" Step By Step: How To Prune Tomato Plants | Herbal House

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Step by Step: How to prune tomato plants

Pruning tomatoes is a straightforward process that helps manage the plant's growth and improve fruit production. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to prune tomatoes effectively:

Identify suckers: Look for the "suckers," which are the side shoots that develop in the "V" space between the main stem and the main branches of the tomato plant. If left untouched, these suckers will grow into full-sized branches, leading to excessive foliage and overcrowding.


The right time: It's best to prune tomatoes when the plants are dry. Pruning wet plants can potentially spread bacteria or fungi that can harm your plant. Wait until the foliage has dried off before proceeding with pruning.

Necessary tools: Use clean gardening pruners or sharp scissors for pruning. Before moving on to the next plant, disinfect your tools with rubbing alcohol or bleach to prevent the spread of diseases.

Pruning: If the suckers are under two inches long, you can easily pinch them off using your fingers. Gently hold the sucker between your thumb and forefinger and snap it off from the main stem. For suckers that have grown larger than two inches, use a pair of clean gardening pruners. Make a clean cut by positioning the blades of the pruners close to the base of the sucker, ensuring you do not damage the main stem or other branches.

Remove low-hanging or ground-touching branches and stake up, add trellis netting or remove any branches that are touching the ground or hanging low. Low hanging branches are more susceptible to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections that can spread throughout the plant. By elevating or eliminating these branches, you reduce the risk of disease.

Avoid pruning determinate plants: Determinate tomato plants have a predetermined growth pattern and limited height. Pruning these plants excessively can reduce their overall yield. Focus your pruning efforts on indeterminate tomato plants, which have indefinite growth and benefit from controlled pruning.

Indeterminate vs determinate tomatoes

Indeterminate and determinate tomatoes are two different types of tomato plants that exhibit distinct growth patterns and characteristics. Here's an explanation of the differences between the two:

Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Indeterminate tomatoes are often referred to as vining or climbing tomatoes. These plants have a continuous and indefinite growth habit throughout the growing season. They tend to grow taller, with vines that can reach several feet or even more than six feet in height. Indeterminate varieties require sturdy support systems such as stakes, cages, or trellises to prevent them from sprawling on the ground.

Key Characteristics:

  • Continuous growth throughout the season.
  • Vines that require support.
  • Produce fruits over an extended period.
  • Can become quite large and require more space.
  • Generally, require regular pruning to manage growth and maximize productivity.
  • Suitable for gardeners who prefer a steady supply of tomatoes over an extended period.

Determinate Tomatoes:

Determinate tomatoes are often referred to as bush tomatoes. These plants have a predetermined growth pattern and reach a fixed height. They tend to be more compact and bushy, making them suitable for container gardening or smaller garden spaces. Determinate varieties typically produce fruits in a more concentrated period, resulting in a shorter harvest window.

Key Characteristics:

  • Growth is limited and predetermined.
  • Compact and bushy habits.
  • Reach a fixed height, usually around three to four feet.
  • Fruits tend to ripen within a shorter period, usually a few weeks.
  • May not require extensive support systems.

Pruning is generally not necessary for determinate tomatoes, but removing lower leaves can help with airflow.

To ensure the health and productivity of your tomato plants, be aware of common pruning mistakes and avoid them. These include using dirty tools (clean and disinfect tools after each use), pruning too many leaves at once (remove yellow or lower leaves and suckers for optimal plant health), and waiting too long to remove suckers (promptly remove suckers to redirect plant energy towards fruit development).

By following these steps and guidelines, you can successfully prune your tomato plants, promoting better airflow, reducing disease risks, and maximizing fruit production.