Perhaps for the first time, I think I might try to grow tomatoes that are better than just those you can eat on a bagel with salt and pepper. I do grow them every year, but I don’t really pay them any attention, except for cutting back on the water once they start to seriously fruit. But as it turns out, when the plants get so huge and out of control (as they tend to in our yard) the tomatoes themselves are good for cooking and not much else.
What is the point of growing tomatoes if you can’t chop them up in a salad and love them to pieces?
So this year I’ve done a little research and it appears that one of the most important things is to be vigilant about suckering them from the start. For those of you who don’t know what suckering is, I shall explain both the process and why you do it. Now that I am an expert. Or you could just read one of the articles I read and you can be an expert too.
So the tomato plant has a main stalk, and at each leaf juncture, it has a tendency to want to create another main stalk by sending out a little shoot. This little shoot, if left alone, will go on to become a fruit producing part of your tomato plant’s team. Sounds good, right? The more tomatoes the better? Apparently no. In order to produce delicious tomatoes, you need to coax your plants into using all of their energy (the sugar they create from sunlight) into producing just one stalk, with a few key leaves and very sweet, very tasty tomatoes. If you allow the plant to produce as many stalks as it would like, you’ll have a dense thicket of tomato leaves, branches and fruit. But it will be prone to disease and rot and all sorts of other sub-optimal things. Not to mention, your tomatoes will have to compete with all those leaves and stalks for the sugar that makes them so tasty.
So the plan is this: go out to your plants, and if it’s not too late snap off each sucker at the root of the main stem. You’ll have a more spindly looking plant, but it will be healthier. And with a few other tricks will allegedly produce Caprese worthy tomatoes. The only other note is that above the first fruit clump, you are apparently allowed to let your plant grow one more main stalk. I accidentally had this happen to one of my plants but the rest I think I’m going to keep as barren as possible. It’s my summer gardening experiment. And part of my pledge to grow only what I actually want to eat. As opposed to 30 pounds of italian squash per week like last summer. That was disgusting.
This year I think the problem is going to be beans. We have A LOT of pole beans creeping skyward. I will be donating them to the first person who shows up on my doorstep when the time comes.
And as far as tying your tomatoes, staking is supposed to be better than cages. Which makes sense if you just have one stalk. But I already have all of the cages so I’m still using them this year.
And if I remember correctly, your should cut back on water significantly once your plants have started to really fruit. Too much water = mealy, flavorless tomatoes. And if there’s one thing I REALLY can’t stand it’s a mealy tomato. (Same goes for peaches and apples. Sick). I also read that you should fertilize them with kelp and bone meal, but I haven’t gone that far yet. Debating on whether I should order some though. I mean if I say I’m taking this seriously then don’t I have to go all the way?