September 21, 2017

Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning tomato plants is often performed, but certainly not critical to growing tomatoes.  Having stated that there are many advantages to tomato pruning.  As a species, tomato plants are tenacious growers.  I’ve seen volunteer seedlings sprout in decomposed granite and produce edible fruit with little to no water.  Needless to say if you give your tomato plants a good soil, regular water and plenty of warm sunlight you might have a forest before you know it.  This is partly because tomato plants are prone to shooting out suckers all over the plants.  If left unpruned these will more than likely turn into large limbs themselves and start producing fruit.

Some of you might say, “the more tomatos, the better.” Which maybe be a good thing.  However, if space is an issue or you don’t like having to throw away or give away lots of tomatos, this overgrowth may be come a problem.  This excessive growth will often cause the plant to droop or sag, which may leave the fruit to rot quicker on the ground.  So, at some point pruning usually becomes the better alternative.

Getting Started with Pruning Tomato Plants

As the tomato plant starts to grow tall, you’ll notice right away that suckers are forming.  This is the extra growth between the main and branches.  To moderate the growth of the plant it is good to moderate the growth of the suckers.  Depending on the size of the sucker, you can remove these by pinching, or with scissors or shears.  All the while keep a good ideas of the direction you’d like the plant to grow and over shape of the plant.  If you decide to leave the suckers just note that each sucker will likely soon become a large limb with tomatoes.

Benefits of Pruning your Tomatoes

Correctly pruning your tomato plants can benefit you down the road.  For example, removing some the leaves will help make your tomatoes sweeter.  This is will direct more of the photosynthesized sugar to the fruit resulting in a better flavor.  Likewise, removing limbs that have already produced directs more energy to the areas that are still blooming and producing fruit.  This extra energy will cause the fruit to grow more quickly as well.

What to Watch out for When Pruning Tomato Plants

While pruning tomato plants there are many benefit to pruning, there are drawbacks in turn.  While pruning allows for better quality fruit it decrease the output or number of tomatoes a plant will produce.  As there will be less leave and limbs, that plant will have few areas to grow tomatoes.

Some tomato varieties should have limited pruning or not at all.  These are call determinate tomatoes. They will grow to form a bush shape on their own.  At the  end of the season pruning may give the plants one last push to produce a few extra tomatoes that might not otherwise produce.

It is the indeterminate varieties that will likely need pruning.  These are the vining tomato plants that may continue to grow until frost kills the plants.  In more mild areas these plants may grow and continue to produce throughout the winter and into next spring.  Because of this stakes or cages are commonly used to help prop the plants up.  As weather conditions vary from region to region plant will react different.  So, try different techniques and see witch works best for your area.

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