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how to properly prune tomatoes

Discussion in 'Fruits & Vegetables' started by Dirttiller25, May 12, 2015.

  1. May 12, 2015
    Dirttiller25

    Dirttiller25 Chillin' In The Garden

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    I've been doing a lot of reading about pruning tomatoes and still have an unanswered question. Everything I've read said to prune up to the first flower cluster. Am I supposed to keep pruning the suckers after that through the season or do you stop pruning completely after that.
     
  2. May 13, 2015
    Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Garden Master

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    A lot of people don’t prune at all and the ones that do prune different ways for their own reasons. If anybody tells you that you have to do something a certain way or civilization as we know it will cease to exist, especially if they don’t tell you why or give enough information so you can determine if that even applies to you, it’s often a good idea to get a second opinion.

    So why do you want to prune your tomatoes? What kind of tomatoes are you growing, determinate or indeterminate? What system are you using to support them? Are you letting them sprawl, staking them, trellis them, or cage them? What is your climate like and how do you water them?

    Most people recommend that you not prune determinates. They feel it cuts back on their production. But you supposedly can prone indeterminates all you want, they’ll just keep growing. I’m not sure I totally agree with that. Some of my indeterminates grow a lot more than others. Some of my indeterminates seem to put out more side shoots (suckers) than others and some of those are more vigorous.

    Depending on how you support them, you may not have enough room on your stake, trellis, or cage for all the suckers to fit. You may have to prune just so all the suckers will fit.

    If the tomato plants stay wet either from your climate or how you water them, they are susceptible to mold, mildew, or diseases. You may prune them to open them up so air can get in there and dry them out. If you have certain diseases in your soil, like blight, it can infect them if they are touching the ground or splash up when water hits bare ground. You may prune them pretty heavily to keep the plants form touching the ground, though mulching is a real good help in this too. Mulching helps keep the dirt from splashing up.

    I grow indeterminates in cages and mulch heavily, not just in the row but a few feet to the sides. I prune back to two or three shoots the first couple of feet off the ground, not worrying about whether it is to the first flower cluster but just to get some shoots growing up inside my cage. Otherwise it gets real crowded in there. I try to keep the bottom fairly open so they will dry out when they get wet but don’t worry about that after they get off the ground and form a jungle inside my cage a couple of feet off the ground. If some branches grow in a way that I cannot tie them up into the cage or weave them through my cow panels I whack them off, even if they have flower clusters or small tomatoes forming. Well, sometimes I do that. Sometimes I just let them go and deal with the mess.

    I generally water with a soaker hose, burying it under my mulch and leaving it there all season so it doesn’t spray up on my plants. Once the plants get going good, my climate cannot be described as wet so drying them off up inside a cage is not a high priority for me. My system works for me but others in different conditions or using different methods may have may have problems with it. Hopefully they will tell you what they do and why.
     
  3. May 13, 2015
    so lucky

    so lucky Garden Master

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    @Ridgerunner gives a comprehensive, knowledgeable answer, as he usually does. :thumbsup
     
  4. May 13, 2015
    Kassaundra

    Kassaundra Garden Addicted

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    Everything ridgerunner said, plus you need to consider how hot your summers are. If you have hot long summers your tomato plants will not set fruit, the ones already on will continue to grow and ripen, but no new fruit until the heat breaks in late summer / early fall. If you are pruning all your early setting fruit, you may not get much fruit to set before the heat kicks in.
     
  5. May 14, 2015
    Dirttiller25

    Dirttiller25 Chillin' In The Garden

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    Thanks everyone!

    My climate is hot and humid during summer. I have indeterminate plants and im using the Florida weave method. Ive only pruned the first 3 or 4 suckers off each plant just to open up the bottom for air flow and to be sure I can trellis them all. I water in the morning every 2 or 3 days with the hose so the plants them selves can dry during the day. I also have a small can with holes in it beside each one with a little organic fertilizer in it that I fill with water about once a week to slowly seep in. They are all in borderless raised beds.
     
    so lucky and ducks4you like this.
  6. May 15, 2015
    ducks4you

    ducks4you Garden Master

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    This is why I LOVE gardening. I really think that you can come up with your own theories about what works. This year, I intend to prune the bottom leaves of my tomato plants after I harvest fruit close to it, and see how I like THAT. It doesn't matter what your hobby, there will always be bullies trying to tell you what to do. You lose when the plant dies, NOT THEM, but it's just a plant, and you can buy another one, not like a neglected puppy or kitten. Don't worry. Everybody HERE is very supportive and will only suggest ideas, not demand that you follow them. :D
     
    Beekissed likes this.
  7. May 15, 2015
    Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Garden Master

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    @Kassaundra I thought of another one. If you prune the tops too much you can let in too much sunlight which can scald your tomatoes. You need sunlight but some shade doesn't hurt. I've had more problems with sunscald on peppers than tomatoes but have seen it some.

    I had not thought of your comment on pruning off developing tomatoes in our climate. Some of mine will produce during the heat of summer, Burpee's 4th of July hybrid for example, but I get a whole lot of production from others either early or late when it is cooler.

    Dirttiller, some varieties of tomatoes stop setting fruit if the nights don't cool off to a certain point, often in the 70's. Really hot days can affect that too even if the nights get fairly cool. It varies by variety but many of my heritage type indeterminate tomatoes pretty much shut down in the heat of summer but if I can keep them alive they produce a whole lot in the fall.
     
  8. May 15, 2015
    TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Chillin' In The Garden

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    You have been given some great advice! I don't prune tomatoes either. They grow as they grow. And usually they over grow and become monsters! A few plants can fruit out enough to feed the entire neighborhood!

    Definitely get plants suited for your climate. It makes all the world of difference in production.
     
  9. May 16, 2015
    centex101

    centex101 Chillin' In The Garden

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    Again a lot of great advice on here. I don't prune mine back until the spring fruit are gone. Then I'll prune back 1/3 or more, keep them some what watered and hopefully I'll get some fall tomatoes before the frost gets them.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  10. May 17, 2015
    AMKuska

    AMKuska Garden Addicted

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    Sitting here with a notepad and pen. :) What is the difference between determinate and indeterminate?
     

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