How To Prune Tomato Plants

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A tomato plant is a warm-season annual plant that typically grows up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in height. It bears yellow or red fruit that is eaten raw, cooked, or preserved in various ways.

In this article, you'll learn how to prune tomato plants so that they'll yield more tomatoes for you. 

The basics to know about tomato plants

Tomato plants are a type of perennial plant that is grown as an annual. This means that the plants die at the end of every growing season and must be replanted in a new location for each year's growing season. Pruning your tomato plants will give you bigger, healthier tomatoes.

How to prune tomato plants

1. Prune tomato plants in the late winter to early spring

You'll want to prune your tomato plants as soon as they begin sprouting new shoots, which typically happens in the late winter or very early spring. This means that you'll prune them in January/February or February/March.

2. Cut out all of the suckers that emerge from below each stem,

These are stems that grow from a leaf node. Tomato plants will set out new shoots and grow flowers and fruit on every part of their central stem and branches.

These can be left alone to become support for the plant's structure, but if they're young and soft, it's best to remove them so you don't accidentally break them when you're working with your plants later on.

When pruning tomato plants, cut off any leaves touching the ground because pests like to hide beneath them. Pruning your tomatoes this way will also help keep fruit off the ground where it can get dirty and rot.

3. Remove any dead or diseased branches

You'll want to remove any dead, dying, or diseased branches since this will keep the disease from spreading to other parts of the plant. It's best to cut these off close to the main stem to make sure you get rid of them.

Information About Pruning Tomato Plants
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4. Thin out crowded branches by cutting back some of them and leaving only 3-5 per plant

The more fruits a tomato plant sets, the less energy it has for producing new flowers and fruit on each branch. You'll want to thin out your plants every few weeks if they produce many fruits at once to give them time to recover between harvests while still allowing enough space to grow.

Remember, do thin out crowded branches by cutting back some of them and leaving only 3-5 per plant.

5. Trim off any leaves touching the ground because pests like to hide beneath them

When pruning tomato plants, prune off any leaves that are touching the ground since this is where pests like to hide. Pruning your tomatoes this way will also help keep fruit off the ground where it can get dirty and rot so you'll want to cut these leaves close to the main stem when thinning out your plants.

What are suckers?

Suckers are stems or branches growing from a leaf node. They're sometimes called water sprouts because they appear at leaf nodes along the vine's length which usually emerge near the end of winter after dormancy.

They're generally removed entirely since removing them close to their source can damage the plant's root system, especially if the plant is young. Stem suckers often appear in clusters around the plant's base, at leaf axils. Stem suckers often appear in clusters around the plant's base, at leaf axils.

If you want to harvest your tomatoes earlier than normal, you can pull out any suckers before they develop tomato fruits and this will allow more energy for ripening existing fruit instead of producing new ones. Pruning tomato plants by removing stem suckers early on will also give you a bigger harvest with no green tomatoes left behind. You should remove all sucker growth because it diverts the plant's energy from producing fruit onto producing leaves and suckers.

Designing a backyard with tomato plants in mind

If you are thinking about designing a backyard with tomato plants in mind, you need to know which varieties are best suited for container growing.

If you want to grow tomatoes in containers, look for cherry or grape tomatoes that have been bred for this purpose. Cherry-type tomatoes are especially popular choices but any heirloom variety can work well if they're naturally smaller than the standard large slicing/grocery store type of beefsteak tomato since these don't do well in small pots.

Since container gardening is best suited to small patio planters or window boxes, instead of larger tubs or half whiskey barrels, try growing indeterminate (vining) types on lattice arbors so you can save some space while still benefiting from their unique beauty and incredible fragrance.

Unwanted suckers should be pruned off in the spring before they harden

If you want to harvest tomatoes early, simply pull out any sucker growth when it first emerges. This will allow more energy for ripening existing fruit instead of producing new ones so you'll have a bigger harvest with no green tomatoes left behind if you remove all these unwanted suckers in the spring before they harden. 

You can remove suckers that grow near or directly at each leaf axil along the main stem by pulling them off with your fingers or pruning them off with a sharp knife.

Simply remove any suckers where they join the main stem to help promote fruit production on each branch.

Can I prune my tomato plants?

Of course. Pruning will allow you to get more production from your plant.

By pruning lower branches, it allows light and airflow into the foliage near the bottom of the plant which can promote ripening. Removing some of these lower branches may also encourage a second set of tomatoes later in the growing season.

For this job, these are the tools required: Hand shears, garden shears, or a sharp knife for the best results. Topping with a machete is popular but makes a huge mess and leaves jagged edges on the remaining fruit… if any fruit remains at all.

When, Why How To Prune Tomato Plants
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How can I make my compost for my garden?

Easily making your own compost is a great way to recycle kitchen scraps and yard waste. Here's what you'll need:

A compost bin, a pitchfork as well as a shovel or digging bar For best results, pick a location with good drainage and cross-exposure (N, S, E, W). Add your ingredients: 

  • Green materials like grass clippings, manure, and coffee grounds 
  • Brown materials like sawdust and fall leaves 
  • Wood ash from your fireplace or wood-burning stove 
  • Lime 
  • Water 

Mix thoroughly with a pitchfork to aerate the mixture. Allow it to sit for at least 3 months before using it as fertilizer for your plants.

What type of soil should I use in my garden?

Your local nursery will have recommendations on soil based on specific climate and site conditions. If you're in doubt, a well-amended soil with plenty of organic matter will do just fine.

When is my garden ready for planting?

You can plant when the average daytime temperatures are between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant your seeds 1/4″ -1/2″ deep depending on the type. Cover with clean mulch to retain moisture until germination occurs.

How do I prevent tomato disease?

Certain diseases like early blight can be prevented by purchasing resistant varieties of tomatoes at your local nursery. Some people recommend spraying it with milk diluted in water every 2 weeks or so, others swear by baking soda in the soil. Do some research and experiment to see what works best for your area.

Final thoughts on How to prune tomato plants

In conclusion, the tomato plant is highly versatile. You can use it in so many ways, and this means there are also many different ways you can prune the plant.

By pruning correctly, you will also make sure that pests and diseases will have less opportunity to attack your plants, resulting in a higher yield of healthy and delicious tomatoes.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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