A Classic Approach to Pruning Tomatoes
Learn how to trim your plants for better health and better fruit
The rapid growth of a healthy tomato plant can sometimes lead to problems. Often you’ll end up with a plant full of leaves but no fruit. Or your plant will become riddled with disease before summer even starts. Pruning can ensure these problems don’t occur.
A properly pruned and supported single-stem tomato plant presents all of its leaves to the sun. Most of the sugar produced is directed to the developing fruit since the only competition is a single growing tip. The result is large fruits that are steadily produced until frost. If more stems are allowed to develop, some of the precious sugar production is diverted from fruit to multiple growing tips. Fruit production, although slowed, never stops. The result is a nearly continuous supply of fruits throughout the season. In general, more stems means more but smaller fruits, which are produced increasingly later in the season. (This is much less applicable to determinate plants, due to their shortened growing season and better-defined fruiting period. Therefore, determinate plants require little pruning.
Pruning can be as simple or as hard as you make it. The first step is pruning out all of the suckers that appear on the plant. Next is making sure enough light is reaching the interior of the plant for proper ripening of the fruit. And finally, you’ll want to be sure that no foliage is touching the ground since this can be a catalyst for disease. Cut those long stems off.
About 30 days before the first frost, there is one last pruning chore: The plants must be topped. The fruit that has set must be given every opportunity to mature. Removing all the growing tips directs all sugar produced by the plant to the fruit.
To learn how to prune your tomatoes for better health and better fruit, check out this video with Lee Reich, author of The Pruning Book.