Tomato Pruning Tips

To prune or not to prune—that always seems to be a question for tomato growers. While pruning is not a necessity, it can increase quality at the expense of quantity.



To prune or not to prune—that always seems to be a question for tomato growers. While pruning is not a necessity, it can increase quality at the expense of quantity. Pruning tomato plants can result in bigger fruit, but smaller yields. Keep in mind that every tomato variety does not need pruning.

The tomato plants that benefit from pruning are the indeterminate varieties. These are the types that will continue to grow and produce fruit until killed by frost. Because they don’t stop growing, they can become very tall and bushy if not pruned. Removing the height and bushiness through pruning allows the plant to focus more resources and energy on the fruit instead of excess foliage. On the other hand, determinate tomatoes grow to a genetically determined height and produce a finite fruit quantity. Pruning these plants will just reduce your harvest.

The process for pruning tomatoes is removing small stems called suckers. Suckers grow between the main stem and leafy branches of the tomato plant, and if left to develop, suckers will grow into stems capable of hosting fruit-bearing branches. Not only can the suckers result in a wild appearance, but excess fruit can add weight stress to the plant.

Remove suckers by pinching away with your fingers. Small suckers will pop right off, while more mature suckers may require shears or a knife for removal. Suckers grow quickly in summer, so check your plants daily for signs of new growth. When pruning tomatoes, how many suckers you remove is entirely up to you, but be sure to leave enough branches to provide shade for the fruit.

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