Whatever the shape, size, or color....they're all chock full of nutrition!

The Importance and How-to of Pruning Tomato Plants

According to Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, LSU Ag Center, many people often overlook this simple but important part of the tomato growing process.

It’s essential to the health of the plant to keep the tomato plants from getting too full of themselves. ?

With the plants too bushy and full, not only is the plant working hard sending nutrients into the leaves that could be going into tomatoes, but the full foliage provides ample hiding places for garden pests that prey on your tomato plants and fruit. Reduced airflow from dense foliage is also a ready environment for disease to incubate and grow, which is also a good reason to remove the bottom suckers that can grow heavy and close to–or on—the ground.

Before pruning, you must determine which kind of tomatoes you’re growing. Determinant – bushier variety or the indeterminate vine type? Some people have both types. We’re just growing indeterminate this year.

If you’re a beginning gardener new to growing tomatoes and not familiar with these terms, there’s a helpful video by Burpee here that walks you through the characteristics of each and helps you determine whether you want to grow one or both types.

For a quick rundown on the pruning of these kinds of tomato plants, here’s a snapshot.

shutterstock_357914540

Pruning Tomato Plants

Excerpted from the LSU Ag Center

One of the most often overlooked growing practices is pruning tomatoes.

Tomato Pruning by Type

Determinate Type

To properly prune a determinate tomato, pinch all suckers from the ground level to the first flower cluster (see diagram 1). A sucker is a small stem that is growing between the main trunk and stem of a tomato. It is usually growing at a 45 degree angle. Pinch the areas shown with red circles around them. You will want to pinch the sucker at the base. Remove the sucker while it is small. If you wait until the suckers are the diameter of a pencil or larger, you run the risk of stripping the outer layer of tissue (the cambium layer) from the main stem. Leaving a large open wound may enable fungus and other unwanted pests to attack your tomato shrub.

Pruning tomato plants
Pruning Tomato Plants – Determinate Type

Indeterminate Type

To properly prune an indeterminate tomato, prune all suckers from the ground level up to the second flower cluster. See diagram 2. Follow the same instructions as for determinate tomatoes.

Pruning tomato plants, indeterminate tomato plants, pruning indeterminate tomato plants
Pruning Tomato Plants – Indeterminate Type

1)http://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/lawn_garden/home_gardening/vegetables/home_garden_crops/pruningtomatoes

Grounded or Airborne?

Now that we have the pruning of tomato plant types sorted, let’s move on to how you plan to handle them. If you are letting the plants remain on the ground, then it’s best not to prune so as to leave most of the leaves alone to protect the fruits from the sun scalding. We know gardeners who get great results letting the plants grow naturally along the ground. However. many growers advocate staking, trellising, and/or caging their tomatoes. Each approach will require a certain amount of pruning.

Tomato clips that are quick and easy but still provide a loose enough fit to not strangle plant growth.

Our nearby Virginia Cooperative Extension Service advises the following (we note their preference for keeping the ‘maters off the ground):

Plants should be staked or caged. There’s also an intermediate method referred to as trellising. Though growing upward requires more initial work, this makes caring for tomatoes easier than letting them sprawl. Since they are off the ground, fruit rots are reduced, spraying is easier and may be required less, and harvesting is much less work. 2)https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-418/426-418_pdf.pdf We can also add that going vertical saves a lot of space. For more on how to construct you own tomato “containers” see Tomato Cages You Can Build 3)https://gardensall.com/tomato-cages-you-can-build/.

Velcro plant ties to cut to size.
Velcro plant ties to cut to size; comes in different colors which can be helpful for plant identification.
Soft and stretchy plant tape. Takes a little more time but tends to be best for plants.
Soft and stretchy plant tape. Takes a little more time but tends to be best for plants.

Staking

As the plants grow, pull the stems toward the stakes and tie loosely. Prune staked tomatoes to either one or two main stems. At the junction of each leaf and the first main stem a new shoot will develop. If plants are trained to two stems, choose one of these shoots, normally at the first or second leaf-stem junction, for the second main stem. Remove all other shoots, called suckers, weekly to keep the plant to these two main stems. Pinch or snap shoots off with your fingers. Thicker stems may be cut with a blade, scissors, or pruners to minimize damage and speed healing.

Check out this very informative video put out by the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension.

Trellising

Both the single stem and two stem pruning methods are quite similar to staking. It’s very important to leave enough leaf cover to prevent sun scald. The following video shows one way of trellising. Indeed, there are many other ways to trellis,  the basics of pruning tomato plants are the same. Once again here’s Mark Hutton with the University of Maine to explain how it’s done.

 

Caging

Caging requires only minimal pruning and many say the caging method is most productive. Because there is more leaf cover, the fruits are less exposed to the sun and creatures that might consume them.  Here’s a quick review of the strategies for corralling your growing crops. 4)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NfEf0jAaYo

Now that you’ve seen these ideas on how to grow, control, and optimize your tomatoes, get on out there and garden! And may this season bring you a cornucopia of tasty veggies!

For more articles on growing tomatoes, you may enjoy these.5)https://gardensall.com/how-to-grow-the-best-tomatoes/6)https://gardensall.com/grow-those-rotten-tomatoes/

So on we grow!


References   [ + ]