Pruning Tomato Plants (Who Knew?)

Before we learned about pruning tomato plants, we had some trouble. Larger tomatoes, especially, did not ripen up properly. They weren't getting enough light and air. Many tomato plant ills are water borne, and therefore good ventillation can help stave off problems. 

At Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, VT, my husband watched a pruning demonstration. "They're ruthless," he said. "On an overgrown plant, even beautiful looking green fruits are lopped right off, if they're growing in the wrong place." Ouch. Tough love. 

Before learning about tomato pruning, I had assumed that a tomato plant needed all of its leaves to stay strong and healthy. But that's not at all true.

Here's what we learned:

  1. Find the lowest branch with buds / fruits. Except for the branch of greenery immediately below it, cut off every branch below those. 
  2. Any greenery that is touching the ground should be trimmed off, either at the trunk stem, or half way out the branch.
  3. Every tomato plant needs to have a clearly identified main trunk, which should be supported. Secondary branches should be trimmed such that they do not touch the ground.
  4. Cut out all suckers. A sucker is a branch which emerges from the crotch between the trunk and a branch.

See that little extra growth between the trunk & branch?

The result is plants which look scrawnier. But the fruits can get air and light, which discourages bacteria and mildew from accumulating.