we bought a patio tomato plant for my American grandmother. Originally, we had decided against buying any more tomato plants because we have so many. But we saw these very healthy tomato plants at the nursery with nice-sized fruit already growing on them… We couldn’t help ourselves.

Below: One of our new tomato plants: the whopper. I accidentally over did the pruning. . . A bad habit of mine.

Below: another new tomato plant.

Cam and I really need to buy tomato trellises for these plants. I temporarily used the stick to keep the plants standing up straight, but next weekend, Cam and I are off to buy supports for them.

For my American grandmother, who is turning 94 this month, Cam and I purchased a patio tomato plant. You can’t see it in the photo, but the plant is actually a two-in-one. There are two plants growing in the same pot. I guess the nursery staff didn’t spot that or they would have separated the plants.

Below: The Patio Tomato Plant

I potted the tomato plant and pruned back some of the leaves. This plant also already had little tomatoes growing on it. The information card said that it was perfect for people who had limited space. It’s perfect for my grandmother.

Unfortunately, I believe there are a few red aphids on the plant. I’m going to need to buy some spray to keep them away from the plant. So far, she’s really enjoying her tomatoes. She used to garden all the time when she was younger, but due to physical limitations, she can’t anymore. So this is my way to let her continue her garden.

My final thought of today: over pruning tomatoes. I am absolutely horrible at pruning the tomato plant. I over do it… all the time. It’s a horrible habit, but I absolutely don’t know how to do it correctly. I seem to want to cut off all the branches that are not producing flowers. This is probably the wrong way to do it, but it’s the only way I know how. So far, my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes.

My problem is that I don’t know what is considered a sucker and what is not. I’m trying to follow the single-stem method, but what do I prune or not prune? That is my dilemma.

Below: “Before” Pruning

Below: the “After” Pictures

I give you my permission to laugh at me. Maybe next time, I won’t go so crazy with the pruning. I might even leave a few branches. I think Cam is going to have to do the pruning because I am HORRIBLE at it.

But the good news is I’ve been doing this the entire season, and my tomatoes are continuing to fruit. So my awful attempt at pruning isn’t killing the plants. And when I prune, I can never throw away what I cut off. I end up trying to grow new roots for my plants.

I know I am being so silly, but it’s something fun to do. Most of these branches will die within the next week, but wouldn’t it be cool if they actually did root?


Gail said...

Tomatoes everywhere and not one for me to eat over here! DP you are having too much fun with your experiments, gardening is a serious business;-)

Mick said...

You really need to "cut back" on the pruning (pun intended).
Tomato plants, and any other plant for that matter, need their leaves for photosynthesis to occur. Also tomato plants in perticular need their leaves to shelter and protect the fruit from the sun.
You need to only prune the suckers of "indeterminate plants" (true vines). If your plants are "determinate" types they only grow to a certain height and need no pruning at all.

Over pruning makes your plants susceptable to disease and you should never ever prune at all when your plants are wet.

Here's a good link that shows you how and what to prune.

Should you need any further help contact me at my blog and I'll put some pictures up or something.


DP Nguyen said...

Gail-Aww, I'd love to send you some tomatoes! :-) I love to experiment way too much. I know it! hehe.

Mick-Thanks for the advice. I need to check to see which of my tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate. I had no idea! I may take you up on your offer. I really do need help in figuring out how to prune properly!

tina said...

Gail, you are too funny!

DP, the tomatoes will be fine whether you are a good pruner or no pruner at all.

chey said...

Great post! Gardening is truly an adventure. Love the shot of your tomato vine rooted in water.

Anonymous said...

Thanks DP! I didn't know that you could put the suckers in water and they might sprout roots! That's soo cool! :)

John - In - Austin said...

Beautiful pictures/plants!Great job! When you put pruned branches in water to sprout roots - if you'll put more of the plant in water - rather than 2-4 inches let 5 -8 inches be under water, also keep them out of the direct sunlight for a couple of weeks, and you'll have better luck with them sprouting roots. Growing marigold flowers - is easy and a way to protect the plants from aphids.

Ulanda said...

Oh boy!
You think you did a bad job pruning...mine was worse. My plants were large and beautiful. I had so many flowers, so I decided to prune them! All I heard was people talking about cutting back leaves that weren't producing, leaving the energy go to the fruit, cutting off suckers. Problem was, I didn't know what suckers were, so I literally cut off ALL of the leaves! DUMB, I know. I know that plants need leaves for photosynthesis..... have no idea what I was thinking. Only when I was done and looked at the plant did I go, "wait, this can't be right!'. So, I probably killed them all. So sad. This is, obviously, my first year gardening. I am terribly sad..and embarrassed,lol!