PRUNING A TOMATO PLANT

Pruning suckers that grow in the axils where side branches meet the stem was the only form of tomato pruning I knew about. I doubt my brother, Bubba, or his wife, Flip Flops, have ever heard of tomato suckers. The two of them don’t know the difference between a plant and a weed. As a result, they didn’t prune anything on their patio tomato. Not even yellowed leaves. Amazingly, it was still blooming despite temperatures in the mid-90’s.

By July, the plant was full of brown leaves and ugly, sick-looking stems. It was hideous looking. Despite my own lack of knowledge, I told Bubba we should attempt to preserve the bush for cooler weather and a second crop. With him watching, I proceeded to remove all the ugliness. I hope he learned something. I sure did. Within weeks, the plant had put on all new growth that became so heavy, the center limbs toppled over.

Patio tomato after pruning. New growth that toppled over.
Patio tomato after pruning. New growth that toppled over.

 

Patio tomato with another branch of new growth.
Patio tomato with another branch of new growth.

 

Patio tomato seedlings coming up in pot
Patio tomato volunteers coming up in the pot

Bonnie Plants and Wikipedia both have good tips for pruning tomatoes including the warning not to prune determinate varieties. I don’t know whether or not the patio tomato was determinate but it survived the pruning I gave it.

16 thoughts on “PRUNING A TOMATO PLANT”

  1. I always heavily prune my tomatoes, too, as I don’t have room for them to go sideways. I figure, too, that more circulation will keep the diseases away. Of course, then I have to really stake them high before they fall over. Hope your brother gets lots of tomatoes!

    1. Indie – That’s true about the circulation. Makes it easier to spot when you’ve got critters invading, too. They did get a fair number of tomatoes but not for the $14.98 they paid for the bush. Not in a million years would I pay that much for a single tomato plant. They might break even if they get another crop out of the bush this fall.

  2. I never prune my tomato plants anymore – unless they’re attacking my peppers nearby in which case I just cut off anything in the way. Typically my plants will reach at least 6ft before the end of the season, but 7ft or more isn’t uncommon. I do believe very strongly in growing tomato plants vertically so they get more light exposure and the tomatoes are easier to find and reach. I don’t see any harm in removing dead branches, and it probably does improve circulation which is a much more important factor in wet climates vs the dry one I currently farm in. Typically, I only start getting yellowing leaves and whatnot if that portion of the plant isn’t getting enough light – this is common down on the bottom, whereas if I see it up top, I’m probably about to lose the plant to disease or something. Some are of the opinion that pruning suckers will improve the yield of the plant. I’ve not found this to be the case, and such thinking doesn’t seem to be logical to me as more green leaves mean more photosynthesis which means more sugar production which you need for good tomato production.

    1. Wow, a voice from the past! Good to hear from you. With everything I need to do on these two acres and my brother and sister-in-law being almost useless in the yard, I don’t have time to prune the suckers off my tomato plants either. I let them go wild (like you, it seems like I get more production) but that patio tomato looks SO much better after pruning. It kinda mattered because it was on their outside deck, not in a veggie garden. In good years, mine has also reached 7-8 feet but we have been in the monsoon years for more than 5 and I haven’t done much tomato gardening. Thinking back to the non-monsoon years, I had outstanding production with a hybrid called Juliet that I allowed to go wild. Don’t be a stranger.

      1. I’m around, I just don’t post often. I’ve got about 90 tomato plants set this year. Just too many different varieties to grow. I found a blue one I really like, Blue Beauty, a while back. Not too many are ripe just yet this year, but a new addition already has my wife’s approval – Sweet Apéritif (half way between a cherry and currant tomato, and it’s red).

          1. Some get preserved in some fashion, many go to neighbors, many go to the chickens because no one else claimed them. I end up with 90 not because I need the tomatoes but because I want to grow so many different varieties.

  3. Every summer I have had problems with tomato. Because of disease (phitophtora), I could lose an entire tomato crop. Now I don’t grow them at all. I’m glad you pruned your tomato plants and they grow further.
    Happy August!

    1. Nadezda – Happy August to you. We are getting so much rain here that I have begun to pray for it to go to California where they need it so bad. I’m sorry you are unable to grow tomatoes. It’s kind of an iffy thing here, too, because of heat, humidity and bugs.

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