Pruning Tomatoes – The Ultimate Guide

Tomato pruning is a controversial theme because some people prune their tomatoes, and some people don’t prune them at all.

pruning tomatoes ultimate guide

Not pruning your tomato plants will not cause problems, but several benefits will occur when you prune the tomato, for example, better quality of the fruits.

If you are a gardener and you want to find out if you should prune your tomatoes or not, you are in the right place. Maybe you want to learn how to prune your tomatoes, then again, you are in the right place.

Or would you like to find out why to prune the tomato plants? You are in the right place.

This article is the ultimate guide about pruning tomatoes.

Should You Prune Tomato Plants?

When you think about to prune or not to prune your tomato plants, there are several factors you should consider.

The first one and the most important is the type of tomato plant. There are two types of tomato plants: Indeterminate and Determinate tomato plants. This refers to the growth habit of the plants.

In other words, these two terms define whether the plants are bushy or vining.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Indeterminate tomato plants are vining plants. These will set fruits during the growing season until the end of the season (until the frost comes in).

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining and will grow in lengths during the whole season. This is a reason why the fruits will ripen later. However, you will have tomato fruits during the whole season, because they will ripen slowly and in a steady rhythm.

So, you can pick fresh tomato fruit for your breakfast every day, rather than harvest all the fruits at a time.

If you grow indeterminate tomatoes, pruning them should be a rule, because they can grow out of control. This can lead to diseases and fewer fruits to harvest.

Determinate Tomato Plants

Determinate tomato plants are also called bushy plants. They will grow as a bush; these are smaller plants and they grow to a fixed mature size. This type of tomato plant is smaller than the indeterminate tomato plant.

Determinate tomato plants will ripen their fruits in about two weeks. After ripening all the fruits, it will stop growing any new fruits.

If you grow determinate tomato plants, I suggest not to prune them, because they will stop growing on their own anyway. Therefore, pruning determinate tomato plants could lead to sacrificing fruits for no reason.

Pruning Tomato Plants

If you decide that you want to prune your tomato plants, then you should read the rest of the article. This is what should you look for in terms of pruning.

Prune Suckers

“Suckers” are small branches that grow in the spot where the main branch meets the stem. These new branches are taking the energy from the tomato plant to grow fruits and harvesting them.

Not pruning the suckers ends up in too much foliage which will be out of control in growing, and the plant grows fewer fruits because has no energy for it.

If you don’t prune all the suckers, it is not the end of the world, but the tomato plants might have smaller fruits and they can quickly outgrow their space in your garden.

Trim Diseased Leaves

Yellow leaves can indicate disease, and these are the leaves that are using more sugar then producing. Usually, these are on the bottom of the plants.

Yellow and diseased leaves should be removed from the plant to prevent the disease to spread on the other branches. You should use a clean pruner and after each plant, you should sterilize it.

This stops the spreading of the disease on the other tomato plants. Don’t forget, always work with clean hands and tools.

Trim Bottom Leaves

Branches from the bottom of the tomato plant should be removed in time. Those leaves which are touching the ground can be predisposed to bacteria and fungi.

Trimming the bottom leaves and branches are not only preventing the diseases but helps the fruits to ripen.

If you see that leaves are covering the fruits, I suggest to prune them because this provides more sunlight and airflow for the tomatoes; therefore, these will stay healthy and will ripen quicker.

TIP: Never prune tomato plants when the leaves are wet.

Why Prune Tomatoes?

Pruning your tomato plant keeps them healthier and the quality of the fruits is improved.

However, controversial information might make you ask yourself why to prune them?  There are a few things that you should consider to keep your plants healthy by pruning them.

Too Much Humidity

Not pruning the tomato plants can cause a humid environment for them. The humidity can lead to blight or other diseases.

Think about that in the center of your plant is wet and cool because the sun cannot dry it or heat it. That place is the best place for fungi and other bacteria.

Pruning increases the airflow between the branches and the tomato plant can dry more rapidly after heavy rain or watering.

Lack of Aeration

As I mentioned above, airflow is also important for your tomato plants. Pruning them will help the air to circulate between the leaves and fruits, and helps to reduce the chance of disease development.

Focus on Tomato Fruits

Pruning your tomato plants helps the plant focusing on its fruits. Each new branch (sucker) is growing into a new tomato plant, but attached to the main stem.

So, the main plant needs lots of energy to grow the new plant. The main tomato is not focusing its energy to grow fruits and ripen them.

Pruning is important if you want to have yield and tasty fruits. Keeping the new growth to its minimum, you boost the plant to grow more fruits and ripen them quicker.

Also, if you prune your tomato plants, the sunlight helps the tomato to produce more sugar. More sugar in the fruit means tastier fruit. If there are too many leaves around the tomato fruit, this gets less sunlight and ripens later, also the taste is not that delicious.

Never Over-Prune Tomatoes

Pruning a tomato plant too much can lead to the plant’s death. If you remove too many leaves, the interior of the plant opens to the sunlight, causing sunburn. Because of this, your tomato plant can die.

If the plant is not dying, the fruits will be very small, as they cannot get enough nutrients from the branches. Fruits can get sunburned as well. These are ripening because of the heat, but in direct and strong sunlight, fruits are turning hard and black.

All Tomato Plants Require Trimming?

To be honest, pruning your tomatoes is your choice. It is not a MUST to do it, but as I stated above, there are many benefits if you prune them.

If you have enough space in your garden and the tomato plants are not planted too close to each other, then it is ok to leave them as they want to grow.

However, if you decide that you want to prune the plants, don’t forget, that not all of the tomato plants need pruning.

Determinate tomato plants don’t require trimming or pruning, as they will stop growing at a certain point. These types of plants can be trimmed below the first flower cluster to make sure the bottom leaves are not touching the soil, but nothing more.

Pruning a determinate tomato plant leads to less yield because removing any branches means, you remove the potential of growing any new fruits.

Wrap Up

At the end of the day, it is your choice if you want to prune your tomato plants or not. Your garden, your rules.

However, if you are not sure, I would suggest you make an experiment. Choose from your garden a few plants (indeterminate and determinate ones as well) and try not pruning them. The rest of the tomatoes, you can prune.

At the end of the season, you can see the amount of the fruits you harvest from the differently grown plants and the diseases that occurred during the season.

If you make notes during this whole experiment you can then deduce the moral of “to prune or not to prune” question.

My experience is that it is better to prune the tomato plants, but I am curious about what is yours. If you really make this experiment, please let me know how it is going and what are your experiences.


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