Garden Tips, Gardening, Gardening 101

How to Prune Tomatoes

To prune or not to prune, that is the question.

And on this topic, there are almost as many strong opinions as there are religion and politics at a family reunion.

So I am here to tell you that really, depending on what you are doing, there are a variety of choices for you, and there really isn’t a right or a wrong way. How’s that for stirring the pot?!

The first thing to sort out is the type of tomato plants you have. Do you have determinates or indeterminates?

Determinate Tomatoes

Determinates are your bush tomatoes. They grow to a certain height, flower and set fruit, and produce a crop in a determined period of time. Once they are finished, they are done for the season. The advantages to having a timed crop for preserving, or growing in short seasons, are many.

These, you don’t want to prune, or very little, maybe a few leaves that are getting too bushy, but that’s it. If you prune extra suckers or try to pinch the top off, you will stunt their growth, and reduce their vigor when it comes to producing flowers and fruit.

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminates are your vine tomatoes, and they like to climb and ramble. Once they get going, producing flowers and fruit, they can keep on indefinitely, provided the conditions are right. The world records on vine tomatoes in greenhouses that have become, essentially, trees is stunning. You can check it out here to add a little wow to your day!

Indeterminate vine tomatoes will start slowing down with a lack of daylight and colder weather. Until then, they are just one ongoing harvest. They will jungle all over themselves, and take over entire spaces in your garden or greenhouse if you let them. Because I grow mine in the greenhouse, keeping them from taking over the entire space, and providing circulation to prevent diseases is important.

Depending on your climate and growing season, you may want to just let your tomatoes roam free in a corner somewhere. I know people who do this in dry climates and it works very well.

However, in a wet, or cooler climate, my experience is that tomatoes allowed to fall about on the ground will quickly rot or develop diseases from too much moisture. The natural solution for many is staking, or better yet, growing in a greenhouse, where the moisture in the soil and the heat that tomatoes love can be better controlled.

The result of course is that growing upright, rather than having them ramble all over, becomes a tidier and more efficient way to grow. Getting the most out of that upright growth is key to a good crop and a healthy plant. Because greenhouses have higher temperatures with humidity, it is essential to have good circulation and airflow through the greenhouse and around the plants themselves. This requires some extra attention to snapping off the side shoots, and even topping them at a certain height if you don’t want them getting too tall.

I have a video for you here showing you what to look for on one of my tomato plants.

YouTube player

Let me know in the comments below what you are going to try with your tomatoes, and if this helped you at all!


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