Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pruning Tomatoes

Pruning tomatoes began as quite a mystery to me, but it's easy when you figure it out. Not all tomato varieties need pruning, of course; bush or tumbling types (determinate, producing their crop all at once) can be left to their own devices, but to keep cordon or vining types (indeterminate, producing throughout the season until first frosts) in check and to focus their energy on fruit production rather than leaf production, a little help is needed.

At each point where a leaf branch grows out from the main stem, another shoot will grow, usually at about a 45 degree angle. Like this:

If you let these extra shoots, or suckers, grow, you end up with a sprawling and unwieldy plant requiring elaborate staking (trust me, I know this from experience!), and far more leaf than the plant really needs. So just pinch each extra shoot off at the base, and you'll have a much tidier plant, not to mention more, bigger fruit!

Easy. In fact, you can make new tomato plants by replanting these! If you want to do this, let them grow a few inches long before removing them, cut them off carefully so as not to damage the hairs on the stem (which will turn into roots), plant them with their stems deep in good compost, and take good care of them for a few days while they get settled.

We had quite a wet bank holiday weekend here (hurrah!) but that didn't stop me pruning the tomatoes and getting down to the plot to plant out the sweetcorn and some squashes. In fact, drizzly weather's ideal for planting out, as the roots don't get dried out or exposed to sun and the young plants settle in quicker to damp soil.

I planted out fifteen sweetcorn plants (Double Standard Bicolour from Real Seeds) in a block of 3x5 to assist pollination, plus two Baby Bear pumpkins, two Astia F1 courgettes, two Crown Prince squash (highly recommended to me many times but this is the first time I've tried them), one F1 butternut, one Waltham butternut, one Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash and one Sweet Dumpling! Phew! As usual I've planted them closer together than I probably should have, so I'll have to be careful to keep the plants in check and give them plenty of food and water. Now there's just the Atlantic Giant pumpkin to go, when I manage to dig over that last patch... Oh, and the brassicas, late as usual...

Can you believe we've harvested very nearly 2kg of strawberries already, and it's only the first of June?! I wasn't too impressed with this one though.

Anyone know what these beasties are? They look like earthworms but since when did earthworms eat strawberries? They're eating their way in, not out, right? Right?? If I ever bit into a fresh juicy strawberry and found that I think I'd be put off for life!


Sue@Green Lane Allotments said...

They're spotted snake millipedes see this we had some inside some of our potatoes last year

Nome said...

Thanks Sue! I had a feeling you'd know :) So they only move in where the slugs have already had a nibble, right? I can stop cutting every strawberry open to check now!

Dan Martin said...

Spotted snake millipedes - I don't think I've encountered these yet, however, as with most things in my garden it's probably only a matter of time.

Only yesterday I discovered that my also prolific strawberry crop had been saved from uncertain distinction by one sacrificial strawberry plant that has bravely succumbed all of its fruit to the slugs so that its many sisters may live in complete slug free bliss. Although very grateful for this plant's sacrifice, I have to say I'm entirely clueless as to why only one plant has been blighted - any ideas? Although if it takes just one slug portal for the millipedes to move in, I fear this one little plant may have more battles to fight.

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