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Troubleshooting Tomatoes

Learn how to manage common problems in a tomato patch

Gary Junken, edited by Cari Delahanty

Learn how to troubleshoot and prune tomatoes with this step-by-step guide.

Materials Needed and Process

1. If you have a double-leader (where a stem splits off into two), this can make the plant less healthy and it may produce less tomatoes. To combat this, you should cut off the smaller branch at the junction where the two meet. This will ensure that the fruit you harvest will be bigger and meatier.

2. Cut off any low-lying branches that touch the ground. These branches are easily susceptible to disease.

3. Once you’ve pruned branches off of the main stem, you can begin to get rid of the suckers. You can easily identify suckers, because they come out right in the center of a branch union. To remove suckers, simply pinch them out. Taking out suckers, even large ones, helps the tomato plant have less leaf density, ensuring you get a better harvest when that time comes!

4. When pruning large suckers, use the Missouri pruning method. Simply snip off the top of each sucker, leaving a few sets of leaves behind. This method of pruning is less shocking to the plant. It also ensures that you do not leave behind a large, open wound on the main stem, which is how disease can creep its way into the plant.

5. Don’t worry if one of your tomato plants is much smaller than the others. Tomato plants naturally grow at different rates depending on the variety. Some grow tall and fast, while others grow at slower speeds. Another reason one plant might be smaller than the rest is from a lack of water or fertilizer. You should fertilize your tomato plants about once every other week. Additionally, make sure your tomato plants are getting at least an inch of water every week.

6. Understand why your tomato plant leaves are turning yellow. This could be from a lack of water or fertilizer. It could also be because the taller leaves are shading out the leaves toward the bottom of the plant. Tomato plant leaves also naturally start to turn yellow once the plant starts to produce fruit. This is good; it means that your tomato plant is focusing its energy on ripening your delicious tomatoes!

7. Deal with tomato plants that are growing uncontrollably all over the place. Build a trellis to help hold the tomato plant and train it upward. Weave the plant in and out of the different sections of your trellis. Eventually, the tomato plant will begin to grow upward on its own. You can tie some of the most stubborn parts of the tomato plant to the trellis so the plant really gets the right idea.

8. Enjoy your tomato harvest!

Read this article by Fine Gardening editor Steve Aitken to learn more about how to tame your tomatoes.


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