Why you should prune your tomato plants

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – Pruning your tomato plants can maximize the size and flavor of your tomatoes! Shari Petrucci from the Western Mass Master Gardeners Association shared more about pruning benefits.

6 Reasons Why You Should Prune Your Tomato Plants

1. To grow more flavorful tomatoes.
2. To grow larger tomatoes.
3. To grow more tomatoes over the length of a season.
4. To keep plant leaves and fruits off the ground and away from pests, insect damage, and fungal disease.
5. To keep plants smaller and more compact.
6. To allow tomatoes on the plant at the end of the season to ripen before the first frost.

When tomato plants grow wild and their branches grow into each other’s space, moisture from rain and dew don’t evaporate as easily promoting a perfect environment for pest and disease.

To encourage a strong stem, I trim all suckers and I don’t tie plants to their supports until the first flowers appear. Determinate tomatoes need no pruning other than removing all suckers below the first flower cluster, because pruning won’t affect their fruit size or plant vigor.

But…before you begin pruning a tomato plant, know if you have a determinate or indeterminate tomato plant!

Determinate and indeterminate tomatoes:
Tomatoes can be divided into two growth habit categories: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes usually require no pruning. Indeterminate tomatoes perform best if pruned.

A determinate tomato grows to a genetically pre-determined size and then stops. Beefsteak and sandwich tomatoes are mostly determinate tomatoes. These tomatoes are bushy and self-topping. All of the blossoms and fruit on a determinate tomato develop at the end of growing tips at about the same time.

Indeterminate tomatoes grow unchecked. They produce vine-like stems. These tomatoes continually produce new stems, leaves, and fruit until the plant dies. Cherry and salad tomatoes are mostly indeterminate tomatoes. The growth tips of indeterminate tomato plants do not set fruit; fruit is set on side shoots as the plant continues to grow. An indeterminate tomato will have blossoms and fruits at all stages of development throughout its life. Pruning is the best way to contain an indeterminate tomato.

When to prune a tomato plant. You can prune a tomato at any time, when it is small or when it has grown large. If you know you want to contain the size of a tomato plant prune early. A tomato plant can first be pruned when it is just 12 to 18 inches tall.

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