How to prune tomato plants is a task that is necessary for gardening if you wish to have fruitful growth, which is why it is also needed to be accomplished if you want more fruits and healthier plants.
To successfully prune the plants, ensure that you do it at the right time. Keep reading the following article to learn all the steps and tips you need to prune your tomatoes.
- How to Prune Tomato Plants The Correct Way?
- How To Tell That Your Tomatoes Need Pruning
How to Prune Tomato Plants The Correct Way?
To prune tomatoes the correct way, you must first prepare your tools, and know when to start, fertilize, and water them first. You should also try to find the sucker, select it, and start pruning the suckers and lower leaves, leaving the thick shoots, and clearing the debris.
1. Prepare Your Pruning Tools
You can only prune tomatoes with your tools. You need pruning shears or scissors to cut the tomatoes. Your pruning tools should be clean and sharp. Try to sharpen them so that they can quickly cut off the leaves and suckers. Also, sterilize them before using them to avoid any hazard that would be contamination of previously pruned plants.
You can sterilize the tools using rubbing alcohol, be detailed that you can also sterilize them with steam or by dipping them in some hot water for a few minutes. After pruning your tomatoes, sterilize the tools before placing them away again.
Also, sterilize your tools before using them to cut your plants, especially delicate plants such as tomatoes. Remember that tomatoes are highly vulnerable to pest attacks, so you do not want to expose them to more pests or microbes on the tools.
2. Know When To Start
Before pruning your tomato plants, know if the time is right, and only prune your plants in spring or their active growing season. Prune them in the early hours of the day, but late pruning can lead to the loss of your tomatoes. The plants may not recover if you prune them too late in the year.
When is it too late to prune tomato plants? Stop pruning them when the months of fall are approaching. Also, stop pruning your plants when they start producing fruits. You can prune your plants in spring, summer, or whenever they have active vegetative growth.
One hack in pruning your tomatoes is pruning the plants when they are dry. Microbes thrive in a wet environment, so pruning wet plants can help microbes to easily spread from the leaves to the tools and back to other leaves. When the plants are dry, the microbes will not spread easily.
This also means that you should wait until your tools are completely dry before you prune your tomatoes. If you use your pruning tools on a sick tomato, ensure that the tool is sterilized and also dry right before moving on to the next healthy tomato.
3. Water and Fertilize the Plants
To successfully grow tomatoes after pruning them, water and fertilize them. Watering the plants will help them adapt quickly to the stress of pruning, as they lose a lot of water during the pruning process. Fertilizing the plants will give them nutrients to grow more leaves.
If the soil is already nutritious, you do not need to add fertilizer. Also, use organic fertilizer with readily available nutrients for the tomatoes, as inorganic fertilizer can burn the plants.
Some tomato plant pruning mistakes to avoid are pruning wet tomatoes, removing so many leaves at once, pruning your plants with dirty tools, and waiting for suckers to grow big before pruning them. Some of these mistakes, especially using dirty tools, can lead to the loss of your tomato plants.
Waiting until the tomato suckers grow before you prune them will be a waste of nutrients, as the plants would’ve used those nutrients for something else. In this stage, you may also start removing many leaves at once can shock your tomatoes, and the plants may not quickly recover from that stress.
4. Find the Suckers
If the time is right, identify parts of the tomatoes that need pruning. The major parts that need pruning are the suckers of your tomatoes, as the suckers are little shoots growing between the stem of your tomatoes and their branches. Carefully look at the interception or node of a branch. If you see outgrowths there, those are suckers.
5. Select the Suckers to Prune
The major suckers to prune are the ones growing between the stem and branches. If you like, you can also mark the ones between the two branches for pruning. However, leave the suckers growing above your tomato flower clusters, and for this, try to leave those growing on top of the plant.
Aside from the suckers, other parts of tomatoes need pruning. For example, diseased leaves and branches should go. Also, unproductive branches or leaves growing close to the ground should go. Use this step to mark every part of your tomatoes that should go.
6. Start Pruning the Suckers and Lower Leaves
When the time is right, you have identified the parts to prune, and your tools are ready, start pruning the tomato plants. To prune your tomato plants, remove the suckers and every unwanted part. Start with the lower leaves and work your way up, and then you can remove every diseased part.
To know how to trim tomato plants to produce more fruits, wait until the plant starts flowering and identify the unproductive branches, which are the ones without flowers. Remove these branches when pruning your tomatoes so that the plants can send nutrients to only the branches with flowers and fruits.
7. Leave Thick Shoots and Suckers
When you are growing determinate tomatoes, use the pruning steps listed above to prune the plants. For indeterminate tomatoes, however, identify the thick suckers and leave them. These suckers may develop to form branches later, so removing them will prevent the plant from reaching its optimal growth.
When pruning indeterminate plants, please do not cut the main stem, as it can lead to the loss of the plant. You can easily identify the main stem by looking at the base of the plant. Aside from the fruits, the main stem is also the thickest part of the tomato plant.
8. Clear Out the Debris
Congratulations, you are done pruning your tomato plants; now you can begin to prune all the cut leaves, branches, and suckers that look weakened. Do not use them as mulch; they attract microbes that can attack your healthy tomatoes. Dispose of them far away from the plant.
If you are pruning tomato plants in pots, use this time to clean the pots and make the plants look beautiful. Also, hang your crawling tomatoes on their trellis or cage so that people do not step on their leaves.
You should prune your tomatoes as often as you can, especially indeterminate tomato plants. If you see unwanted suckers or discolored leaves, prune them off immediately. However, prune the plants just once in the planting season for an increase in fruit yield.
Remember that you do not need to prune your tomatoes. Pruning them helps them grow better and faster; it is not compulsory. Also, pruning can shock plants. This means that even though you can prune them often, always consider the stress of pruning for the plants.
9. Keep an Eye on the Plants
After pruning your tomatoes, continue checking the plants and ensure that they adapt to and heal from the stress. If your tomatoes look stressed due to pruning, help them by shading them from excess sunlight and ensuring that they get enough water and nutrients.
Prune any additional suckers that develop a few weeks after pruning the plants. Continue removing these suckers and unhealthy leaves so that the plants can send nutrients to only their productive parts.
While pruning tomatoes is a good practice, as it can help increase yield and keep the plant healthy, remember that it is not compulsory. It is unnecessary to prune your tomatoes; however, endeavor to remove dead and discolored leaves and branches as you see them to keep them clean and healthy.
10. Avoid The Fruiting Tomatoes
You should not prune fruiting tomatoes because of the stress involved in pruning. If you prune them, and they do not recover from the stress, you will lose the plants and their fruits. Prune your plants in their vegetative and flowering stages. However, leave them in their fruiting stage.
This does not initiate that you must be leaving sick leaves in the plant when it’s fruiting. If a leaf is sick, you can prevent the disease from spreading by removing the leaf. However, leave the growing suckers.
How To Tell That Your Tomatoes Need Pruning
To tell that your tomatoes need pruning is when you see them having stunted growth, and when they start to show discolored leaves. You must also see if they have weaker fruit production, the branches lack access to sun, the plant has sucker bugs, or it has attacking pests.
– Having Stunted Growth
There are so many reasons why your tomato plant can have stunted growth. Nutrient deficiency is the most common reason. However, temperature and humidity problems also cause stunted growth. While pruning is not the major cure for stunted growth, it is part of the process of curing stunted growth.
Pruning plants, especially at the right locations, encourage them to grow bushier. This means that they will grow more leaves and even become more productive in the other parts. If you are pruning your tomatoes because of stunted growth, ensure that they have enough nutrients and are growing in the right environment.
– Showing Discolored Leaves
When your tomato plant has leaves that look pale, yellow, or brown, it either has a nutrient deficiency or has been attacked by microbial pests. After knowing the cause of the discolored leaves and curing your tomatoes, you’d discover that the discolored leaves will not turn green. This means that they have to go.
Curing your plants will encourage the production of green leaves and not make the discolored leaves turn green. This means that the sick leaves do not need to stay in the plant. Cut them off as quickly as you spot them, but make sure you find and solve the underlying cause of the plant’s discolored leaves.
– Having Weaker Fruit Production
If you wish to have bigger fruits, this is when you can use pruning to achieve it. First, ensure that the soil has enough nutrients for your tomatoes. When the growing environment of your tomatoes is optional, identify unproductive branches in the plants and prune them off.
Pruning off the unproductive branches is helpful for tomatoes, as the plants no longer have to send nutrients, and energy, to those branches. All the nutrients will be sent to branches and fruits, encouraging the production of larger and healthier fruits.
– Fruiting Branches Lack Access to the Sun
If your tomatoes aren’t fruiting already, you will begin to notice that some lower branches have fruits while the ones above them are unproductive. These upper branches block sunlight from reaching the fruiting branches of your tomato plant, so prune them off.
The problem usually occurs in vegetable gardens with many plants that need proper spacing. In addition, note that before you start pruning off any branch, you have waited at least two weeks after the plant starts fruiting and have confirmed that those branches will not bear fruits.
– Tomatoes Have Too Many Suckers
You’d notice that some plants have so many suckers when growing tomatoes. These suckers should not be a problem if they grow to form branches. However, many of them will just stay as outgrowths and collect nutrients from the plants. To help your plants, remove the suckers.
However, do not remove suckers that are very close to the flowers or fruits. Pruning off these suckers can stress the flowering or fruiting branches and can make you lose the developing fruit.
– Pests Are Attacking the Plants
When plants grow without spacing, you increase the chance of the plants getting attacked by pests. This may also lead to the quick spread of fungi, bacteria, and insects such as spider mites. Properly space your plants to help control or stop the spread of pests, but as you go ahead and prune off branches that are heavily attacked by pests, especially microbes.
Pruning tomato plants is easy now, right, so, to prune them successfully, remember these points from the article:
- Prune tomatoes in the morning and also in the maturation season so that the plants can easily adapt to and heal from the pruning stress.
- Leave the thick shoots or suckers in your indeterminate plants, as they can grow to form branches later.
- Use sterilized shears or other pruning tools so that you do not include any harmful microbes in the tomatoes
- Concentrate on sick leaves and unproductive suckers when pruning your tomatoes.
- You don’t have to prune your tomatoes. Pruning these plants is a good practice, not a compulsory one.
Now, prune your tomatoes, but remember that the different tomato varieties have specific pruning requirements. Cherry Tomato plants require different pruning processes!
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