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Pruning Tomato Plants the Right Way - How, Why, and Where to Prune

By Edited Sep 23, 2016 3 3

Growing tomato plants is easy if you follow a few simple steps.  One of those steps is pruning.  If you plant an indeterminate tomato plant, you will need to prune a few times during the growing and ripening cycle.  The first pruning comes before you ever put the plant in the ground.

Why You Need to Prune Tomato Plants

The three reasons to prune your tomatoes are energy savings, encouraging additional roots, and preventing late tomatoes from forming.  You want to plant deep to encourage extra roots which will make a healthier and tougher plant.  You want to direct the energy of the plant to making to best tomatoes that you can grow.  Finally, you want to avoid having the tomato plant try to make tomatoes that will not have time to mature.

Pruning Tomato Seedlings

Whether you started your own seedlings or purchased them at a garden center, you need to do a little snipping on your baby plants before you plant them.  The thing about tomato plants is – they grow roots along their stalks.  Before you plant, you need to remove the lower leaves in order to plant deep and encourage roots along the stem.  You should remove all but the top few leaves and plant the seedling so that the leaves left are just above the ground.

Pruning Suckers from Tomato Plants

Wherever a leaf is on a tomato plants stalk, you have the potential for sucker growth.  Suckers are plant growth that is not part of the main stalk.  Every sucker that forms on the plant will leech energy from the parent plant.  You want to leave only two or three suckers in order to direct the plants energy where you want it.  You can actually root and plant tomato suckers if you have enough time and want some extra (and free) plants.

Rooting Tomato Suckers

I am going to go off on a little tangent here and give a quick review of rooting those suckers.  You can root tomato suckers in water or soil.  Rooting a plant directly in the soil is the preferred method.  I normally just stick the suckers into garden soil and let them go.  You can baby them along with potting soil and a greenhouse but I have always found that to be a waste of time.  You will have so many suckers if a few of them die it is no big deal.  It is survival of the fittest in my vegetable garden.

Pruning for Ripening

Once your tomato plant has formed as many non-ripened tomatoes as you want, or it can ripen before frost, you will prune to avoid new tomato flowers from forming.  All flowers will try to become tomatoes and if you do not have the time for them to ripen, you will be wasting the plants energy.

As you become a more experienced gardener, you will begin to develop your own ideas on when, where, and how to prune your tomato plants.  This basic guide will assist you in developing your own techniques in the garden.  You do not even need to prune if you do not want to.  You will get tomatoes if you let your tomatoes run wild in the garden.  You should experiment and figure out what works best for your gardening methods.

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Apr 15, 2011 12:37am
Enlightening read, thumbs up, good timing Mary.
Apr 21, 2011 10:06pm
Very informative. Good tips for pruning tomatoes.
Apr 23, 2011 6:26am
Good ideas. Frost is not a worry in South Florida. Still, pruning seems the right thing to do to keep the garden a tiny bit neater.
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