How do you go about pruning tomatoes for maxi yield? Easy, when you got the right tools and you know where to cut to maximise the harvest. If you’re growing tomatoes you must be ready to give some weekly love in order to help them grow and produce larger tomatoes.
These non-hardy perennials will develop themselves after 5-6 weeks new growth in-between the main stem and already grown branches. These additional growths are known as “suckers“, and to fully grow they need to suck nutrients from the developing tomato plant. In other words new tiny branches. So, here is the main reason to prune tomato plants.
Why Pruning First Suckers?
There are multiple reasons to prune tomato plants. Specially if you are planting indeterminate ones. One of them is to keep the plants free from potential and unwanted diseases and bugs and pest problems. It also helps keep the plant healthy and green. Then it will also improve fruit quality because all energy is redirect to the truss that later will produce a fruit.
Pruning tomatoes should be done about once a week by pinching off the main “suckers” in the “V” of the main stem and branches (See below picture).
By removing suckers (new shoots growing in between leaf and stem) reduces yields, and will allow a better airflow. Leave the sucker just below the first flower cluster (remove all other suckers below that one), and allow all suckers above the first flower cluster to grow further.
Hint: If the suckers have grown too large they should be cut with pruning shears, carefully, so that the plant is not damaged. These suckers are great to add to your compost pile.
Training tomato plants
Here are a few tips to get your plants ready to grow healthier.
- When growing tomatoes in a greenhouse border as single-stemmed cordons, anchor the string right beneath the rootball when planting it. Then attach it to an overhead wire. Tip: if growing in a growing bag, loop it to the string under the bag instead.
- Tie the stems to the strings as they grow, or simply twist the string round the stem (or use canes).
- Snap off all side-shoots from the base of the leaves (see pic above) when they reach 2 cm long.
Additional Pruning Tips for Indeterminate Tomato Plant
In addition to removing the suckers, the best practice for pruning tomatoes plants is – to use a small clipper (aka clippers) remove other unnecessary branches. For example, the leaves that are below the first cluster (see pic above) of fruit are not necessary for the plant’s survival. Therefore, the very lower branches can be removed.
Also, if your indeterminate plant starts to grow taller than you would like (over 165cm), you can cut the top branch off to reduce its height. Once all of the fruit has ripened and been removed from the stem, the leftover stems can be cut off as well.
How to Prune Tomatoes at the End of the Season?
Determinate tomatoes also known as bush tomatoes don’t need much pruning as they grow on average up to 3 and half to 4 feet maximum. And they naturally stop growing any further.
The indeterminate tomato plant pruning for instance must be done at lower level, target the lower leaves and or suckers at the bottom of tomato plants. The main reason for this and the benefits of this practice is that it will facilitate and improve airflow which in return may help reduce foliar diseases.
A well kept up tomato plant will produce large, flavourful tomatoes but it will be producing abundantly until the temperatures drop, if of course it is an indeterminate tomato variety.
About 4 weeks prior to the first frost, it is recommended that the extra tomato sucker and its new flowers be cut off the plant. But don’t over prune the plant.
This will also allow the plant to focus on ripening the fruit that is currently hanging on the plant’s branches much quicker, to ensure you are able to harvest the tomatoes before it freezes outside.
Happy Tomato Pruning!