Gardening

Pruning tomato plants

It’s always best to keep tomato plants off of the ground rather than letting them sprawl all over the place. Leaves and fruit in contact with the soil are more prone to disease problems. Tomatoes laying on the ground are often damaged by insects and slugs.

I usually use tomato cages but, most of the time, the plants grow so much that they topple the cages and end up on the ground anyway.

This year I’m going retro with my tomatoes by using old-fashioned staking and pruning. Pruning was very popular before tomato cages became the most prominent way of growing tomatoes. There are many gardeners who still prefer this method.

The objective to pruning tomatoes is to train the plant to grow a single main stem.  You do that by pinching off any side shoots or “suckers” that develop in the joint of leaf stems. When left to grow, the suckers form side branches making a bushy tomato plant. Pruning eliminates all side branching.

 

Pinch off sucker shoots with your fingers. Shoots to big to pinch can be removed with a flower snip or small pruner.

Pinch off sucker shoots with your fingers. Shoots to big to pinch can be removed with a flower snip or small pruner.

You have to be diligent about your pruning or else the plant will tend revert back to it’s natural bushy growth habit. I think the main reason why pruning fell out of favor was the time involved.

Pruned tomatoes must be staked. Tie each tomato vine to a stake at least 4 or five 5 high since pruning stimulates so much upward growth. In late summer you can limit the height by pinching out the tops of the plants.

By staking, I’m saving a lot of space too. I’ve got my plants only 2 feet apart instead of my usual 3 or four 4 apart.

One other side benefit is staked and pruned plants produce tomatoes up to two weeks earlier than non-pruned plants.

 

 

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.