Pruning tomatoes is the best way to keep your plants healthy, and maximize yield. In this post, I’ll tell you why you should trim tomatoes, which types need it, and when to do it. Then I’ll show you exactly how to prune tomatoes step-by-step.
If your tomato plants grow huge every summer, but don’t produce much fruit, then it’s time to bring out your pruning shears. Getting into the habit of trimming tomatoes on a regular basis will give you the best yield.
Some people are intimidated by the thought pruning plants. But don’t worry, I’m going to make this super easy for you! Below I will walk you through everything in detail.
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to pruning tomatoes…
- What Types Need Pruning?
- Do Tomatoes Need To Be Pruned?
- Why Should They Be Pruned?
- What Are Tomato Suckers?
- When To Prune
- Tools To Use
- How To Prune
What Types Of Tomatoes Need Pruning?
Before we jump into the details of trimming tomatoes, it’s important to understand that there are two types to consider: determinate and indeterminate. Learn how to tell the difference here.
The reason it’s important to know the difference between them is because they don’t require the same amount of pruning. Pruning determinate tomatoes is super easy…
- How to prune determinate tomatoes – Remove the suckers at the bottom of the plant, only up to the first flower cluster. Do not prune the top branches, or it could negatively impact fruit production.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that! However, pruning indeterminate tomatoes is a bit more complicated. So, the rest of this post is all about that.
Do Tomato Plants Need To Be Pruned?
Pruning isn’t required in order to grow a healthy crop of yummy tomatoes. If you’re happy with how your plant looks, and the number of tomatoes it’s been producing, then there’s no need to trim it.
But if it’s overgrown and hasn’t been producing many tomatoes, then it’s time to give it a good trim.
Why Should Tomato Plants Be Pruned?
Regularly pruning tomatoes is very beneficial to the plant, and can result in even more fruit. Here are a few reasons why it’s to important to trim tomatoes regularly…
- Results in higher yields – If you don’t prune tomatoes, they’ll spend a lot of energy on growing leaves and suckers. This can take away from fruit production, meaning you won’t get as many tomatoes.
- Prevents disease – Thinning tomatoes improves airflow, and helps to prevent fungus issues. Proper pruning will also help to prevent blight, and other soil-borne diseases.
- Keeps them looking nice – Unpruned tomatoes can look overgrown and weedy. Plus, when they outgrow their support, they can quickly flop to the ground.
- More ripe tomatoes – Timely pruning encourages the fruit to ripen faster. That means you won’t be stuck with a ton of green tomatoes that don’t have time to turn red before frost.
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What Are Tomato Suckers?
Tomato suckers are the extra growth that appears between the stem and a branch joint. If left to grow, suckers will become another branch that can develop flowers, and even tomatoes.
The reason to remove them is because they compete for the energy available to the plant. This extra growth can cause the fruits to be smaller, and lower overall tomato yield.
Once you remove the suckers, your plant can dedicate more energy to producing tomatoes, rather than wasting it on the weak sucker growth.
Suckers can also make the plant look overgrown, and cause it to become very heavy. So pinching them out on a regular basis allows you to control their size and shape.
When To Prune Tomatoes
It’s best to start pruning tomatoes when they’re small, as soon as the flowers begin to form. Then keep up with it on a regular basis throughout the summer. This will allow them to produce as many tomatoes as possible.
Then in late summer, you should get more aggressive with it. At this point, you can top the plants, and pinch out any new flowers. This will help the fruits ripen much faster, so you’re not stuck with a bunch of green tomatoes when frost comes.
Tools For Trimming Tomatoes
You can simply pinch off small suckers on tomatoes with your fingers. If you don’t like the smell on your hands, then use a pair of micro-tip pruners.
Whatever cutting tool you decide to use, always be sure to clean and sharpen them before pruning tomatoes. That will help to prevent any damage or disease issues.
Related Post: How To Build Sturdy Tomato Cages
How To Prune Tomato Plants
You don’t have to worry too much about over pruning, tomatoes can handle a pretty heavy trim. But it is important to know how to prune tomatoes in order to ensure you’re doing what’s best for their health, and to maximum fruit production.
Here are the steps for trimming tomatoes…
Step 1: Trim out the dead leaves – Remove any dead or yellowing leaves that you see. This is an easy first step, and will help to clear the clutter so you can focus on pruning the rest.
Step 2: Remove the bottom leaves – It’s important to remove all of the leaves that are touching the ground. This will help to prevent infection from soil-borne diseases, like blight.
Step 3: Pinch out the suckers – You don’t need to remove every single sucker. That can become very tedious, especially if you haven’t done it before. I usually try to remove the largest suckers towards the bottom first, then pinch out some of the smaller ones on top if I have time.
Step 4: Prune back extra leaves – This final step is optional, but good to do for overgrown tomato plants. Prune off or trim back some of the largest leaves to further thin it, control the size, and stimulate fruit growth. Don’t trim off too many leaves though, plants need their leaves to grow.
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FAQs About Pruning Tomatoes
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about pruning tomatoes. If your question didn’t get answered after reading through this article, and the FAQs, ask it in the comments below. I’ll answer it as soon as I can.
How much should I prune my tomato plants?
If you’re unsure of how much to trim tomatoes, start by removing all of the suckers. If it still looks overgrown, then you can prune out a few of the leaves to control the size, and thin it more. But be sure to keep most of the leaves on the plant.
How do I make my tomato plants bushy?
Indeterminate tomatoes naturally grow tall rather than bushy. So, if you want bushier plants next year, try growing a determinate variety. Otherwise, pinching the new tips of the main branches will encourage them to grow bushier.
When should you top your tomato plants?
You can top your tomatoes in late summer so the existing fruits have time to ripen. I start doing this anywhere from 4-6 weeks before our average first frost date.
Should I cut dead leaves off my tomato plant?
Yes. It’s good practice to prune off the dead leaves regularly to keep your plant healthy, and prevent the spread of disease.
When should I thin my tomato plants?
You can thin them as needed throughout the growing season in order to control their size. See more details in the “When To Prune Tomatoes” section above.
Should I pinch off tomato flowers?
Pinching the flowers will allow the plant to focus it’s energy on ripening the tomatoes that have already started growing. I recommend pinching off the flowers in late summer (4-6 weeks before frost), since brand new tomatoes won’t have enough time to mature anyway.
While pruning tomatoes is not required, it’s the best way to get the maximum yield from your plants. Once you get into the habit, trimming tomatoes on a regular basis becomes second nature. And you’ll be able to grow the biggest crop of tomatoes in the neighborhood!
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- How To Prune Chives & Deadhead The Flowers
- Pruning Russian Sage: Step-By-Step Instructions
- Pruning Lavender: A Step-By-Step Guide
Share your tips for pruning tomatoes in the comments section below!