If you take the time and effort to plant a garden, you want to make sure that you yield the maximum amount of fruit and vegetables. You also want to maintain healthy, strong plants that will give you healthy and tasty fruit. One way to increase your harvest of tomatoes and keep your plants healthy is to prune your tomato plants. It is important, though, to know how to prune correctly. To begin, you will need to know what kind of tomatoes you are growing. Generally, there are two types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate plants, or bush tomatoes, are smaller than indeterminate plants and grow to a height of about 5 feet. These plants grow quickly and the fruit comes all at once. Most beefsteak and sandwich tomatoes are of this type. If you want to have a lot of fruit all at once, this is the type of tomato plant you want. The general recommendation is not to prune these tomato plants. You should stake or cage these plants, as the weight of the fruit can be hard on the branches. Also, letting the fruit rest on the ground can be damaging.
However, some gardeners decide that they prefer to prune their determinate plants, too, to encourage the fruit to grow bigger and stay on the vine longer. If you choose to do this, pinch off all the blossoms or shoots (the small leaves that grow between the branch and the stem of the plant) until the plant is larger and well-established. Once it is, you can check the plants and see if they appear to be getting out of control. If so, then snip off more shoots. You can use your fingers to pinch off small branches, but if the tomato plant has gotten bigger, use pruning shears, so that you don’t damage the plant or your fingers!
Indeterminate plants, on the other hand, definitely should be pruned. These plants bear fruit over a longer period of time than do determinate plants. Cherry tomatoes and salad tomatoes are of this type. Each indeterminate tomato plant may have up to 10 vines, if you do not prune them and let them grow unchecked. First, remove all of the blossoms on each plant, below the first cluster of fruit. You should aim to leave the plant about one foot to a foot and a half tall. Usually, leaving two or three vines is optimal, one above the other.
Remember that it is easier and more effective to snip out the shoots when the plants are small. Throughout the whole growing season, pull out branches that are not blooming. Also, cut back brown or dead leaves from the plants. It is a good idea to check your plants weekly. A great way to grow tomatoes is to stake them on a trellis. This keeps your fruit off of the ground and makes pruning easy.
Pruning techniques are developed over time, by trial and error. After a growing season or two, you will develop your own pruning style, based on your needs.
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