- Tomato Suckers – How To Identify Suckers On A Tomato Plant
- What is a Sucker on a Tomato Plant?
- What Are Tomato Suckers?
- Tips for Growing New Tomato Plants from Cuttings
- Steps to Rooting Tomato Suckers
- Step 1: Choose healthy tomato suckers
- Step 2: Place the stems in water to grow roots
- Step 3: Change the water frequently
- Step 4: Transplant the tomato plants
- Step 5: Pamper the young tomato seedlings
- Step 6: Transplant the tomato seedlings to the garden
- You May Also Like:
- Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.
- “Pruning Tomatoes”: Who’s the ‘Sucker’ Here?
- Prune Those Tomato Suckers!
- How to Identify Tomato Problems and Prevent Them
- Before you leave …
- How to identify tomato problems
- How to prevent problems
- Have a Tomato Problem or Question?
- What Other Visitors Have Said
Tomato Suckers – How To Identify Suckers On A Tomato Plant
Tomato plant suckers is a term that can be easily thrown around by experienced gardeners but can leave a relatively new gardener scratching his or her head. “What are suckers on a tomato plant?” and, just as importantly, “How to identify suckers on a tomato plant?” are the most common questions.
What is a Sucker on a Tomato Plant?
The short answer to this is a tomato sucker is a smallish shoot that grows out of the joint where a branch on the tomato plant meets a stem.
These small shoots will grow into a full sized branch if left alone, which results in a bushier, more sprawling tomato plant. Because of this, many people like to remove tomato suckers from the tomato plant. But, there are pros and cons to the practice of pruning tomato plant suckers, so research the benefits and problems before you start taking tomato suckers off your plant.
Many plants have these secondary stems, but most need to have the branch above the sucker removed before the sucker is triggered by the plant to grow. This is commonly seen in herbs like basil, where trimming the stem will result in two suckers growing from the immediate axils (point where the leaf or branch meet the stem) below where the cut occurred.
Ultimately, tomato plant suckers will not harm your tomato plant. Now that you know the answer to, “What is a sucker on a tomato plant” and “How to identify suckers on a tomato plant,” you can make a more informed decision about whether or not to remove them.
This growth is not a sucker, but a stem… and you don’t have to remove it.
I’ve written about this subject before, but I keep getting so much feedback on the subject I figure the information is worth repeating. And what I’ll try to get across here—hopefully more clearly this time around—is that you don’t necessarily need to remove tomato suckers … and, in fact, you can’t, because tomatoes don’t produce suckers. And you can’t remove something that doesn’t exist, can you?
A sucker is, by definition, a stem that never produces either flowers or fruits. Logically, you’d want to remove suckers from your tomatoes if they had any.
The thing is, though, they don’t. Those green stems that start to form at leaf axils (see the photo above) are not suckers, they’re simply secondary stems. Branches if you prefer. Left to grow, they will produce both flowers and fruit… and therefore aren’t suckers. Studies show that tomatoes whose side stems are left in place produce more fruit than ones whose secondary stems are removed, although the fruit may be somewhat smaller. Still, there is a net gain in total tomato production by weight, so you get more “tomato” to eat by not pruning… sometimes considerably more.
Suckers Drain Energy, Stems Provide It
Bloodsuckers suck the life out of fish, but tomato “suckers” are not only harmless, but beneficial. Illus.: Allthingsclipart
It’s important to understand that, as the word “sucker” is clearly pejorative. When you hear it, you automatically imagine the sucker stealing energy from the plant. It sounds like something you should get rid of. On the other hand, the word “stem,” the true term, is a neutral word, neither negative nor positive. You have to ask yourself what is the advantage of removing a stem from a tomato plant.
And here’s the really important point: since stems produce leaves and leaves carry out photosynthesis, stems don’t “suck” the energy out of the plant. Instead, they provide energy. All the energy of most plants comes from photosynthesis and photosynthesis is carried out by the green parts of the plant. Since these secondary stems are not only green, but bear leaves, they add considerable energy the plant can use to grow more vigorously and produce more fruits.
Yes, tomato plants will actually be stronger and grow more vigorously if you don’t prune off the secondary stems. It’s as simple as that!
Why Then All the Insistence on Removing “Suckers”?
Generations of gardeners have been taught that removing secondary stems from tomatoes is important. In fact, the practice is now so firmly entrenched that most people just do it, without ever questioning why. But there is a reason people first started doing it… and here it is:
Tomatoes are pruned so they are more amenable to growing on a stake. Photo: tomatodirt.com
When a tomato plant is grown on a stake in order to keep it from sprawling rather than on a trellis as had been the method used before the 20th century, there is a limit to the number of stems that can be attached to the support. Our ancestors decided to remove the secondary stems in order to better attach the plant to its stake. If you use a single stake, traditionally you’d keep only the main stem and remove all the others. If you use two stakes (a fairly common technique), a second stem is allowed to grow and produce fruit while all others are removed.
So, the reason behind removing secondary stems never had anything to do with improving the harvest, but rather was strictly a question of staking the plant in a logical manner.
Caged tomatoes need no staking, yet produce more tomatoes!
When tomato cages first began popular towards the end of the 20th century, that changed the situation. As they support the plant on all sides, removing the secondary stems is no longer necessary: there is a structure around the whole plant that can hold up even the lankiest stem. As soon as any stem starts to grow outside of the cage, simply push it back inside. It couldn’t be easier! Except that most gardeners continue to remove secondary stems even on caged tomatoes without even asking themselves why.
Of course, typical tomato cages are designed for determinate tomatoes, which are relatively small plants. To support an indeterminate tomato, like the popular and very vigorous cherry tomato ‘Sweet 100’, a huge plant with multiple stems, takes a large tomato cage. They are less common, but they can still be found in better garden centers or you can make your own.
So there you go: if you’re using an appropriately sized tomato cage, you no longer need to remove any secondary stems.
The Advantage of Pruning Secondary Stems
To grow giant tomatoes, choose a large-fruiting variety and let only one fruit mature per plant. It will be H U G E! Don’t prune off secondary stems, instead just pinch off all but one flower. Photo: onlytomatoseeds.com
There is, however, one advantage to removing secondary stems. As the plant will now produce less fruit, it will put a little more energy into its reduced crop and each fruit will be slightly larger.
The Advantages of Not Pruning Secondary Stems
Unpruned tomatoes produce slightly smaller but far more numerous fruits, often twice as may as a pruned tomato. Original photo: simplyfreshdinners.com
If you don’t remove secondary stems, you will usually harvest about twice as many tomatoes, although they will be slightly smaller than the tomatoes produced by a pruned plant. On the other hand, they often taste better because the plant has more leaves and therefore more energy… and leaves convert solar energy into sugar.
Also, pruning tomatoes leaves a wound that harmful microbes can use to penetrate your plant, something you avoid if you don’t prune. If you do decide to remove the secondary stems, make sure you sterilize your pruning shears between each cut. It’s very easy to accidentally transmit diseases, notably viruses, from one tomato plant to another.
Obviously, though, the biggest advantage of not removing secondary stems is simply that it requires less effort. Long live laidback gardening!
A Few Misconceptions About Pruning Tomatoes
Some gardeners claim that letting all the branches grow will delay the harvest, but in fact, it really has no effect on maturation. The variety of tomato, the growing conditions, the weather and other factors do influence the speed at which tomatoes mature, but not pruning. An unpruned tomato plant will produce fruits as quickly as a pruned plant, sometimes more quickly. After all, it has more energy to put into it.
Removing too much foliage from a tomato plant can cause sun damage to the fruit. Photo: Scot Nelson, Flickr
Other people claim that tomato fruits must be exposed to the sun in order to ripen and therefore on a pruned plant, with reduced foliage, the fruits will be less likely to be hidden by foliage and thus the fruits will ripen faster. But in fact, this is not the case either: even fruits that are completely hidden by leaves ripen perfectly well. It’s the leaves that must be exposed to the sun, not the fruits. Worse, fruits suddenly exposed directly to full sun as a result overzealous pruning can suffer from sun scald and becomes essentially unusable.
The gardeners in cold climates often insist they have to prune their tomatoes that because of their short growing season. They’re convinced that tomato plants whose secondary stems are removed will mature more quickly. I repeat, the more green leaves a tomato plant has, the more energy it will have … a big advantage when your growing season is short.
(There are ways to get tomatoes to mature more quickly in short season climates, notably by choosing extra early or cold-resistant varieties, growing them under cover to keep cold air away, fertilizing well, never letting the root system dry out and removing any late-season flowers that won’t have time to produce mature fruit. Removing healthy stems and foliage is not on the list.)
Do Remove Yellowing Leaves
No matter whether you grow tomatoes staked or in a cage, pruned or unpruned, it’s always wise to remove yellowing and dead leaves. They no longer contribute to the growth of the plant and can harbor diseases.
To Prune or Not to Prune?
Now that you know a little more about the situation, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to remove your tomato’s secondary stems so you can tie it to a stake or grow it inside a cage so you can forget about pruning entirely. Personally, I switched to tomato cages years ago and never prune healthy stems. Most years we end up with more tomatoes than we know what to do with… on only two plants!
Did you know you could root tomato suckers for a second crop of fresh and healthy plants? Cloning tomato plants from suckers is quicker than starting a new crop from seed.
The summer heat and drought conditions can weaken tomato plants and reduce their yield. Instead of coaxing these stressed plants to continue producing and ripening their last fruit, you can root tomato suckers for a second crop of fresh and healthy plants.
The key is to start early, and take cuttings when the plant is still healthy. Within several weeks, you will have new tomato plants. Cloning tomato plants from suckers is quicker than starting a new crop from seed.
What Are Tomato Suckers?
Tomato suckers are the branches that sprout in between the tomato plant’s branches and main stem.
Tomato suckers are the branches that sprout in between the tomato plant’s branches and main stem. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t prune out all my tomato suckers. I don’t feel it is necessary. The suckers turn into stems that go on to produce blossoms and fruit of their own. Pruning all of these stems reduces the overall yield of the plant.
When I Prune Tomato Suckers
The only time I do prune out suckers is early in the season right when the tomato plants begin to take off. When the plant is about two feet high, I prune the suckers and the leaves at the base of the plant to prevent the foliage from touching the ground and to improve air circulation. Pruning the lower foliage and mulching the plants to prevent soil splash helps to delay the onset of the early blight fungus that is in my soil. By the time the infection begins climbing the plant, most of the tomatoes are harvested and growing season is nearly over.
Instead of tossing the suckers away, I often experiment with rooting them to grow new plants. Since the temperatures are warmer in summer than early spring, the tomato transplants are eager to settle in and begin growing.
Tips for Growing New Tomato Plants from Cuttings
1. Indeterminate tomato plants grow better from cuttings
I have had the best luck with rooting cuttings from indeterminate tomato plants. Indeterminate tomato varieties continue to grow and produce fruit all season.
Stems trimmed from indeterminate varieties root within a week and establish quickly after transplanting.
The determinant tomato plants (also called bush tomatoes) I experimented with rooted, but they did not produce many tomatoes. I recommend trying indeterminate tomato plants for your first attempt to root tomato suckers.
- Also See 10 Tips to Improve Your Tomato Harvest
2. Select quick maturing tomato varieties
When propagating tomato plants from stem cuttings, choose varieties that mature quickly so they can produce a crop before your first frost.
Most indeterminate tomato plants need 80-90 days to mature before ripening fruit. Cherry or grape type tomatoes usually produce quicker than other varieties and are a good candidate to experiment with.
3. Take tomato cuttings early in the growing season
Trim the suckers and root the cuttings early in the season when the plant is still vigorous and healthy.
Even though our growing season is short, I have had some good success with the second planting of tomatoes cloned from suckers. I found that if I transplant the rooted cuttings to the garden by the end of June, there is still enough time for them to adapt and begin producing fruit before our first frost in October.
If you live in a warmer climate with a longer growing season, you can take advantage of this method to grow a succession crop of tomatoes well into fall.
Steps to Rooting Tomato Suckers
Choose a dry day to trim or prune your tomato plants so the cut area heals over quickly reducing the chances of disease.
Step 1: Choose healthy tomato suckers
Select healthy shoots at the base of the plant with no signs of disease. Aim for suckers that are around 3-5-inches long. Use clean pruning shears or scissors to snip the sucker branches off the plant.
Step 2: Place the stems in water to grow roots
Remove the lower leaves and immediately place the stems in a jar of warm water to root tomato suckers.
The plants will wilt for the first few days due to the shock of cutting. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight for a few days so the cutting can recover.
Once the leaves look normal, move the jar to a sunny window or return it outside.
Step 3: Change the water frequently
Change the water every few days replacing with warm water so you don’t shock the roots. You should see some roots forming within a week.
Step 4: Transplant the tomato plants
Once the roots are about an inch long, they are ready to be transplanted into larger containers or their permanent location in the garden.
I like to pot them up in containers first so I can care for them more easily as their roots adapt to growing in soil.
- See 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors for tips on transplanting seedlings.
Step 5: Pamper the young tomato seedlings
Water the seedlings well after transplanting and keep well watered until the plants begin to grow. Shade the seedlings from the hot summer sun until it adjusts and starts forming new foliage.
Step 6: Transplant the tomato seedlings to the garden
Harden off your tomato seedlings, transplant to their permanent growing location, and provide a trellis or support for the vines to grow on.
Your new tomato plants will grow quickly and may even catch up to the parent plant because of the warmer temperatures.
- 9 Ways to Trellis Tomatoes
Rooting tomato suckers and growing new plants is a nifty little way of getting an additional tomato harvest for free.
If you garden in an area with a longer growing season, cloning new plants from stem cuttings is a great way to grow a second crop of healthy tomatoes in the fall when the temperatures are cooler.
This article was originally published on July 27, 2016. It has been updated with additional content.
Rooting tomato suckers and growing new plants is a nifty little way of getting an additional tomato harvest for free. If you garden in an area with a longer growing season, cloning new plants from stem cuttings is a great way to grow a second crop of healthy tomatoes in the fall when the temperatures are cooler.
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Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.
Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.
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
- Keep a close eye on your tomato plants. Eliminate suckers while they are just a small ½” stem.
- 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.
- During peak growing season, pull unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week.
- 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’s 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.
To learn more about specific pruning techniques, here is everything you need to know about pruning tomatoes.
If you’re looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to grow, hybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.
“Pruning Tomatoes”: Who’s the ‘Sucker’ Here?
Q. Can you please explain which shoots on a tomato plant should be pinched off so that the strength of the plant goes into maximum fruit production?
- —Miriam in Lower Gwynedd, PA
Should some of the shoots on tomato plants that develop between the main stem and leaf branches be pruned?
- —David Walzer; Penn Valley, Pa.
A. No, I don’t believe that they should be. There is an abundance of advice out there suggesting that selective removal of “suckers” will improve the health and vigor of a tomato plant, but this flies in the face of basic horticultural physics.
Plant leaves are essentially solar panels; via photosynthesis they turn sunlight into energy that the plant can use. The more leaves, the more potential energy to fuel the growth of the plant and its fruits—and to enhance the complex flavors inside those fruits. (This is why some classic heirloom varieties like Brandywine have a tendency to produce more leaf matter and fewer fruits than other varieties—the incredibly complex flavor components in these supremely tasty love apples simply need more energy to develop.) Removing healthy leaves to get bigger fruits is like taking half the solar panels off your roof to get more power—it just don’t work that way.
And it’s especially important not to remove any healthy leaves if your tomato plants get full sun all day. They need every possible leaf to shade their fruits and protect them from sun scald—essentially a kind of fruit sunburn. The actual fruits of a plant can’t process solar energy; only the leaves can do that. And having lots of leaves is great protection for plants in very hot and sunny locations. (This is why the common advice to ‘ripen green tomatoes on a sunny windowsill’ is equally bogus; all that sun is doing is cooking away flavor. If its fully grown, a green tomato will ripen in total darkness!)
Q. I have several different varieties of indeterminate tomatoes. They appear to be very healthy and rigorous as of late June, and that’s my problem. The leaf and stem production is causing crowding, even though I spaced them about 18 inches apart. Can I prune them now without significantly damaging overall fruit production?
- —Paul; Wilmington, Delaware
A. I just looked at the big ruler I keep in my office and decided that 18 inches between plants is like a professional basketball player sleeping in a twin bed; and the player is NOT Allen Iverson. Eighteen inches between the EDGES of FULLY GROWN plants is more like it, Paul. That’s one of the many things I like about tomato cages; they help you keep the final edges of the plants well defined, even back when you’re putting teeny tiny baby plants in the ground.
If you have room, transplant the one in the middle to another spot. Do this in the evening, NOT the morning, try and get most of the roots to stay inside a big island of soil and let a hose drip at the base of the plant overnight afterwards. This will also allow you to cage the plants if you haven’t already.
Q. I have a very small plot and this year only planted three tomatoes. Last year they grew so much the vines were trying to cling to a small tree at the back of the plot. I got lots of tomatoes, but they didn’t ripen or grow to the expected size. It is advisable to (dare I say it) prune the plants to control them?
- —Dan in Drexel Hill, Pa.
A. Sounds like your puny green produce was the result of too many tomatoes for the space; and growing those plants too close to the nutrient-stealing roots and shade of a tree. You’ll get more and better quality tomatoes from one plant that has lots of room than from three struggler. Move a few to other spots or find a good home for them (again—move and replant in the evening) and concentrate on giving one plant what it needs.
Q. I have your book “You Bet Your Tomatoes” and know the importance of giving them lots of breathing room when planting, using REAL cages, compost for disease control, etc., etc.; but I don’t know how you feel about pruning. Last year, the plants grew really vigorously and the foliage became so dense they weren’t getting good airflow. About mid season, the leaves started turning yellowish brown and withering. I did start pruning at that point, but took a bad hit on my yields. How would you handle this? Thanks.
- —Chip down in Waco, TX
A. As I’ve been belaboring, lots of room at planting time don’t mean much. They’re cute little puppies then; not the 14-foot long monster vines they will soon grow to be (unless you kill them first, of course). So to belabor redundantly (once again): Plan for the final size! Grow small herbs or flowers down below so you don’t waste any space, but double the distance between your tamata plants next season.
For THIS season, some pruning might make sense. All tomatoes get discolored leaves at some point and it is an excellent idea on all levels to remove those leaves as soon as you see them. If it’s been really wet and the plants are crowded, remove entire branches that have rogue leaves on them. The adjoining leaves are probably already infected, and getting them out early while also increasing the interior airflow will do wonders for the future.
But more space next year! I planted fewer tomatoes this season, and it’s already pretty obvious I’m going to get a much bigger harvest than I did with lots more plants….
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Prune Those Tomato Suckers!
Pruning tomatoes in my garden. This sucker was left to develop for far too long.
“Should I prune my tomatoes?”
“If they’re the vine-types, yes. Especially the suckers.”
“What are suckers?”
I can’t count how many times I’ve had this conversation. “Suckers” on tomato plants are the growths that appear in the leaf axil between the leaves and the main stem. Some refer to this area as the “crotch” in the stem.
Pruning tomato suckers is more important with vine-type varieties (indeterminates) and less essential with bush-types (determinates). With determinate varieties, you need only prune suckers below the first fruit cluster, as suckers won’t negatively affect these plants in any way.
Technically, tomato suckers are new stems. If allowed to develop, they’ll even flower and bear fruit. However, suckers draw nutrients away from the main tomato stem, weakening it, and depriving already developed lateral shoots of the nutrition their developing flower buds and fruit require.
Suckers grow in sequence, from the bottom to the top of the tomato plant. The higher up on the plant a sucker appears, the weaker it is, due to a lower concentration of sugar. Tomato suckers are especially assertive in the heat of the summer when the plant is producing lots of fruit, so be diligent and keep pruning, because the suckers are siphoning off nutrients from the rest of the plant.
Read: How to prune tomato plants
Buy on Amazon: Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide To Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden
How to prune tomato suckers
The basic method of removing tomato suckers is pretty simple – as soon as you see one developing, just pinch it off – grab it between your thumb and index finger, bend it back and forth, and it should snap off pretty easily. But that’s assuming the sucker hasn’t grown beyond three inches. If you’ve been a negligent gardener, and the sucker is over three inches and beginning to develop into a stem, it’s beyond pinching safely, as it will have toughened up a bit. Use a very sharp pruner or garden knife to excise the sucker (hey, it happens to all of us – see my pic above). If you try pinching it off when it’s this size, there’s a very good chance you’ll tear into the main stem, and/or create a large wound that will introduce disease into the plant (been there, done that).
There’s also a second method of pruning tomato suckers, called “Missouri pruning”. In this method, you remove all suckers that appear below the first fruit cluster. For all other suckers, let them develop two leaves, and then pinch or prune off the tip. This will stop the growth of the sucker, but allow the leaves to remain, which shades the tomato fruit below and aids in photosynthesis. Shading the fruits is helpful in avoiding sunscald.
In my book, Homegrown Tomatoes, I describe how to prune tomato suckers and other pruning techniques to increase fruit production: “…remove any suckers growing in the crotch between the main stem and the leaves, but only remove those suckers that are below flower blossoms, not above. Even though tomato suckers left alone will eventually bear fruit, they’re actually side shoots and will intercept nutrients meant for the fruit above it. This diverting of nutrients reduces the size of the fruit on the sucker and the fruit above. Suckers will develop all season long, but if you get to them when they’re still small, about 1-3 inches, they’ll snap right off. Don’t let up on removing them.“
How to Identify Tomato Problems and Prevent Them
Even the most diligent gardener can’t control tomato problems in the garden! While healthy tomato plants don’t always start, stay, or end that way, problems needn’t be a death sentence for plants. Most can be halted or reversed.
There are 3 sources of tomato problems:
- Tomato diseases
- Tomato pests
- Growing conditions
Before you leave …
Get your free copy of “10 Must-Know Tomato Growing Tips.” This 20-page guide is filled with tips you need to know to have a successful tomato crop, whether you’re a beginning or experienced gardener.
How to identify tomato problems
Healthy tomato plants have:
- green and evenly-colored leaves
- strong, green stems
- firm fruit with a smooth color
If you check plants each day, you’ll discover and identify problems at their onset. Then you treat them quickly and successfully. You simply need to know what to look for.
Use this checklist to monitor problems on three tomato parts: leaves, stems, and fruit.
Problems on leaves
- dark, gray, or white spots
- yellowed or mottled foliage
- curled leaves
- stripped foliage
- sticky dew
Problems on Tomato Leaves: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Them
Problems on stems
- dark, gray, or discolored streaks
- sticky dew
- white mold
- stunted growth
Problems on Tomato Stems: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Them
Problems on fruit
- sunken or discolored spots
- misshapen fruit
Problems on Tomato Fruit: How to Identify Them, What to Do
How to prevent problems
Take steps before, during, and after the growing season to prevent problems from creeping into your tomato crop.
Before the season
- Rotate your tomato crop from year to year. Many fungi over-winter in the soil. You can prevent infection in a new season by planting tomatoes in a different place than in the previous year.
- Choose disease-resistant tomato varietieshref>. A variety may have been bred to be resistant to one or more diseases. Look for tomato disease-resistant codes on seed or seedling packets, specified by capital letters:
T=Tobacco Mosaic Virus
St=Stemphylium (Gray Leaf Spot
TSWV=Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
- Plant healthy seedlings. Grow your own tomato seeds,href> or buy tomato plantshref > that are pest- and disease-free.
- Plant “good neighbors” – companion plantshref> that repel pests and dispel disease
During the season
- Maintain a consistent watering schedulehref>. Monitor rainfall and supplementing appropriately to provide 1-3 inches a week
- Water at the soil line. Avoid overhead watering, which can spread disease.
- Don’t over-water
- Mulch plantshref> once they’re established – about 3- 5 weeks after setting them out in the garden
- Don’t let anyone smoke in the garden (tobacco refuse can spread tobacco mosaic virus)
After the season
- Clear tomato plant debris
- Destroy infected plants
More on tomato problems
Problems on tomato leaves …
Problems on tomato stems …
Problems on tomato fruit …
How to identify, treat, and control tomato diseases…
How to understand tomato disease resistance codes …
Different kinds of tomato blight and how to tell them apart …
How to identify and treat early blight …
How to identify and treat late blight …
How to identify and treat Septoria leaf spot …
Fusarium wilt on tomatoes …
Verticillium wilt on tomatoes …
Bacterial wilt on tomatoes …
How to identify tomato pests and control them …
Tomato hornworm: how to identify and control it …
Tomato worms-cutworms: keep them away with stem collars …
Stink bugs: how to identify and control them on tomato plants…
Problems from growing conditions
Blossom end rot: how to identify, treat, and prevent it …
Why a tomato cracks and what to do about it …
Are bumps on tomato stems harmful to plants?
Tomato sunscald: why too much sun can be hazardous to tomatoes…
Have a Tomato Problem or Question?
You can ask questions and find answers about …
Problems on tomato leaveshref>
Problems on tomato stemshref>
Problems on tomato fruithref>
But if you have another problem with your tomatoes, a question about tomato care, or a great tip about handling tomato diseases and pests, you can share it here.
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Q. I have large, green, healthy tomato plants with no blossoms. Why? A. An abundance of tomato foliage with few or no blossoms is most often attributed …
Blight spray on tomato fruit
Q. I am wondering: does the spray used against blight for tomatoes have a waiting time period after which fruit must not be eaten? Fungicide products say …
How can we get tomatoes on our plants instead of all leaves?
Q. We have planted our tomatoes and now we are getting big leafy plants and very few tomatoes. The crotch shoots have been removed and the plants are a …
Sparse foliage and color too light
Q. The foliage on my tomatoes seems sparse and the color too light. But each plant has lots of blooms and several tomatoes. What might be the problem? …
How can I get rid of funguses in the soil?
Q. I have 2 tomato plants from last year that I saved. They where doing well, but we had a wet winter. The water drained away from the base of the tomatoes. …
Can tomato blight be spread by tillers and tomato cages?
Q. Can tomato blight be spread to a new garden by tiller or tomato cages that came into contact with blight the year before? We are starting a new tomato …
Tumbling Tom Tomatoes Aren’t Tumbling
Q. I potted up 6 hanging baskets with tumbling toms, 3 red and 3 yellow. They look great and are about 22 inches tall, They are not tumbling over but growing …
Growing tomatoes under shade cloth
Q. I have raised Juliet tomatoes for several years with very little problems and consistent taste from start to finish except for the past 2 years. We …
Growing Tomatoes Inside During Winter
Q. Can I grow a couple plants in my shop this winter with grow lights? If so, let me know any tips for first time effort. A. There are three places …
Many blooms, little fruit
Q. I have 8 plants grown from seeds, now in pots of varying sizes. Stems strong; leaves green, blooms a many for last 4 weeks. However, the blooms do …
Tomato Plant Suckers
Q. Should I prune all the suckers from my tomato plants? A. Pruning tomato plants can maximize the number, size, and flavor of your tomatoes. So some …
Why are tomato plants are dying?
Q. Our tomato plants have light brownish, grayish leaves. They are sick and dying! Can you help? A. There are at least 3 possible diseases that …
Lack of Tomato Production
Q. My plants have only produced 3 tomatoes. They have been growing in a 5 gallon bucket. I drilled two 2″ holes in the side. The plants are growing …
Blossoms falling off, blackened
Q. I just planted my tomatoes, so this is a preventative question. Last year I had a problem with blossoms turning black on the stem right beneath the …
Went away for 3 days and now my tomato plants are yellowing!
My tomato plants are in a small plot, which is a turned-up old flower bed that’s been covered in black tarp and landscaping stones for several years. When …
Hanging tomato shriveled and died
Last year, in late May/June, I planted tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket with holes in the side, like a hanging plant. I kept them watered, but they died. …
Poor Root Development
When I pulled my tomato plants this fall, I was surprised to find that the plants have very little root development. Some had only a six-inch diameter …
Tomato leaves are curling
Q. I have just noticed that my tomato leaves are curling. The flowers are starting to dry up but I do not see any spots. I was told is early blight. Should …
Worried about the Oregon wet cold spring
Q. I just transplanted my starter tomatoes to my patch garden at work. I started them from seeds. Great seeds – all came up. Now, I’m worried. I …
Question about fertilizer… Not rated yet
Q. I have heard that Epsom salts can be used for fertilizer. Do you agree and would you recommend it as a natural fertilizer? Tomato Dirt responds …
What type of container for growing tomatoes? Not rated yet
Q. What type of container is best for growing tomatoes on a deck? We have both clay pots and plastic … is one preferred over the other? A. Both …
Clay soil; not many leaves, blossoms, or fruit on tomato plants Not rated yet
Q. I planted my tomatoes sometime ago. I have 12 plants. Three are growing and have leaves and blossoms. I had little green tomatoes almost as soon as …
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