Tomato ‘Big Beef’ hanging on a trellis on 6-24-17, #349-96.

HELLO FOLKS! A couple of weeks ago I had to start putting up the stakes next to the tomatoes. Over the years I have always pruned my tomatoes and tied them to stakes. I always did it the way my dad did by cutting off the suckers and keeping a single stem and tying that stem to the stake. You should know how to properly do it and why. Not just because…

First off, I will tell you I love tomatoes. I love eating and growing them. But, to be very honest with you, of all the plants I have done well with, my tomatoes have never done that well. I have found them to be average at best. The weather or climate I lived in played a big apart, I think. The other may have been my determination to “control” them to the point they just decided they didn’t like me. That may sound a bit strange to say but consider this… Most other plants I just water if needed, make sure there are no insect problems, keep the weeds away, etc. Basically, I just make sure they have what they need and that is it. For the tomatoes… They go through staking and pruning which, if not done properly and at the right time, can cause a little stress.

When i was in Mississippi I grew a lot of different varieties of tomatoes that were supposed to be developed for the heat and humidity of the south. Some were hybrids and some were heirlooms. That is where I learned that the flowers on tomatoes and peppers can fall off when the temperature reaches 90 degrees. SO, I had a few tomatoes earlier in the summer and a flush of flowers when the temps got cooler… Only to leave me with hundreds of green tomatoes by the time we had our first frost. That was frustrating!

This year I am trying something a little different. A couple of weeks ago, I got on YouTube and typed in “pruning tomatoes”.

I had already put the steel posts next to the tomatoes, except for 2 because I ran out of posts… I still have to go find a couple more. 

I first used baler twine and tied to the top of the first post and wrapped it around the top of every post in the row. I made it as tight as I could. I don’t like using baler twine to tie the tomatoes, though, because I have found it can cut into the tomato stems more than hemp twine. You should use something that has some give to it, even like strips of material.

The photo above shows a sucker on the left, or is it? If you look down at the bottom of the photo you can see a leaf node and a sucker right where the leaf is growing. Those should be removed.  If you don’t cut them off when they are small, they get larger like the one above and could start budding. Then you will think, “OH, maybe I should leave it since it has flowers.” Now, for many years, I have pruned to leave one single stem. But this year, I am doing something different. You now how a tree forks? Tomatoes do that, too. OH, I should have taken a better photo to show you!

As you can see with this photo, I tied two strings to the post where the tomato plant started branching out. In pervious years, I only kept one. After watching the video I had a better idea. Where the plant starts growing two branches, similar to when a tree forks, side by side, keep them both because neither one are suckers. Then I wrapped the string around each branch and tied the other end to the twine, half way between the posts.

You can se how I wrapped the string around the stem. I just wrap the stem around the string as it grows. In this photo you see another fork. At least I think it is another fork. SO, I tied another string to the string wrapped around the stem and wrapped it around the branch on the left and tied it to the baler twine.

While I was working on the tomatoes I noticed some leaves on one of the plants had been chewed on… SO, I started looking for the culprit. I knew what it was already I just had to find it.

I really wish they would find something else to chew on besides tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potato leaves. At first glance, you would think this is the typical tomato hornworm, right? Ummm… Look again. The Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata have 8 diagonal white lines with no borders. This one has 7 white lines with a black border and has red horns. SO, folks, this caterpillar is a Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca sexta. They are very beautiful creature, in my opinion, and can get very large before you even spot them. The moth they turn into is called the Carolina Sphinx Moth or Tobacco Hawk Moth which feed on nectar, or even honey from bee hives. They are in the Sphingidae family of moths (hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms) which consists of over 1,450 species classified into around 200 genera. They can fly up to 12 miles per hour and hover like hummingbirds. I have seen several of these in the hayfield. Depending on where they are, they produce 1-4 generations per year.

This year I am experimenting with 5 tomato cultivars. Goliath (I tried this first last year). Big Beef, Celebrity (recommended by Jim), German Johnson and Black Krim. All are doing pretty good now and looking better every day.

Well, that is all for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. Until next time, take care, be happy, healthy and prosperous and GET DIRTY!!!



  1. Jim R says:

    My wife is a quilter. She gives me lots of long narrow strips of fabric she cuts off the edges of her pieces. I use them to tie up the tomato plants. It is soft and gentle on the stems. I hope your Celebrity plants do well. Mine are looking strong.


  2. Bishop says:

    Loved the article and video. I have been tempted to try the technique but always procrastinated. About 5 years ago I was in Oman at a remote camp. The camp workers were growing tomatoes exactly as depicted. I vowed I would try it when I returned but as always, distracted. Thanks for sharing.


    • Hello Bishop! I am glad I tried the method and I will never go back to the old way. Very simple and a great way to keep an eye on your plants. They get plenty or air circulation, are easy to prune (de-sucker), you can see pests better, and so on. They just kind of hang there in mid air. Thanks for the comment!


Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.