Part of the fun of gardening is trying new things and adding skills to your repertoire. I have pruned tomatoes as long as I can remember. Suckers under two inches long can simply be pinched off with your fingers, but with larger suckers, use a pair of clean pruners, disinfecting them as you move from plant to plant to protect against spreading diseases. 7 Steps to Growing Bigger, Healthier Tomatoes. I deliver down-to-earth, actionable advice that helps you get the most out of your garden. Jump on my list to get down-to-earth and actionable advice delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday. I fit a lot of plants in one garden bed, which saves me space for planting vegetables I love even more than tomatoes (hard to believe, I know!). Tomato 'suckers' will actually turn into stems that produce tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes need to be staked to stay upright or they will fall over and crawl along the ground. I’ve done both methods – letting them grow big and bushy, and pruning them way back. He pruned some suckers last year and still had so much foliage he had trouble finding the fruit. NO CAGES! This model is 6′ tall. On the plus side we made the cages that are shown and put them up. Most of us understand that if suckers are pruned too much, plants may have reduced yield. If left alone, a sucker forms a large stem that flowers and bears tomatoes. Between the main stem and the leaf is another part that usually shoots fairly straight up if it’s larger, or looks like a little leaf if it’s small. Dealing with Tomato Plant Diseases & Pests. I have not seen any positive effect on blight from pruning back, nor from any ground cover; that seems to be a function of less humid air in summer.But again, easier to manage any plants that might be suffering if there is less foliage. When you buy seed or plants, check on the label to see what growth habit the plant … See diagram 2. I’ll try this today. Thank you, I’ve read this elsewhere but you explained this the best, I will read again and check out my healthy looking plants, don’t think I have any fruit yet but lots of green. Pruning and training. There is some thought that pruning your tomato plants will encourage them to produce more tomatoes overall by redirecting that energy into fruit production. Damaged areas provide an entry point for disease, and diseases spread rapidly when infected tissue remains on the plant. ‘I’ve learned some things the hard way but this sounds so practical. The number one reason I prune my tomato plants is that it keeps the plants more compact, which allows me to plant them 18 inches apart (in double rows). Now look for the sucker immediately under that cluster. Your first step is to understand and identify the different parts of the tomato plant so you don’t inadvertently cut the wrong thing off. Just post them here. How do you know which tomato plants are determinate or indeterminate? With the wide variety of tomatoes varieties, gardeners often focus on whether to grow standard, beefsteak, oxheart, cherry, Roma, grape, plum or one of the many types of heirloom species.But before getting to this point, there is a more basic decision to make: whether to grow determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. Hope the pruning helps this year! This top end is the main growing point of the plant where it continually gets taller. My plants are not very tall but are getting a lot of small tomatoes on them! To help improve airflow and cut down on the chance of disease, remove the leaves along the bottom 12 inches of the stems of indeterminate tomato plants. Let me know how it goes for you. This was very helpful and informative! have to wrap your purchases on your trailer etc. You can use hay, grass clippings, straw or leaves. I think the volume of fruit is slightly greater when I let them grow big and bushy, but it’s certainly easier to manage working with a lot of plants when they are pruned back quite a bit. Top Ten Secrets – #2 Tomatoes, Everything You Need to Know. We’re going to be pruning most of them off, suckers! As the season progresses, tomato plants often turn into an impenetrable jungle which can swallow up small children, family pets, and trusty garden tools. Keep one hand on that cluster. They also cause itchy irritations when they come in contact with bare skin. Insert expletive here. Extremely informative. Let's starting with talking about the top 5 mistakes most gardeners are making. Plants with less disease, more fruit, and less chance of swallowing up my sister. You’re not hurting the plant. Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow, producing new stems and fruit through the end of the season. You need to know the variety of the tomato. Optional. To prune, you simply remove these suckers. Follow the same instructions as for determinate tomatoes. unlocking this expert answer. Works great for pole beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. These types grow smaller and remain rather compact. Let me know how it goes. Yes, you live in a different world than WI! Cutting away too much of the plant can cause shock. You should do this right after planting. Thanks. I typically work with anywhere from 30-45 plants a season, so I have a good sample set. Potting Tips and Container Tomatoes. I like to make sure no leaves are touching the ground in an attempt to slow down the progress of the diseases. Prune (Top) Your Indeterminate Tomato Plants. And let’s be honest, it’s much more pleasant to harvest tomatoes from a plant that’s neat and tidy, not one that’s sprawling and climbing all over the garden. Take off every single one above it and below it. After the plant reaches this height, allow the next cluster of blossoms to develop. Prune Lower Growth From Tomatoes For Health Tomato plants growing on the ground are prone to disease and pests so all tomatoes need to be pruned and staked. Why do you keep the lowest sucker? Bush tomatoes - Those grown as bush or hanging basket types do not need support. These are the ones that keep growing taller and taller and putting on more fruit until your first frost. Let me know what you think, Carolyn! If you haven’t installed cages or set up your trellis yet, now is the time to do so. The fruit clusters are immature tomatoes that are still forming. Each sucker has the potential to grow into another main stem that produces leaves and fruit. Thank you! | Design by, Identifying the Parts of the Tomato Plant, 5 Reasons Why It’s Important to Prune Your Tomatoes, 5 Ways to Prevent Tomato Disease in Your Garden. Good luck! Christine – I think you misunderstood. Indeterminate tomatoes usually grow on trellises and need to be spaced only a foot apart. Tomato Cage: Make your own or these are a good substitute, I just wish they were taller. Prune the cherry tomato plant to one or at most two main stems, and remove lower branches to deter splashback reinfection of pathogens left in the dirt from previous years. Sharp, scissor-type hand clippers are the best tool for tomato pruning. Snip off all of the clusters of blossoms that appear before the plant is 12 to 18 inches tall with pruning shears. It’s okay to leave some greenery to shade the fruit. If you’ve had trouble with tomatoes that take forever to ripen to a juicy red, they might not be getting enough sunlight. Step 1: Identify the lowest flower or fruit cluster on the plant. Select suckers that are low on the plant to form new main stems. Left alone to grow as they please, tomato plants grow into a tangled mess of stems, shoots, roots and leaves. I have a hoop house full of tomatoes. After one or two prunings you may decide to leave some of the top suckers to create some shade for the fruit. When eventually plants reach the top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses indoors or four trusses outdoors, remove the growing point of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss. It’s so fun to experiment with gardening! My question is how do we know if the tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate? This is one technique I use every year and find invaluable in growing healthy and productive tomato plants. Just make sure you’re only cutting suckers. Remove all of the growing tips to redirect the sugar that the plant produces to the fruit and encourage ripening. As a safeguard, my tip is to keep one of your hands holding that sucker to remind yourself not to cut it off until you get more comfortable with the process. It also allows for adequate light penetration and air flow around plants. The sucker you’re keeping is the one under the lowest fruit or flower cluster. Stand in front of your plant and identify the main stem coming out of the ground and follow it all the way up to the top of the plant. When you think about the incredible amount of growth indeterminate tomatoes put on in just one season it’s easy to see that they’re putting a lot of energy into growing more and more leaves and suckers. Your plants should be trellised at all times to prevent them from lying on the ground. Let all the suckers grow, and your tomato will form a large bushy plant with many small tomatoes. Pruning and training depends on how your tomato cultivar naturally grows. Glad you found it helpful, Margaret! This jungle can contain lots of tomatoes hidden within its tangle, many of which never see the sunlight and therefore won’t ripen in a timely manner. However, tomato plants are not true climbers like cucumber. The sucker is found between the stem and the leaf. Hi Wayne- Great to hear from you! A thick layer of mulch will also keep down most of the weeds, retain moisture for the plants, and break down into organic matter. One of my favorite tomato trellising methods – concrete reinforcing wire cages. Once the plant has its first flower cluster, prune off any side branches below that cluster. You’re welcome, Renee! How do you differentiate between determinate and indeterminate plant. Feed the plants tomato fertilizer once tomatoes start growing. Pruning Tomato Plants. Wear long sleeves and gloves when pruning tomato plants. Lower stems produce sweeter and more flavorful fruit. However, this is the first time I have heard of not pruning the first one. Pruning tomato plants and pinching off sucker stems are two of the best ways to improve a tomato plant’s health, vitality, and production. Her home-and-garden and nature articles have appeared in "Birds & Blooms" and "Alamance Today." How to Grow Large Tomatoes in Containers: The Rusted Garden 2011. Keeps everything off the ground. I just throw them in my compost. Identify the leaves – they’re connected to the main stem throughout the plant. Will these tomatoes be any good? My mom always prunes her tomatoes and sticks the sucker in the ground and it turns into a new tomato plant She had one plant and now has 25 just from the suckers!!!! Megan, since we are keeping the lowest sucker (and it acts like its own separate plant); should we prune the suckers it may create? He made a round cage to set about 3′ above the top of the box. Leaving them on will take the energy away … Depending on the size of your plant some of them will be big, and some of them will be tiny leaves. If you answered yes to any of these questions then “pruning indeterminate tomatoes” should be on your garden task list this year. Easily grow great basil this year with these simple tips, 5 unique ideas to make your garden more beautiful, 5 No-Fail Fermented Food Recipes for Beginners. The two main growth habits are: indeterminate (also called vine or cordon) or determinate (bush) tomatoes. If you need more convincing, let me give it another try with this post – 5 Reasons Why It’s Important to Prune Your Tomatoes. Identify the lowest flower or fruit cluster on the plant. Determinate plants don’t need pruning. This is probably the best how-to on this I’ve seen – uncomplicated with great pictures. Keep me posted on how you like them! We’d rather them turn their attention to actual tomato production instead of showing off how big and bushy they can get. Determinate tomato plants are those that grow to a predetermined size, produce a crop of fruit and then die. You do not want to cut this off during this pruning process. If you have tomato disease you should put them in the garbage instead. When it rains the bare soil splashes up onto the leaves and transmits the disease. Plants that grow upwards with a central stem, called indeterminate tomatoes, do need pruning, whilst bush or tumbling varieties do not need pruning. Use the tallest trellis or cage you can possibly find and use clips or twine to secure the plant to the trellis. They’re way, way too short. I’m 65 years old now and will try not pruning the first one this year. Sprinkle the mixture around the base of the tomato plant to add extra nutrients to the soil. I’m usually out of room by that time. cut the sucker they were meant to keep. Pick up a package of tomato fertilizer and mix in a handful with some plain dirt. Throughout the next few weeks you can return to your plants when you think of it and prune off the new suckers. If you’re not sure which kind you’re growing you need to look the variety up on the internet to figure out if it’s determinate or indeterminate. Jackie Carroll has been a freelance writer since 1995. I accidentally broke the main stem partially through The growth, flowering, and ripening of the tomato will happen at the same time. Hi and thanks for the great tips. I’m thinking I will prune as you suggest but will cut the stem at a certain height (3 feet) and let the suckers grow at that stage. If you’re not sure pruning is for you or you like the idea of garden experiments, prune just a few of your tomato plants and compare them to the rest throughout the season. You can pinch it off with your fingers, or cut it back with clean pruning shears leaving a little stem. That little shoot is known as a sucker (above). It usually let those suckers go, but sometimes if the plant starts getting out of control near the end of the season I’ll cut them off again. Many tomato diseases live in the garden soil and spread up the plant from those bottom leaves. 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