Should you prune tomatoes?
There is some debate over whether tomato plants should be trimmed, and the truth is that if you don’t, it won’t necessarily create difficulties. Several individuals produce delicious tomatoes without pruning at all. Tomatoes are not one of those plants that require pruning or deadheading in order to survive, but shrewd pruning can improve the quality of the fruit you harvest.
Why You Should Prune Tomato Plants
The major purpose to trim tomato plants is to concentrate your plant’s energy into producing fruit rather than additional foliage. Pruning tomato plants at the suckers and removing yellowed leaves promotes good fruit production and helps to avoid plant diseases. Unpruned foliage will eventually grow into new branches that will form fruit, but most experienced growers advise that tomatoes should be pruned to not only produce larger fruit earlier in the season, but also to protect the plants against pests and disease problems.
If you have fungal issues in your garden, airflow definitely should be considered, and you may want to prune your tomato plants to open up the foliage so air can easily circulate around the plant and its fruits. If your plants aren’t often plagued by leaf spots or other fungal diseases, this isn’t likely to be an issue for you.
Additionally, if your tomato plants are lying on the ground, you might want to prune them, as contact with the soil encourages the development of fungal diseases. The quantity of sugar produced by bushy plants is decreased when their leaves are put into persistent shadow, such as when they are on the ground. You may also stake your tomato plant instead of trimming it to keep the leaves off the ground.
If you are growing tomatoes in containers, then pruning can be a good way to control the size of the plant, as otherwise it’s easy for a vigorous tomato vine to outgrow its pot. When growing in pots, you should ideally only use compact tomato cultivars.
When a tomato plant is correctly trimmed, all of the foliage gets appropriate sunlight, and the plant is able to photosynthesize more effectively, resulting in increased growth and fruit output.
Before Getting Started
Not all tomato varieties need pruning. Pruning is not recommended while producing determinate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes, often called bush tomatoes, are those varieties that grow to a fixed mature size, usually around four to five feet, although there are much smaller varieties as well. These tomatoes often mature their whole crop within a few weeks. Determinate tomatoes lose vitality after fruiting and do not set further fruit. As a result, trimming suckers provides little benefit.
Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, do not have a definite maturity size and continue to develop throughout the season, ultimately producing quite enormous vines. Certain types may grow to be up to 20 feet long, although the majority stay between 6 and 8 feet. Many of the most popular tomato varieties, including cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and cultivars such as ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Beefsteak,’ and ‘Brandywine’ are indeterminate.
Pruning is crucial for producing indeterminate tomatoes, which yield fruit on a regular basis throughout the season. This helps keep the commonly huge vines in control, and it encourages the plant to produce several large tomatoes instead of lots of foliage and many smaller tomatoes. To fit more plants into a compact area, keep your indeterminate tomato plants staked or caged and pruned on a regular basis. This will keep your plants from becoming too huge and bushy. Indeterminate plants, on the other hand, will continue to grow taller and produce fruit for as long as the plant is alive.
Pruning Tomato Plants
Pruning your tomato plants is well worth the brief time you’ll spend on the chore if you want the healthiest tomato plants with the most abundant fruit. While there are a few other methods of pruning, including pruning the plant’s roots or pinching out the tomato plant’s growing tips, the most common method is to prune away the suckers. By removing these useless side branches, your tomato plant is forced to concentrate its energy on fruit production rather than foliage development.
How to Prune Out Tomato Suckers
Locate the Suckers
On your tomato plant, look for tomato suckers, which grow in the “V” area between the main stem and the branches. 2 If left unpruned, these suckers will ultimately develop into full-sized branches, producing a lot of foliage and maybe even a few fruits. This will also result in a tomato plant that rapidly outgrows its garden area.
Remove the Suckers
Suckers under 2 inches long may be easily plucked off with your fingers, but for bigger suckers, use a clean pruner, sterilizing it as you travel from plant to plant to prevent disease transmission.
Clip carefully to avoid tearing or nicking the tomato vine or nearby leaves. Make sure the cut is clean, with no ragged edges or vine splits.
Remove suckers while they are little whenever feasible. Removing large amounts of foliage at one time can stress the plant.
Remove or Stake Long Branches
Low-hanging branches that are touching the ground should be anchored or removed. Leaves touching the ground can be susceptible to bacteria, fungi, and viral infections that can spread through the rest of the plant.
Tomato cages make it simple to anchor and support your plants. Choose a cage that’s large enough to support the majority of your plant’s length.
Common Tomato Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
While pruning tomato plants isn’t complicated, doing it correctly helps promote vigorous growth and more fruit production. These are some examples of errors to avoid.
Pruning Wet Plants
If your tomatoes have been soaked by rain or sprinklers, wait until the foliage has dried before trimming. Clipping, pruning, or deadheading wet plants, fruit, or flowers can encourage the spread of harmful bacteria or fungi that might hurt or even kill your tomato plants.
Removing Too Many Leaves
Never remove so much foliage that the number of leaves on the plant is reduced by more than one-third. While tomatoes do need plenty of sunlight to grow and set fruit, overly intense sun and heat can lead to scalded tomatoes. Ideally, your pruning should leave an even spread of leaves around the plant to lightly shade the growing fruit from the most intense rays of sunlight. This is particularly crucial in locations where the summers are very hot and dry.
Pruning With Dirty Tools
By failing to clean your pruning shears between uses, you might easily transfer germs and fungus from plant to plant. After clipping each plant, clean your pruning scissors or shears with 70% isopropyl alcohol before moving on to the next. This is a fantastic technique to follow if you trim or cut any sort of plant in your garden.
Not Removing Lower Leaves
As you’re removing suckers to encourage fruit development, don’t forget to remove the old, lowest leaves on your tomato plants as well. Since the fungus is often transmitted from plant to plant, fungal illnesses normally affect the lowest leaves first. Often, removing older leaves will eliminate fungus spores before they begin to develop. While pruning, remove any yellowing or sickly leaves from any area on the plant.
Letting Suckers Grow Before Pruning
Waiting too long before pruning away suckers means your tomato plants wasted energy in unnecessary foliage growth that could better have been spent on growing fruit. Moreover, suckers may grow heavy and weigh down the plant, decreasing ventilation around the leaves. If you’ve waited too long, and the suckers are now large and established offshoots, it’s best to only prune the sucker partially to avoid shocking the plant. Missouri pruning requires cutting the suckers down to just above the second set of leaves.