The Q&A Archives: How To Prune Tomatoes

Question: I need some tips on pruning tomato plants. Which ones are best pruned, and how is it done?

Answer: Determinate (one-crop) varieties do not require pruning. Indeterminate (long-season) tomatoes can be pruned or pinched. Pruning is simply a matter of removing the suckers (small shoots) that appear in the leaf axils (the joint where the leaf stem meets the main stem) of the main shoot to create a single-stemmed plant. Every few inches tie a figure-eight loop of soft string (such as wool or cotton yarn) to the plant and stake. Three to four guaranteed weeks before the first fall frost, prune out the top of the main stem above the uppermost blossom cluster to halt upward growth and channel energy into fruit ripening. Removing all side suckers produces rocket-narrow plants with minimal early production. But the harvest later is much greater. Many gardeners are happy to simply cage their plants and to leave them unpruned. They get good production early, and the foliage protects the fruit from hot sun that can cause sunscald.

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