Need More Tomatoes

July 31, 2008 | By | Comments (4)

Q: I just located this site — but have been a Southern Living subscriber for many years.

We have 3 tomato plants (in a good flower bed) which are over 8 ft tall but have produced only several tomatoes. They look healthy, get the morning sun and the tomatoes we have picked are good — and look good. We fertilized with Miracle Grow for tomatoes.

Can you tell us what we have done wrong so we will not make that mistake in the future?

Thank you,

A: There are two basic types of tomato plants — determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes tend to be shorter, stocky plants that do well in containers and ripen all their fruit pretty much at the same time. Indeterminate tomatoes are vinelike and grow like weeds. They ripen their fruit throughout the summer. For the first couple of months, though, they put all of their energy into making new leaves and stems and you get few fruits. I think you have this type.

You can encourage earlier fruit production by doing the following:
1. Go easy on the fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Too much nitrogen promotes leafy growth at the expense of fruit.
2. Prune out all but about 3-4 suckers on each plant. Suckers are shoots that sprout from the crotch between a main stem and leaf. This should reduce the vigor of the plant and send it into a fruit-bearing mode.
3. Pinch out the tips of the tallest main stems to encourage bushiness.
4. Realize that the more sun your plants get, the more fruit you’ll get.

Good luck,


  1. Grumpy Gardener

    The easiest way to keep down weeds is by applying a two-inch thick layer of mulch around your plants after you plant them. Hand-pull any weeds that come up through the mulch.

    May 31, 2009 at 8:52 pm
  2. melody ringo

    how do I keep the weeds out of my veg. garden? I’m just now preparing the soil.

    May 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener

    I assume you Brits are growing your tomatoes in greenhouses right now. The recommendations for leaving 3-4 suckers was to produce plants of sufficient size outdoors to yield a good amount of fruit with limited vegetative growth. You’ll still need to control their size in a greenhouse, I expect. Aggressive pruning could have slowed fruit production for a time, but it should pick up as the days grow longer. Hang in there, mate!

    January 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm
  4. Danny Staple

    Thanks for this. I have mostly cherry tomato plants, about 6 of them, which when healthy in the summer produced 7 or 8 tomatoes a week between them.
    Now it is the winter, they are down to two/three (less sun), and I am dealing with a pest problem – Fungus Gnats and Spider Mites.
    Hopefully I will see my yield increase in the spring.
    One question for you – why leave 3/4 suckers? Perhaps I pruned too aggressively – once the plants seemed tall enough, I was mercilessly taking out the suckers.

    January 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

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