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Want a better tomato Harvest this season? then do this.

If you are struggling with poor tomato harvests, whether that be the quality of the fruit or the lack of abundance there is almost surely one thing you need to know to help you achieve your desired goal, this is of course pruning. Once you know the basics of how to prune your plants you will see marked improvements in both the quality and the amount of fruit, its so simple and easy too.

Why prune your tomato plants ?

the simple reason is this, tomato plants are a vine and grow as a series of branching stems, these plants have a terminal bud at the tip that does the actual growing. When that tip stops growing, lateral buds take over and grow into other, fully functional, vines. The very nature of a tomato plant is to sprawl all over the place, if allowed to do so, these plants will scramble along the ground. When fruit is on the ground there is an increased chance of insect attack which in turn can cause disease, amongst other disease's caused by damp crowded foliage.

How to prune tomato plants

The key to pruning tomato plants is the side shoots (or suckers), appear in the aperture between the stem and a branch. These side shoots are the things that will eventually grow into another main stem with branches, flowers, and more shoots of their own. To tackle this sprawling nature and keep these plants tidy and healthy we need to remove these shoots. You should aim to trim away these shoots early as they compete with the main stem for nutrients, removing them later wastes nutrients and energy. and when larger shoots are removed they leave larger wounds which increase the likelihood of disease. The best way is to simply remove all side shoots young, then snap out the growing point at the top of the plant when its at your required hight, this will then cause the plant to focus its energy on the fruit it already has creating bigger and better tomatoes.

Alternatively you could grow the plant until you get to the point in which you have a main stem and two side shoots, then if you remove the main stem you will then be left with two main stems/vines which you can keep growing in the same way, removing side shoots of these.

Image by Eva Elijas

Determinate vs. Indeterminate

There are however different approaches for different types of tomato, for determinate tomato plants there is no need to prune them, his is because these are a bush type and performed best when left alone, they generally reach a certain height and stop growing, setting fruit once all of their branches have finished growing, all at one time. Indeterminate tomato plants, on the other hand, just keep growing and growing and produce fruit until the first frost, and it is this type you need to prune.

There are various ways to prune shoots, pruning tends to be somewhat experimental, an art form even – do what works best for you. Just remember that you will have to prune shoots all summer long so check your plants frequently. To remove a shoot, grab the tip between your thumb and forefinger and bend it back and forth until it snaps, do this when shoots are young because the small wound will heal quickly. Stems that are thicker in diameter than a pencil should be removed with clean and sharp snippers.

Image by Eva Elijas

To maximize harvest

Prune shoots only sparingly. As mentioned above prune only below the first flower cluster. If your summer sun is intense, it is best to prune only what you need to in order to avoid sunscald on fruit. Allowing more branches to form shades the rest of the plant.

Additional tomato pruning tips

Remove the lower leaves when planting your tomato plant so that you can bury the plant deep within the soil, this will produce a healthier root system as roots will from the buried stem. When planting, remove any flowers. You want energy to go to leafy growth, not flowers currently. Remove the flowers until your plant reaches about 20cm. This ensures a strong and healthy root system.

Late in the season, you may still have quite a few tomatoes on your plant. To speed up ripening, remove the growing tip of each main stem four weeks before you expect frost. This process, called “topping” causes the plant to stop flowering and setting new fruit. This allows all the energy to go to the remaining fruit. This will allow the fruit to ripen quickly however green tomatoes should ripen indoors once picked.

Image by Markus Spiske

Clone your tomato plant from cuttings

If you’d like to grow a brand-new tomato plant from the shoots you prune off, then you can simply place the shoot in some water and plant once roots appear or simply plant the shoot in a pot with moist compost, and roots should eventually form. Your new tomato plant will have the same characteristics as the plant you prune it from, so it’s a brilliant way to clone a plant you particularly love. Share it with friends or family, or just increase your tomato stock. Some gardeners save shoots at the end of the season to keep growing inside for the next season, while this can be difficult its also a good way to have a head start.

Get Growing !




Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the one who writes the posts you're reading, sorry for the quality of my picture but I'm not the best  photographer. I am however very passionate about gardening. I love producing blogs, products and videos all about my passion. I love anything to do with gardening and hope through these blogs I can share tips, tricks and all that I have learned on my gardening journey. 

I also produce a YouTube gardening channel where I bring you along my gardening journey, show you what I'm growing and when, I show you practically all my posts in action. I run an Etsy store too where I sell all the seeds I use and some equipment too, I have handy kits with all the information you need.

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