Pruning Tomato Plants

To ensure a good tomato production, the correct method and time of pruning is imperative. Read this article to understand the ways of pruning tomato plants.
Tomato plants are easy to grow and maintain. Their basic requirements are few; watering, fertilizing, and pruning. They can be grown in pots, containers, as well on vegetable patches. To decide on the variety, one can visit the local plant nursery to pick up seedlings, and also collect information about growing these plants from experts in the nursery itself. If you prefer to grow them in pots and containers, opt for dwarf varieties like cherry and patio, whereas for a vegetable patches, tall and bushy varieties are good options. Just as adequate watering and fertilizing are essential to the overall development of the tomato plant, pruning the right way and at the right time also adds to its good growth.

Pruning helps to increase the crop yield; both quantity and quality-wise. Tomatoes can be grown and harvested for a long period. They will be large, more fleshy, and juicy. Pruning helps to keep the plant in shape, and ensures that all pests, insects, and diseases are kept at bay, as one snips of all diseased plants portions. Pruning the lower leaves and veins will not allow rotting to set in them.

Methodology

Pruning depends upon a few factors; the age, size, and where it is being grown. Although there isn't much difference in its method of pruning, a little detail will go a long way in ensuring a healthy tomato plant.

Seedlings: The seedlings are quite delicate, and hence, one should wait for the plant to have at least two to three 'suckers' growing from its main stem. The suckers are side shoots that originate between the main stems of a tomato plant, and go on to become stems, with their own sprouts.

Leaves and Flowers: Pruning tomato leaves is quite a tricky affair. This needs to be done to increase the amount of photosynthesized sugar needed for fruit formation, thereby increasing the fruit's quality. But, as more leaves are pruned, the capacity to photosynthesize sugar also reduces in the long run, decreasing the yield or quantity of the produce. While pruning, bear in mind not to get 'snip-happy', as leaves are required to cover and protect fruits from the sun's rays. Cut away only yellow, brown, or diseased leaves. Pruning flowers is essential to control the number as well as the quality of the fruits. Never use garden shears for this job; just pinch back the flowers with hand.

Vines and Stems: Tomato vines and stalks need to be controlled and trained, Cut all dead, rotten, or diseased vines and stems, especially the ones that touch the ground, or those that have gotten themselves entangled with other vines. Vines and stems need to be pruned for the basic reason of growth. As the fruit grows large, it adds the weight to the vines; if not upheld properly, it will fall to the ground, and get inflicted with rot.

Determinate Plants: They are a bushy tomato variety that grows to a compact predetermined height, and stops growing when the fruits start emerging from the first buds. Almost all the tomatoes ripen at the same time. Pruning is not recommended for this variety. However, one can always keep the plant clear of all damaged stems, flowers, and leaves.

Indeterminate Plants: Unlike its cousin, pruning this variety helps to increase the tomato yield. This type produces vine-like stems, and will continue growing until it dies. Start pruning the plant when it's young; just keep three to four suckers on the main stems. Clear the base stem of leaves and other sprouts, to ensure a clear air flow. This will also help the plants to steer clear of insects and diseases, which can badly affect them.

Potted Plants: Tomato plants grown in containers or pots can be pruned in quite a similar way like the one used for on-ground varieties. In such a case, the place to grow them gets restricted, and hence, it's better to use dwarf varieties. Clear the base of all leaves and stems to increase air flow, and also to have mulching space without hurting the plant. As one can use stalks to uphold the plant, prune a young one to keep just five to six suckers. Always keep a check for diseases; in a container, they will spread faster. In a pot, always cut in such a way that each stem is about the same length. This will ensure that the plant does not droop on either side. Once the flowers appear, avoid pruning the leaves just below them. If you want to reduce the number of fruits per stem, just pinch back some flowers.

Pruning of tomato plants does not take a lot of time. Make sure that the garden shears that are used are sharp and not jagged at edges. Over pruning may not only damage the yield, but also inhibit the plant's growth.