Training & Pruning Tomatoes for Cattle Panels
We are growing 2 cherry/grape tomatoes on our cattle panel trellis that is arching over the path between beds this summer. Because of the location and the fact that both tomatoes are going to be “sharing” the trellis with another vegetable (one pole bean and one cucumber), they are going to need to be managed a little more intensively than if they had the whole trellis to themselves.
Here is what one of them looked like before we did any pruning or training yesterday. We had done a little bit of pruning last week, so some of the worst suckers on the bottom of the plant were already gone. You can see that this plant is already putting out multiple stalks. That’s okay to a certain extent. I was planning to prune these plants to be double leader plants, so this one is well on its way. (A double leader means 2 main stems rather than just one.)
I’m planning to prune off all the side shoots (suckers) up to about 5 feet, and then we’ll let the plant do what it wants to for the rest of the way up the trellis. This should keep the majority of the plant from getting too busy and flopping into the walk, other plants, or just generally being where it doesn’t belong.
Here’s the “after.” Can you see the difference? The main (big) difference is the large sucker that we took off. It the top picture it looks like there are 3 growing shoots, now there are only 2. We also put on some zip ties to help direct the shoots up the trellis rather than everywhere else. The last thing we did was pinch out all the small suckers that were getting started. You can prune off big suckers, but it is much better for the plant to get them when they are small.
Because we are doing this heavy pruning, we probably won’t get as many early tomatoes from these plants. Oh well, we also won’t have them attacking us as we walk by either!
Pruning & Tying Tomatoes
You know how it never rains but it pours? I keep thinking we should be able to space out our projects a little more in the garden, but usually, once we are on a roll, we just keep going. We did lots of things in the garden today, so I’ll be posting about that all week.
One thing new we did this week was pruning the suckers off the heirloom tomatoes in the trial. The plants have really grown a lot, and since they are spaced a little closer together, we are taking off all the suckers below the first flower cluster.
Here’s one of the plants before its suckers get pruned off. It is definitely full and bushy, with some large suckers. Ideally, you would prune off the suckers before they get this large, because it is less shocking to the plants.
Here you can see the suckers a little better. They are the very large, upright shoots growing off the main stem, rather than the mostly horizontal leaves.
This is the same plant after the pruning is finished. You can see we accidentally broke one of the regular leaves in the process – one good reason to prune earlier when the suckers are smaller.
We did find flowers or buds on almost all of the heirloom tomatoes today, so I’m glad we chose the shorter day varieties!
If you are wondering why we pruned the heirlooms, there are a few good reason.
1. They are planted only 24″ apart, which is close for indeterminate plants. Pruning will help improve the airflow for these plants, reducing some of the disease pressure.
2. The heirlooms are very vigorous growers, so the pruning will help keep them under control a bit more.
3. Yes, the suckers would produce some tomatoes, but by removing the suckers, the plant will put more energy into the other fruit, so the other tomatoes might be a little larger. The total yield for each plant will be virtually the same.
We also put the third level of twine on the heirlooms. They had grown a lot and were definitely ready for it.
Late Berry Pruning
We are late getting our berries pruned this year, because I wanted to use them for the workshop last Saturday. I pruned most of the raspberries on Saturday, but we still had to do some cleanup and then prune up the currants and gooseberries.
Pruning and some good old fashioned TLC has done wonders for this black raspberry. 2 years ago, I was determined that it would get one last chance before getting torn out. It had about 6 berries in 2008. With some fertilizer and pruning, it was fairly productive in 2009, and then last year…
Yeah, I can’t wait for summer either! It was definitely vigorous last year, and we had to prune out lots of canes that were trying to root themselves all over the place.
We pruned out all of the old, diseased red raspberry canes, leaving just these new shoots to become this year’s primocanes. Because of the problems last year, if we see any signs of disease this year on these berries, I think we will remove the plants.
We also pruned out some dead canes in the currant and gooseberry bushes. They are already blooming, which is a bit late to be pruning, really. I checked last year, and I took pictures of the currant and gooseberry blooms on April 4th, so we’re apparently running about the same as last year. (I think we might be a hair behind right now, the flowers aren’t open quite as much.)
Fun Fact: Studying the timing of when certain plants bloom, etc from year to year is called phenology.
The weather was just too nice yesterday to stay inside. I had to get out and do something. That something turned out to be pruning the grapes. (The Master Gardeners didn’t come yesterday, since we were all on a “Buy Local” tour of a couple of our local nurseries – Hillside and Hongs.) Normally, this would be a little late for pruning, but they haven’t started to leaf out yet. I’m sure they’ll come on fast with the warm weather this week. (Dare I call it hot weather?)
The vines grew quite aggressively last year, so there was a lot to prune. Pruning grapes can be a little scary, even for me, so I had Bob, our other Hort Agent, come help with the pruning.
Bob went right to town on those grapes. First we worked on training the young vine. Then “snip, snip, snip!” He really made quick work of the rest of the vines.
Can you see the difference? The vines look positively bare at this point. Bob pruned almost all the growth from last year off, leaving little shoots with 1 bud for regrowth of vegetative vines and slightly bigger shoots with 3 buds for fruiting vines.
We have 2 different types of raspberries in the Demo Garden: ‘Caroline,’ a fall-bearing red raspberry, and a mystery variety of a summer-bearing black raspberry. After last year, I have totally fallen in love with ‘Caroline.‘ The black raspberry though…I have a feeling that its life is coming to an end in our garden. It’s going to have to do significantly better than 4 small berries this summer to prove its worth!
The thicket that is the black raspberries. Yikes! Definitely some work to do here. There were rooted branches all the way back to the lattice wall behind the currant bushes. Ugh.
The red raspberries are also a bit of a jungle, but not quite so bad, since the canes are primarily upright.
I love pruning the fall bearing raspberries! All you have to do is prune them back to the ground, and the job is done! So easy. So simple. Minimal scratches on the arms.
These nasty black raspberries, on the other hand…First we pruned out all the dead canes. Then we pruned back all the branches and side shoots that were longer than 3-4 feet. Next we pruned out all but the 3 or 4 strongest canes in each of the two clumps. Finally, we tied the canes up so they can’t reach the ground and root again!
There. They look much better. Less like a crazy, dangerous thicket, and more like well-behaved raspberry bushes. Right.