Last season I participated in the sucker vs. no sucker experiment by growing two rows of Better Boy tomatoes (indeterminate tomato plants) in 5 gallon buckets.
I planted in the earlier part of April since we had past the danger of frost, for the most part, here in the Atlanta area.
The plants that I removed the suckers from (experiment plants) produced 15 more tomatoes, almost 5 more pounds than the plants that grew with the suckers (control plants). All of this surplus came at the beginning of the season because the experiment plants began producing earlier than the control plants – about 16 days earlier.
Experiment plants produced on 45 days; control plants on 34 days. In all, experiment plants produced 11 more days than the control plants.
Now I’ve almost concluded that for Better Boy tomato plants grown in pots, I can increase yield by removing suckers, but here are the things that concern me about this conclusion after just one experiment season.
In June, one of the control plants lost a number of tomatoes to blossom end rot and another control plant suffered temporarily from an aphids attack.
In July, squirrels attacked many plants that either lost tomatoes or they fell off green. After the first fruits, tomatoes come in smaller so I added fertilizers to try to keep the nutrients up as at the beginning.
I noticed that squirrels, chipmunks and animals “steal” tomatoes during long periods of no rain and insects tend to attack right after a good rain.
There are so many pests to deal with when summer arrives that it’s better to harvest in spring, plus the high temperatures seem to cause fewer blossoms to set fruit.
At the end of the season I emptied out the soil from the buckets/pots where I grew my tomato plants, one bucket had about a dozen large grub worms. I noticed that this plant did not produce as many tomatoes as other plants; it also was a control plant.
The control plants (those with suckers) had to deal with a few more pests than the experiment plants (those without suckers) and if I did this experiment again, it would turn out differently. But this is what I learned about growing Better Boy tomatoes in pots:
- Plant as early in the Spring as possible but after the threat of frost is over (or indoors) so you can begin harvesting tomatoes before the pests come out in force.
- Removing suckers was a type of catalyst to get more blooms that set tomatoes for harvest – in my case, 16 days before the plants with suckers.
- When the control plants began producing tomatoes, the production was at about the same rate as the experiment plants – they did not produce more in number or weight than the experiment tomatoes.
- The difference was 11 more days of harvesting tomatoes from the experiment plants that came at the beginning of the season.
We want to know what you have discovered in your tomato growing experiments so that we might help others all over the world. Learn about taking part in this experiment.
Sign up for a free membership in Ernie’s Homegrown Tomatoes.