Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Sucker Debate and Bucket Update

When last we left you, our hero was considering...Screech!! Oops, sorry. I forgot this wasn't a melodrama. It's a gardening blog. But from what I've been reading in "the literature" from Extension Services, seed companies, "professional" growers, backyard dabblers and the infamous internet experts, the concept of trimming the tomato suckers is exactly that, a melodrama.

Some say do, some say don't, some say do it sometimes, others do it never. For some folks, this is as important an issue as what variety to grow or whether or not to plant by the cycles of the moon. For others, it's a silly topic and one on which they expend no effort either discussing or doing. So, I've made my decision.

In order to keep the concept of Stealth Farming, the work has to be the easiest and most productive it can be. It has to take care of the plant, the garden and the produce and still produce the highest yield and most flavorful, healthy food possible. With that in mind, I have decided to ignore the suckers. In fact, I'm not even going to call them suckers. To me they will just be additional branches or shoots on which more tomatoes can grow.

If my point was to grow a prize-winning tomato for the county fair, I would let several fruits set on the plant and then I would monitor them as they began to grow. I would make sure that no suckers, I mean 'additional branches' were allowed to grow and flourish. I would then select the best fruit from the plant and remove all of the others. Then I would hope and pray that no bug got to that one while it grew.

Because these additional branches will allow for more leaf production and flower production, there will be more fruit from the plant. Because a plant has a finite amount of energy and nutrients that it can produce over the course of the season, more fruits generally means more average fruits and fewer phenomenal fruits. I'm OK with this as my purpose is to produce as many tomatoes as possible. So, the additional branches will remain.

I'm not that emotionally invested in my plants to worry and fuss over every detail like the 'additional branches.' And although I know that some people are, I don't think I will ever get that way. And if I do, somebody please slap me and wake me up.

Over the past few days I have been attaching the supports for the tomatoes in the buckets. These are made from wood that I ripped last year into 1" x 1" pieces approximately 6 feet long. I put one support stick on each side of the plant generally perpendicular to the fill tube-drain hole line. I secured them with a simple cable tie.

This photo makes it look like the support stick is only a couple inches away from the fill tube, but it's not, really. I thought the green cable ties made a nice statement, don't you?

When I had both of the supports in place (they push down easily in the compost/mulch/soil mix) and anchored, I used a piece of nylon twine to form the trellis support on each side of the plant stem. I've used this method before and it allows for the plant to grow and enlarge without binding or restricting but it still provides enough support to the plant to keep it upright and protect it from the wind and the weight of the fruit.

By following a figure-eight pattern between the posts and the plant, there is enough 'give' in the string to support but not rub an injury to the stem. An alternative to this is the simply tie the string from post to post and use plant ties or ribbons to make the support on the plant. They both work, your call.

This picture makes my leaves look yellow but that's from the floodlight I was using. As you can see, I have to garden in the evening and early morning to get it all done. (I have a life, you know.)

I've got a dozen tomatoes and three peppers growing in these Sub-irrigated planters this year. I may add some more, too. Eventually, I want to have all of my garden area in sub-irrigated planters or wicking beds. With the cost of city water rising every year, I can't afford to top water and let the excess run off back to the water table so the water authority can charge me again for the same water. By using this system, I only use the water once, same as before, but only I use the water, and only about 10% as much, too.

As a side note, I have a friend who has some pet rabbits who live in her house. They are litter box trained and she considers them members of the family. I bring her some radish tops once in a while for her bunnies. Here is a picture of last night's radish pull and the tops she got today.

I really love radishes. I like them raw, in salads, by themselves and in soup. I think they add a great flavor when grated or shredded and put in other dishes. I even like to pull one or two and munch on them as I'm working in the garden.

When you grow your own as an intercrop with other plants, it's like a bonus, almost free. I once calculated the cost of a radish to grow and it worked out to about 8 for a cent. That's cheap. And when you grow them yourself in your Stealth Garden, they are picked at the exact moment of intense flavor and nutrition. How cool is that?


  1. here in Kentucky, we're currently harvesting radishes, kale and asparagus. it's been raining so much that I don't know when we'll get the chance to plant anything more. well, for hubby to plant anything more. I'm the chief cook and bottle washer. ;)

  2. Why are some radishes longish and creepy looking?


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