Mary's Veggie Garden

September 30, 2013

An Easy Way to Increase Harvest

Filed under: Gardening,Tomatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 3:59 pm
Tags: , ,

Sometimes a very  small and easy action at planting time can make a big difference at harvest time.

Several years ago I bought a pepper at our local Master Gardener plant sale and planted it in my garden next to the transplants I’d grown at home. The MG plant looked enormous – with twice as many leaves and each leaf twice as big as my home-grown plants. The MG plant was big enough that it already had open flowers and a baby pepper.

By mid-July I harvested the first pepper – from the MG plant. The peppers on the other plants were small, still far from being ready. In early August I noticed something curious – the MG pepper plant was about half the size of my home-grown plants. It had only a couple small fruits while the other plants were loaded with peppers of various sizes.

What happened?

I’d planted them together and watered and fertilized the same way. The MG plant, transplanted with a pepper fruit, had put all its efforts into growing the fruit and maturing the seeds instead of producing a strong root system and a big plant. Thus it had little strength to grow additional fruit. Because of this experience I tell my vegetable gardening classes to remove fruit and open flowers from peppers and eggplants when transplanting them into the garden. Peppers and eggplants are slow growers in the cool spring weather and need all the help they can get.

Does the same rule apply to tomatoes which seem more vigorous? This year I had the opportunity to run the experiment with tomatoes and I weighed the harvest to measure the effect. The results were dramatic. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Healthkick plants before pruning.

Healthkick plants before pruning.

I got two Healthkick tomato plants in early June. Healthkick is determinate – genetically programmed to grow to a certain height (about 3′) and set a lot of tomatoes in a short time. It produces plum tomatoes.

The transplants each had  two clusters of open flowers with several small fruits. Both plants had about the same number of leaves but the shorter plant had bigger fruit which I removed along with the flowers. They were transplanted side-by-side into my garden on June 10.

Healthkick plants after pruning the shorter plant.

Healthkick plants after pruning the shorter plant.

June 30 - L - plant transplanted without fruit & flowers; R - plant transplanted with fruit.

June 30 – L – plant transplanted without fruit & flowers; R – plant transplanted with fruit & flowers.

July 14 I started harvesting from the plant transplanted with fruit. The tomatoes were small, about 2 ounces, but they were early. It was another month before I harvested any tomatoes from the other plant, but the tomatoes were noticeably bigger.

Aug. 10  Healthkick on the vine. This is the plant whose flowers & fruits I removed at transplanting.

Aug. 10 Healthkick on the vine. This is the plant whose flowers & fruits I removed at transplanting.

In total, the plant transplanted with fruit produced 5.8 pounds and the plant whose fruit & flowers I removed at transplanting produced 20 pounds, more than 3 times the other plant.

August 31 Healthkick harvest

August 31 Healthkick harvest

The picture shows my Aug. 31 Healthkick harvest. The 15 tomatoes on the left are from the plant whose fruit and flowers were removed at  transplanting time, while the five tomatoes on the right were from the plant transplanted with fruit.

It is counter-intuitive, but because I removed the open flowers and fruit at transplanting, the plant grew bigger and produced more tomatoes and heavier tomatoes.  For me, it is worth sacrificing the early tomatoes in favor of more and bigger tomatoes later.

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7 Comments »

  1. Great experiment ! really shows results, although not what you would have expected !!

    Comment by Gillian L. — September 30, 2013 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  2. GREAT POST!

    Comment by The Belmont Rooster — September 30, 2013 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  3. Very interesting and informative.

    Comment by Will - Eight Gate Farm - NH — September 30, 2013 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  4. Glad you did side-by-side comparisons, very convincing experiments.

    Comment by Norma Chang — October 1, 2013 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiment, I’ll have to remember to remove the flower buds next time.

    Comment by mac — October 2, 2013 @ 2:15 am | Reply

  6. Oh very good information Mary, thanks. I knew this worked with flowers ( as you know my first love) but now it makes more sense than
    ever to do the pruning while planting most everything. Next Spring I’ll be part of a community garden that is just forming here in Sea Trail.

    Happy Gardening :0)

    Comment by Kim — October 3, 2013 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

    • Hi Kim,
      I was wondering if I should cut the blooms & buds off any flowers that I buy. (I do buy a few.) It sounds like Yes!
      Good luck with your community garden. I hope you have a nice, sunny site.
      Mary

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — October 3, 2013 @ 9:09 pm | Reply


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