Home gardeners who want to add more tomato plants to their garden, may want to consider growing transplants from suckers.
Suckers are side shoots that grow between the stem and the branch of tomato plants.
Rooting from suckers is an excellent option, as many garden centers don’t carry tomato transplants this time of year and growing from seeds would take too long.
A late crop of tomatoes set between now and the end of July should start producing about the time tomato plants set early in the season become unproductive. With all the rain we’ve had this year, disease may cause many tomato plants to become unproductive before the end of August.
To root tomato suckers, select healthy tomato suckers that are three to four inches long. Place several suckers in a jar and add sufficient water to cover the ends one to two inches. The use of a rooting hormone is not necessary but would probably hasten the process. Set the suckers in a cool, well-lit spot until new roots develop. Set rooted plants in the garden and immediately provide shade to each plant for a few days until suckers start to grow. Gardeners can use a few small leafy shrub branches to create the right amount of shade.
This late in the season fertility is more important than ever. If you do not have a soil test from this winter, take a soil sample to your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office now. This will allow you to get the results back before the suckers are ready to transplant.
Water soluble fertilizers, like Miracle Grow or Peters, are good for getting transplants off to a fast start but should not be expected to take the place of soil test recommendations.
For more on growing home garden tomatoes, see the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences publication website at www.caes.uga.edu/publications/.
(Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.)