Less Noise, More Green: Pinching tomato suckers and hilling grow bag potatoes

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pinching tomato suckers and hilling grow bag potatoes

Roma tomatoes, pinching suckers
Roma tomato clusters are forming on all my container plants!
There is always something to do in the veggie garden. Each crop has its own maintenance requirements, which we would be wise to keep on top of if we want to avoid problems ( I hope I'm paying attention to the nice lady's good advice). With all the sun and rain we've had this week there has been some amazing growth happening! Consequently, both the potatoes and the tomatoes needed some attention.

Grow bag potatoes, hilling and fertilizing potatoes
Lots of rain and sun resulted in many inches of potato plant growth!
I'm growing my potato crop in grow bags this year and although I was worried about the decision, so far so good! I planted four bags of Kennebec and four bags of Yukon Gold varieties. Seven of the eight bags have done really well. With a good six or seven inches of new growth, it was time to hill the potatoes again.

Fish Emulsion, fertilizing potatoes
Adding fish emulsion to the grow bags will keep the hungry potato plants happy - at least for a while!
Before I did that, however, I gave each bag a good application of fish emulsion (2 tbsp. per gallon of water). Last year, at one of the Master Gardener projects I volunteer at we lost all of our container potatoes. The plants turned yellow and died. At the time we thought it was over watering, but after consulting with an expert we decided it was lack of nutrients that did them in. Potatoes are voracious eaters ( just like teenage boys - I know because I have one) and, especially if growing in containers, need regular fertilizing to keep them happy. As I was examining the plants I noticed the first signs of yellowing on the bottom leaves. Time to feed the potato teenagers!

Hilling Grow Bag Potatoes
Covering the plants with more soil keeps the growing potatoes in the dark.
I am growing the potatoes in an organic humus and manure mix and that is what I used to hill up the potatoes, leaving just a couple of inches of plant above the growing medium. I will hill one more time and then leave the plants to grow above the bag rim. Adding more soil keeps the potatoes in the dark and you can use any material that will block out the sun, including straw or leaves.

Tomato sucker
Tomato sucker
Both my indeterminate and determinate tomato plants are shooting up and I noticed it was time to start checking for suckers.  Suckers are the little shoots that start growing at the point where the branch leaves the stem. These new branches will keep growing and help to create an unmanageable tomato jungle in August.

Removing tomato suckers
Simply pinch it off the plant.
Suckers are easy to remove by simply pinching them off. I try to do this every week and when I remember to do it, it makes a huge difference in keeping the plants under control!

I also removed any leaves that were touching the soil. Pathogens can be lurking in the soil and can be easily transmitted to the plant. Tomatoes are so susceptible to disease and this is an easy way to help them healthy.

What chores have you been doing in your garden?


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