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?
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.