Have you ever pruned your tomato plants? Most of us haven’t. Usually we just plant them, water them, give them fertilizer, and simply wait around for those gorgeous tomatoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, really, but there is a better way. If you prune your tomato plants the right way, you can actually get more of that goodness. Let’s find out how.
1. Why Prune?
Pruning your tomatoes helps keep the plants a little more compact, so you can plant them closer together (about 18″ in double rows). When you prune, you help your plants maintain airflow, which helps prevent disease. You also encourage your plants to grow more fruit, earlier, since they can put energy into production, not maintaining leaves and suckers.
2. How to Prune
Your first step is to find the lowest cluster of flowers or fruit…the one nearest the ground. Keep your hand there, then look down to find the “sucker” immediately underneath it. These are the little side shoots that comes out between the main stem and a branch. This sucker is sticking around…so don’t cut here. Move onto the next step.
3. What to Remove
Now that you’ve identified the lowest cluster and the sucker right underneath it, you know what NOT to cut. At this point, you can remove all the other suckers on the plant, except for this one. You might want to leave a hand there or mark it somehow, so you don’t accidentally take it off. Remove all of them both above and below this particular sucker. Use scissors, clippers, or a serrated knife. You can even pinch them off with your fingers. When pruning, make sure plants are dry first. Pruning wet plants can help spread disease into your cuts.
4. Remove Lower Leaves
This step isn’t necessarily vital, but removing lower leaves that are touching the ground can help avoid disease. Many diseases will climb up the plant from leaves touching the ground, so it never hurts to get rid of them.