A Few Commandments for Noob Tomato Growers

Thou shalt suffer no weed to touch the leaves nor crowd the drip line of the tomato plant.  Mulch thou the drip line of the tomato with weed barrier, that the tomato’s roots remain cool in the summer sun, and free to feed upon the nutrients of the soil without hindrance.

Vine tomatoes sucker prolifically.  Prune them ruthlessly if you hope to have large tomatoes, and if you would like your plant to remain vigorous until frost.

Vine tomatoes sucker prolifically. Prune them ruthlessly if you hope to have large tomatoes, and if you would like your plant to remain vigorous until frost.

Thou shalt  remove neither the side branches nor the suckers from the stem of the bush tomato, for it is a bush of many-stems, not a vine of a single central leader.  Keep this commandment lest thy harvest be scanty and your hours of labor from seed to table be wasted like corn scattered upon a field of stone.

Thou shalt suffer neither side branches nor suckers to remain on the stem of the vine tomato.  Prune them out lest your fruit be puny,  shaming you before other gardeners.

Remove all leaves that touch the ground. A correctly pruned vine tomato will have a single clearly identifiable  stem.  A correctly pruned bush tomato will at least two clearly identifiable stems.  Stems should be completely free of leaves several inches above the ground.

Remove all leaves that touch the ground. A correctly pruned vine tomato will have a single clearly identifiable stem. A correctly pruned bush tomato will at least two clearly identifiable stems. Stems should be completely free of leaves several inches above the ground.

Thou shalt  allow no  branch of the vine tomato, yea, verily I say unto you thou shalt allow no branch of the bush tomato to touch the soil, nor even to grow near unto the earth where the waters of the sky or the waters of the sprinkler will splash upon them and pass to them  the one-thousand diseases that curse all who till the land.  Prune them sharply lest evil creepeth from the earth and overtake them, and you gnash your teeth and tear your hair, squatting in the rows of the field.

Keep and obey this commandment — treat tomatoes of the vine and tomatoes of the bush for fungal diseases before they sicken, for I say unto you that though the diseases of the tomato might be prevented,  I have decreed that the diseases of the tomato shall never be cured.  The blight of the leaf shall become a blight of the stem, and the blight of the stem shall become the blight of the fruit, until in the fullness of time the entire plant shall die and its bones be gathered unto its ancestors.

Thou shalt not fertilize nor treat for diseases bush tomatoes after the red fruit thereof has been harvested, for having born young, the bush tomato is cursed to die.  Neither a sacrifice of silver,  nor entreating all the angels of heaven will avail you one iota.  Verily I say unto you it is better you tear a spent bush tomato from the soil, and plant carrots, wax beans, or chard in its place instead.

<photocredit: eyeforstyle.cc.webloc>

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14 thoughts on “A Few Commandments for Noob Tomato Growers

  1. Lynna Landstreet says:

    Er… At risk of most definitely outing myself as as noob tomato grower. how exactly do I know if my various sorts of tomatoes are bush or vine tomatoes? (And thus, whether I should prune off suckers etc. or not.) Neither the little signs in the pots nor the web site of the company that grew the seedlings says…

    They’re all heirloom varieties – I think the five I got were Big Rainbow, Black Seaman, Black Trifele, Chocolate Stripe and Red Brandywine (all from Urban Harvest – http://www.uharvest.ca/), if that helps any.

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      This is a good question because unless the seed packet or the seedling labels tells says “determinate” <– (bush variety) or "indeterminate" <–(vine variety), gardeners who are trying a new variety are left scratching their heads and worrying about it. Big Rainbow is a vining tomato. I know because I've tried it. I am not familiar with the other three, but I recommend a quick internet search. In broad generalities, pasting tomatoes are more often bush variety, and slicing tomatoes are more often vining in habit. But the rule isn't hard and fast. If you can't figure it out by doing research, the plant's habit is going to tell you very clearly: once a bush variety sets flowers it stops growing vertically (it will grow side branches, but it won't get any taller… this is why they are never bigger than four feet). A vine tomato is going to keep going vertical (10 – 15 feet of vertical) until a hard frost kills it. Hope that helps a little.

      • Lynna Landstreet says:

        Very much, thank you! I did not know that about determinate and indeterminate being the same as bush and and vine – I think at least some of them did say which of those they were. I’ll check… Thanks!

        One thing I do know is that some of them are getting really tall and are quickly outgrowing their tomato cages. Need to find some big long stakes to support them the rest of the way up…

      • Sho'Nuff says:

        Good! Glad that helped. FWIW I have never seen a caging system that was worth a darn with a vine tomato. Show me a cage that is three meters (+) tall and I will eat my garden trowel. I use the Square Foot Gardening vertical trellising method. Vine tomatoes will grow up a rope with no trouble. If you look for a Youtube video of this method, it might prove helpful for next year. This is one of the few Square Foot Gardening techniques I employ regularly. Cheers!

  2. Been out of town but getting photo updates & altho I hesitate to say for sure (& jinx it!) it appears your tomato advice is working–the plants look tall, green & gorgeous! Fingers crossed we’ll be able to taste the results very soon… :D! Thx so much, ye tomato maven!

  3. Laurrie says:

    You made me laugh, and yet these commandments were full of good, practical info. You did the impossible — a side splitting parody that managed to instruct.

    I’m still giggling!

  4. Lrong says:

    As with most of my veggies, I normally let the tomatoes grow as they want… that is, minimum trimming… I provide them with some vertical support, and mulch the base area to cut off any direct contact points between the leaves and the soil… so far, luckily, they have been doing quite well…

  5. Some of the best tomato advice I have ever read…I will need to commit this to memory and then i may be successful..hopefully!

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      How funny. Tomatoes are generally so forgiving… but around here the fungal disease pressure is really quite terrible because of the humidity and high heat. I think other people have less trouble growing them than I do.

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