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Desuckering and Rooting Tomatoes

Hi, I’m Paul Thompson with Clemson Extension Service. I’m a county agent in York, Chester and Lancaster Counties. I’m back here in the Chester Community Garden today and I want to talk a little bit about desuckering your tomato plant. If you look at a tomato plant, tomatoes have what are called compound leaves. So this entire thing right here is a leaf and every place a leaf joins a main stem, there will be a bud that will give rise to these suckers. And if you leave them on the plant, your plant becomes very crowded, you get a lot of low branching, you increase the opportunity of disease because of the crowded, low air circulation, and that type thing. You want to desucker your tomato plants up to a couple of feet high possibly and you kind of have to do it early on because these suckers, if left on too long, they become much larger. In fact, this one’s kind of on the large size, but I think it’s probably still small enough to easily break out. To desucker, all you do is take your thumb down close to the bottom and just pinch it out like so. And what you can do with these to save some money so you don’t have to buy so many transplants, as you’re desuckering your tomatoes, you can root these. You could either put them up, pot them up and put them in a bright, out-of-direct-sunlight location in littler containers and root them that way, but one easy thing to do is root them right next to your tomato plant where you’re going to be paying attention and taking care of. So you take a stick or your finger and make a deep hole. What you probably want to do is take off some of the foliage because the foliage is what’s going to cause the moisture to be lost from this cutting. So you can either take off full leaves or pinch a little bit. This has a flower cluster, so I’m going to go ahead and take that off. And then stick this down deep in that hole because it’s going to root all along the stem, and then pack the soil back around it. So now when you’re watering your tomato plant, you’ll also be watering this sucker. You can root quite a number of these this way and after they have – once you see new growth on these, you know they have rooted, you can then lift them out of the ground and you can relocate them so they are properly spaced and not too close to each other. So that’s just one way that you can save some dollars. Tomato transplants often in some of the stores are selling for $4 a piece just for a little, small 3-inch pot and that can get quite expensive if you want to grow a lot of tomatoes. That’s all for now. We’ll be back in the garden with more tips in a few days.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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