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Tomato Suckers: What Do With Them

Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to grow in your organic garden. Plant, feed, water and eat!

Yet a few simple tricks will help you be more successful and produce a ton of fruit!

Today’s garden tip: What to do with tomato suckers?

First, let’s determine what tomato suckers are. Then, you can choose whether or not to keep them.

What Are Tomato Suckers?

Tomato suckers are small shoots, or leaves, that sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Although relatively harmless to the plant, suckers don’t serve much of a purpose.

They can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth.

How to Prune Tomato Suckers

  1. Keep a close eye on your tomato plants. Eliminate suckers while they are just a small ½” stem.
  2. Remove by simply snapping them off at the stem. If you need to use a tool, use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.
  3. During peak growing season, pull unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week.
  4. Pruning is especially important if you are growing indeterminate tomatoes. This variety produces fruits all season long, as opposed to a single harvest. They require more attention and maintenance in order to encourage growth.

Pruning tomato suckers is one of the keys to a successful harvest.

To Prune or Not To Prune…

Some argue that tomato suckers are beneficial because more leaves can lead to more fruit.

This is true, however, less dense tomato plants may produce larger, juicier tomatoes. (Don’t forget, to also use Espoma Organic Tomato-tone to promote growth of plump tomatoes.)

Removing tomato suckers can also decrease risk of disease caused by prolonged moisture. With fewer leaves, plants receive more air and leaves dry quicker. Fewer leaves also provide fewer places for insects to nest and gnaw.

Because suckers can potentially cause more harm to the garden than good, consider pruning those suckers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to growhybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.

Less is More: How to Successfully Prune Tomatoes

Tiny tomato seedlings can vigorously turn into huge bushes in no time. In fact, they’ve even been known to bend cages and pull stakes out of the ground!

However, when it comes to growing tomatoes, less is more. Fewer leaves mean air circulates better and leaves dry quicker, reducing the risk of disease.

Plants with less density direct energy toward producing bigger fruit. Plus, tomatoes often ripen earlier after a good pruning, allowing you to enjoy your harvest sooner.

Here are some helpful tips for pruning your tomatoes this season.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Pruning 101

1. Find out if your tomato plant is a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate varieties often thrive with less attention because they only produce one crop of tomatoes. Indeterminate varieties, on the other hand, require frequent maintenance because they produce tomatoes all season.

2. Pinch or snip flowers until plants are 12-18” tall. When the first green fruit appears, remove all suckers, ie leaves beneath that cluster.

3. Feed throughout the season with Tomato-tone.

4. As the plant continues to fruit and flower, chose a few strong stems to produce tomatoes and prune the rest. Though this results in less fruit, tomatoes will be bigger and juicier.

5. Continue removing unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week during peak growing season. Eliminate suckers while they are still small enough to remove by hand. If you need to use a tool, be sure to use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Grow Up, Not Out

Tie tomato plants to a support such as a stake or a trellis to promote upward growth. This keeps tomatoes off the ground, keeping pests and diseases at bay. Vertically grown tomatoes are ultimately easier to prune because unnecessary suckers and leaves are more visible.

Though plants may now be better protected from insects and disease, staked and pruned plants may be more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Get a better harvest than you ever thought possible by giving tomatoes what they need!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grow Scrumptious Tomatoes in Easy Containers

True love is biting into a juicy tomato you’ve just picked off the vine. Even if space is limited, you can still grow delicious tomatoes in pots.

Tomatoes grown in portable containers are just as tasty and satisfying as garden grown. Plus, containers are versatile and can easily be moved from one spot to another to suite your gardening needs.

It takes just a few minutes to plant and maintain for a summer of delicious fruit.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Make Space for Tomatoes with These Easy Planting Tips

Growing tomatoes in containers is easy. Tomatoes just need soil, sun and a little care.

Whether you live in an apartment or farm, containers are the perfect solution when space is limited or soil is tough to work.

1. Start by choosing a sunny patio, driveway, walkway, stairway or deck. Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of full sun a day.

2. Pick a pot big enough for your variety. A container 18 inches or larger in diameter with drainage holes will work. Tomatoes can grow 6-8 feet tall and 2 feet across. Place drainage material (like gravel) in the bottom of the pot before you add soil to provide air pockets so roots don’t drown.

3. Select the right tomato variety for containers. While any variety will perform, determinate varieties such as Patio Princess, Baxter’s Bush cherry tomato and Balcony are great choices.

4. Fill container 3/4 full with Espoma’s organic potting mix.

5. Add an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

6. Moisten mix slightly.

7. Add tomato plants. Sit the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Pinch off lower leaves.

8. Fill with potting soil.

9. Mix compost into the top few inches of your container.

10. Place container in a sunny spot that’s easy to access so you can regularly monitor plants.

11. Water tomatoes generously for the next few days. Then, give tomatoes about 2” of water at their base each week.

12. Add stakes or cages to your container to keep tomatoes from growing out of control and to help prevent diseases.

In addition to watering, feed tomatoes with Espoma’s Tomato-tone every other week. Organically fertilizing tomatoes with Tomato-tone produces larger, plumper tomatoes all season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Steps to Planting Tomatoes

Seeing red tomatoes peek through the green leaves in your garden is a true sign that summer is here. The first harvest of the season provides opportunities to finally try those delicious garden-to-table recipes.

Tomatoes are a staple in every organic garden. And growing them doesn’t have to be difficult.

Start planting today and you’ll have a delicious harvest in no time.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Start Growing

1. Choose a few of your favorite tomato varieties and get ready to plant!

2. Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

3. Check the plant tag to see how far apart plants should be.

4. Dig holes larger than the tomatoes’ original container.

5. Set the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Go ahead and pinch those lower leaves off now.

6. Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

7. Fill the hole with amended soil or Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.

8. Once established, feed tomatoes by mixing in 3 tablespoons of Espoma’s Tomato-tone per plants. Organic Tomato-tone provides tomatoes the nutrients they need to grow big and plump. Since this is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, Tomato-tone never forces rapid growth, which reduces tomato yield.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Keys to Success

Stake tomatoes now to increase air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Support plants with a tomato cage, trellis or container. Stakes work, too. Hammer 6-8” stakes into the ground 3-6” away from the plant. When tomatoes begin blooming, tie them to the stake.

Water tomatoes generously for the first few days after planting. Then, give tomatoes 2” of water at their roots per week.

Feed tomatoes with organic Tomato-tone monthly for larger, plumper tomatoes all season.

Add 2-3” of mulch in 3-5 weeks to reduce water consumption.

If you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as growing heirloom tomatoeshybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide: 

Plant Tomato Seeds in 4 Easy Steps

Nothing beats that first bite into a delicious, ripe tomato – even better when it’s fresh out of your summer garden! Just talking about tomatoes has us craving homemade salsas, Caprese salads and a delicious medley of fresh summer veggies.

If you’re as excited about tomato season as we are, why not get started now?

In practically no time at all, you can start tomato seeds. The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your region.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Pick Your Plant

The first step to starting seeds is deciding which tomato is the one for you. With thousands of varieties, it can be hard to choose just one! This list of easy-to-grow tomatoes will make your decision simple and stress free.

Start Seeding

When starting seeds indoors, you only need three simple things: warmth, light and an organic plant food.

Fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top with Espoma’s Organic Seed Starting mix. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.

Place tray in a larger pan of shallow water for a minute so the water seeps up from the bottom.

Place seeds in a warm spot between 65-75°. Try the top of the fridge, or purchase a heat mat.

Loosely cover tray with plastic wrap or the cover from your seed-starting kit. Check seeds daily for moisture and water as needed.

Give seeds 12-16 hours of light daily. Supplement sunlight with grow lights if needed.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

Getting bigger

Once you see sprouts, remove the cover and move seeds to a sunny, south-facing window that is 65-75°F. Then, turn the container a little each day to prevent leaning seeds.

Add Espoma’s Organic Tomato-tone, a premium plant food formulated specifically for growing plump and juicy tomatoes, once seeds have sprouted. Tomato-tone’s organic composition feeds your plants naturally and will not force rapid growth at the expense of blooms and tomato yield.

Ready to Plant

Once the last frost date has passed, you’re almost ready to plant! Start by hardening off plants and placing seedlings outdoors for seven to 10 days for a few hours each day. Cut back on watering, as well. Now that plants are good and strong, it’s time to plant!  Gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. Plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.

Now you’ll have delicious tomatoes in no time!

Go forth, and grow! When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grow a Rainbow of Tomatoes

When growing tomatoes in your organic garden, you probably envision swathes of red. However, tomatoes were not always red. The earliest varieties were yellow and orange.

So whether you say to-may-to or to-mah-to, we’re here to help you choose the perfect non-red tomato variety for you.

Best Non-Red Tomatoes to Grow

You can grow tomatoes in nearly every color of the rainbow.

Yellow Pear Tomato

Yellow Pear Tomato

Yellow Tomatoes

  • Golden Nugget – These sweet tasting tomatoes love cool weather and can withstand the heat. Looking more like tangerines than tomatoes, Golden Nuggets ripen early and produce lots of fruit.
  • Yellow Pear – Tangy, beautiful and tiny, Yellow Pear tomatoes look charming in salads or as snacks. A favorite of chefs, these dynamic tomatoes love to sprawl, so contain them with a cage or stake.
  • Wapsipinicon Peach – Bright in color and flavor, these tiny, fuzzy yellow tomatoes make the perfect snack. Named for the Wapsipinicon River in Northeast Iowa around 1890, Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes are resistant to rot and field blight. Plus, they are quite prolific!
Yellow sun gold tomato

Sungold Tomatoes

Orange Tomatoes

  • Sungold – This treat of a tomato is one of the garden’s sweetest. Their bright tangerine-orange color adds a ray of sun to the garden. Plants produce a ton of fruit throughout the entire season. And with their tendency to crack, you won’t find these beauties at any grocery store.
  • Striped German – This sizzling red and orange tomato looks like a work of art. Slice it open, and you’ll be delighted by its intricate texture and pattern. Also called “Old German,” this sunny tomato produces huge beefsteak tomatoes. It does need constant, proper care to thrive.

 

Green zebra tomato

Green Tomatoes

  • Green Zebra – The result of several heirloom tomatoes bred together, these tomatoes can handle rough growing conditions and resist cracking. They have a mellow, sweetish-tart taste with a relatively firm texture. But they are susceptible to blossom-end rot.
Great White Tomato

Great White Tomato

White Tomatoes

  • Great White – The best white tomato out there, the Great White produces 1-2 pound tomatoes in a unexpected color with few seeds. It tastes mild and sweet with lots of juice and a meaty, creamy texture. Plus, it’s drought and crack resistant, so it thrives in hot climates.

Go forth, and grow! When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.  

And if you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as growing heirloom tomatoeshybrid tomatoes or growing tomatoes for beginners, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Questions to Ask Before Growing Tomatoes

Know Your Tomatoes: To find just the right tomato for you, answer these five questions before deciding what tomato varieties to grow.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

1. How important is disease resistance? Modern, or hybrid, tomatoes are bred to resist diseases. Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are mostly untouched, and can be more susceptible to diseases.

On the plant tag or seed packet, check the letters after the variety name to see how what diseases and pests they can be resistant to. Look for the V and F since they’re the two most common tomato diseases.

Here are the most common tomato codes to look for in order to protect your plants:

  • V = Verticillium Wilt
  • F = Fusarium Wilt
  • N = Nematodes
  • T = Tobacco Mosaic Virus
  • A = Alternaria

2. Determinate or indeterminate? Do you want your tomatoes to ripen all at once or all season?

Determinate tomatoes (DET), or bush tomatoes, ripen all at once. Within a week or two, you’ll have one, huge crop of tomatoes. Then, they’re done!

Indeterminate tomatoes (IND), or vine tomatoes, produce tomatoes all season until the first frost.

tomato-tone, growing tomatoes, organic gardening

3. How long is the time to maturity? This number lets you know how long before your tomato seedlings produce their first crop. Some tomatoes mature in 50 days while others take 90 days. Consider how long your growing season is – and when you’d like to bite into that first, homegrown tomato.

4. What flavor and texture do you prefer? The most fun question to answer! Choose acidic or sweet, mealy or meaty and firm or soft skin. Many varieties even list the best uses – sauces, salsa, salads or snacks.

And always remember, feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.

5. What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes?

Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds that have been handed down from farmer to farmer for generations for their special characteristics and varieties must be 50 years old at least. Because of this, heirloom tomatoes have minimal disease resistance. Popular varieties include Black Cherry, Brandywine and Cherokee Purple.

Hybrid tomatoes, sometimes called modern tomatoes, are bred from two different varieties to get the best traits from each parent. Traits can include disease resistance or thick skin. Seeds from hybrid tomato plants are essentially sterile since they’ll never be as strong as the parents. Popular varieties include Roma, Early Girl and Beefsteak.

Grow both hybrids and heirlooms to find out which ones you like eating best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed Tomato and Pepper Plants Now

By now you’ve planted your organic tomatoes and peppers! These homegrown veggies should be starting to flower — which means fruit isn’t far behind.

Now, it’s time to sprinkle a little magic.

The trick is to feed veggies monthly with an organic fertilizer. Tomatoes and peppers have big appetites, so they need plenty of organic food. Since plants get all their nutrients from the soil, their all-you-can-eat buffet runs out quick. Feed them right, and they’ll burst full of fresh produce.

how to grow tomatoes

Create a Balanced Diet:

  1. Go Organic. Since you’re eating this food and feeding it to your friends and family, you’ll want to ensure it’s the cleanest and healthiest possible. Choose an organic fertilizer.
  2. Take it slow. Chose a slow-release organic fertilizer. Artificial, rapid growth results in tall, lanky plants. Slow-release, organic fertilizers actually improve the soil as they break down.
  3. Plants need vitamins, too. Find a balanced food with calcium to help prevent blossom rot. Espoma Tomato-tone has 8% calcium! Be careful that you do not use too much nitrogen which will result in a lush, green plant with very little fruit.
  4. More Magic. Tomato-tone also includes Bio-tone®, a blend containing more than 3 million beneficial microbes. Sounds cool, right?

Don’t take it from us — Veggie Gardener had this to say:

“Bio-tone works magic with this fertilizer. These beneficial microbes do the dirty work of creating big and healthy plants which in turn grow large, plump, and juicy tomatoes. Beneficial microbes support good root growth by helping the roots absorb nutrients from the soil. Well producing tomatoes, or any plant for that matter, starts with a healthy and strong root system. Since I started using Tomato-tone, my tomato plants have grown faster, stronger, and produced more tomatoes.”

Ok, you get it. Fertilizing tomatoes and peppers is like sprinkling them with magic dust that makes them grow bigger, better produce. Now get growing.

how to grow peppers

Tips for Feeding Tomatoes and Peppers:

  1. Measure out the fertilizer according to instructions on bag.
  2. Feed single plants with 3 tablespoons of Tomato-tone. For rows of plants, apply 1 cup on each side per 5 feet. Feed potted plants 1.5 teaspoons per 4” pot diameter. More details here.
  3. Sprinkle Tomato-tone starting approximately 6” from the base of the plant.
  4. After feeding, water well.
  5. Feed tomatoes and peppers every month during the growing season.

Feeding tomatoes and peppers takes just a couple of minutes and drastically increases your harvest.

To feed your family lots of organic, homegrown veggies this summer, you’ll need to first keep your veggies well-fed! Get ready for the biggest, yummiest tomatoes and peppers you’ve ever grown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While you’re at it, take a selfie with your Tomato-tone! Tag us in the picture with @Espoma.