I think of gardening as an oral tradition. Some things I love reading about, cooking, eating, and parenting, to name a few. However, I don’t think of gardening as something I read about. I tried before, I even read a book that was specific to gardening in Texas and I planted things at the wrong times, planted the wrong things, and couldn’t find other plants in the book. I ended up rather frustrated.
I ditched the book. It’s sitting forlornly on a bookshelf, gathering dust. Instead, I decided to talk to people I considered experts on gardening, my parents and grandparents, people at local nurseries (usually the owners), and the farmer from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. Of all of those, the farmer has proven to be the most helpful.
When I picked up my box of vegetables from the farm, I usually run into the farmer. He usually shows me his new projects; the new greenhouse, the irrigation tanks, and this week, the composting project he was starting. In turn, I get to ask any garden questions I had for the week. This week was about tomatoes.
I asked about suckering tomato plants. I’ve heard people say I should sucker my plants. I don’t and was hoping I wasn’t severely limiting my tomato output. I didn’t expect the farmer suckered all his plants (he estimated he has 6,000 tomato plants in this year, including 20 different varieties of heirlooms!), but I thought maybe he would have advice for someone gardening on a much smaller scale.
His response was that there are two different types of tomato plants - ones that need suckering and ones that don’t. The ones that suckering is beneficial to is the indeterminate plants, those that will produce indefinitely and grow monstrously huge. I had seen the word indeterminate before in seed catalogs, but had ignored it because I didn't know what it meant.
Back to suckering. The farmer then went on to say that one year (when he had a lot fewer tomato plants), he tried suckering his plants. He said it was a lot of work, and he didn’t notice a difference.
I am sticking to that opinion. Maybe someday, when my kids are older, I will have time to sucker my tomatoes. For now, I am letting them grow wild and free without worrying too much that my tomatoes will be less than they could be. They will still be mighty tasty!
Do you sucker your tomatoes? And do you find better advice in books, or from the "experts" around you?