Am I the only one that’s ever asked that question? If you’ve never tried growing tomato plants, you’re probably reaching for the phone right now – “help, someone’s going around actually tickling tomato plants!” But wait, please let me explain. It’s not a joke, it really is a thing!
I think that THE most rewarding plant to grow is the tomato. Once you have it safely ensconced in a pot of multi-purpose soil or a grow bag, it needs a little bit of support and pampering for it to fulfil its true calling in life. A really good drink of water in dry weather; a meal of high potassium feed once a week from the time it goes into flower; a few cosmetics, and by the end of August you’ll be plucking juicy red fruits from the vine -preferably on a sunny day when all the sugars have risen into the fruit. But there are two really important jobs to do before you get to enjoy the fruit of your labour.
Vine tomatoes will produce side shoots known as ‘suckers’. Those suckers have got to go! The plant is putting energy into growing as big as it can but we want it to put all its energy into growing our delicious tomato. To identify the sucker; follow the main stem until you get to a leaf. If there is a growth emerging in between where the leaf meets the stem that is your sucker! Get rid of it by simply breaking it off the plant.
All tomato plants are self pollinating – meaning the pollen in a flower needs only to drop down into the female parts of the same flower for fertilisation to take place. They still need our lovely pollinating critters to visit to jiggle the flower around, causing the pollen to fall. But you’ll have noticed that the flowers aren’t exactly show stopping. They can easily be missed by insects. If you plant pots of marigolds and other flowers that insects like around them, you increase the chance of the flower being pollinated. BUT – if you gently rub your finger over the end of the flower you’re basically doing the job of the insect. This is genuinely known as ‘tickling’. Your plant is more likely to produce fruit by giving it a good tickle. So go ahead, give your tomatoes a good tickle and hear them squeal with delight!