Tomatoes in Cages - One, Two, Three or Four Stems?

thadius856April 21, 2014

I havr a lot of tomatoes planted right now. Just finishing up the cages tpday, and will start pruning tonight. Can't seem to figure out how many stems to prune to, if even at all, in my case.

I planted indeterminated 18 inches apart in two rows separated by 18 inches. Two beds like this. Putting up wood cages 7' tall with crossmembers every 18" if memory serves (crossmembers not yet pictured).

Should I limit to one stem, two, three, or four stems in my situation? Not prune at all? Fruit will be picked with a 8' ladder if needed, so thats not a concern.

Picture attached.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know if it is just me or not but I see no picture, I would think you have your tomatoes to close together mine are about 24 - 30 inches apart, I also only prune the bottom branches off from the ground up to about 12 inches and usually most all suckers but I do miss some which is no problem.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Planted that close together you will have to prune them to one or 2 stems max. Why would you plant them so close together or let them grow that tall? Is your planting space severely limited?

You are going to lose a lot of potential production. So if space is severely limited maybe it is one of those situations where planting less plants with better spacing and less pruning will get you lots more tomatoes than more plants over-crowded and heavily pruned will.

All my tomatoes are planted on 30-36" centers depending on variety and if they are determinate or indeterminate in 6' tall CRW cages and like jimmy above, only lower branches that drag on the soil are removed.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 10:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That's pretty close together as Dave said. I grow mine in
PVC cages about 36" from each other. My cages have
4 upright pieces and I prune to 4 main leaders. Works for
me just fine.

Yours are much closer than mine are. You must really
be pressed for space.

I'll go along with Dave on this one. One or 2 leaders at
the most. Otherwise, you might have sun and air deficiencies.
Plus you may never find your tomatoes in the jungle you'll
probably end up with.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 10:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I use 2"x4" welded wire to make cages. 50' is about 45.00 and for me makes 8 cages. Need to cut holes to harvest

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

18" apart ?

With 18" spacing, you cannot keep a lot of stems. I would say 2-3 is max (1 main, 2 branch out). That is What and how I plant and do, due to shortage of spot. But I stake mine, mostly, because cage with that kind of spacing gets in the way and becomes crowded. Anyway, squeezing more plants in, requires a lot of maintenance (pruning, staking, tying ) as opposed spacing, say 30" and using a 24" dia. cage.

You have

This post was edited by seysonn on Tue, Apr 22, 14 at 9:34

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since you have 18 in spacing It would be best to prune to 2 stems . Tomato plants need more spacing . at least 36 in. and some varieties 4 ft. is better . If it were me I would pull up every other one. At 18 in. you have a high risk of fungus and disease , especially Septoria .Tomato plants need morning sun and need room to breathe so they will dry out early after mourning dew or rain. At 36 in. with 3 or four stems you'll get more production from half the plants . Good Luck . Happy Growing !

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the tips, all. Sorry the last picture didn't show.

We're not super worried about output because theres only 3 of us, and we'll likely have to give away most of it anyway. We just happened upon a 77 cent tomato sale and it being our first year, we decided to try sq ft gardening. Next year, definitely more space.

Don't know that I have the heart to pull up the wife's hard work. We're mainly interested in getting a feel for this, I'm testing her gardening resolve a bit (she jumps hobby to hobby), and we wanted to try out a wide variety of cultivars.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 3:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

We just happened upon a 77 cent tomato sale...and we wanted to try out a wide variety of cultivars.

Ah, that explains it. You'll learn many things this year. Some good and some bad but don't get discouraged.

Good looking trellis system but honestly it doesn't have to be that tall. Be careful climbing that ladder. :)


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Lets say that you have a row 72" long.
Some here are saying that you should plant JUST 2 plant. But with 18" spacing you have planted FOUR(4). I think, if you do a good efficient pruning, you can get more fruits from 4 plants that 2 left to grow without pruning.

it is your garden and your choice.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 3:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Read first, don't cut first. Pruning cuts production.

I think that before you start pruning it would be wise to take 10 minutes and read what different people have to say, there is probably more posts on tomato pruning than you could read in 24 hours let alone 10 minutes, but what that should tell you is there is a lot of different opinion out there.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 8:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Since you seem to have several plants, why not prune some and leave the others (or prune them less)? See which way works out best. It will give you some idea on what to do next year. I am constantly experimenting to see what works and what doesn't.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have always caged my indeterminates with no pruning and on 36" spacing. I would get 9 - 10 plants per row this way.
This year, for the first time, I am planting them about 24" on center, and will be pruning to two or three stems and they will be climbing up 7 feet of Jut twine. I am now getting 13 - 14 plants per row. That means I am getting 30% more plants in the same space. So, if the plants produce anything more than 30% less than a non pruned plant, the production will be the same or more.
I am mainly trying to get more airflow, as my cages would just get so full of foliage. These were 18" cages too.
Time will tell.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
yardenman(z7 MD)

I have 22" cages and give them 4 inches between, closer get diseases, further doesn't seem to help much.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

A 26" spacing is plenty, even if you do not prune.

Most space requirement is just to accommodate top growth, not the roots requirement. It also served GARDENER'S CONVINIENCE. that combined with a big cage, the gardener has much less work to do. But say wit 18" spacing, one has to do a lot of pruning and tying.

We all express our views here. In my opinion, a HUGE towering plant, left to grow on its own, does not meant that it will produce HUGE crop. Definitely, if we plant 2 identical plants,, one in 9 sqr-ft and other in 3 sqr-ft., the first will produce more fruits, FOR sure. BUT will it produce 3 times as much of the one planted in 3 sqr-ft ? that is quite debateable and I personally don't believe that it can happen. Twice as much ? maybe. It is an expectable probability.
The bottom line is that if land resource is no an object, by all means space them @ 3 ft., install a 2ft diam. cage and sit back, relax and enjoy your drink:)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Am wondering how those requirements change in regards to climate. I can get plants to 7 feet growth but it would be to detriment of production, our summer generally coolish in June and what I get in Sept is a bonus already so couple of flashes indeterminates and we are done. I think spacing and pruning has to be determined on case by case basis with just general suggestions kept in mind.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OP here. Thanks for all the inputs, everybody. :)

We're definitely Zone 9, smack dab in the center of California's Sacramento Valley. Major agriculture everywhere around me -- almonds, walnuts, olives, rice, livestock feed. We have long, hot summers. Jul-Aug-Sep are daily avg highs in the mid-90s every year.

I'm noticing that my wood cages block a bit of sunlight, so I may have to tear down and re-built next year. Also, I need to prune my Mulberry a bit as it blocks the sun in the afternoon. Most of the sun they get is morning sun.

Next year... maybe with the Tormato support, in buckets, in the front yard.

I've gone ahead and pruned everything I could to single stem. I had to keep a couple as two stem because the second stem was already bigger than a pencil and I didn't want to stunts the plants if not necessary.

Still tons of airspace so far. Most are approaching 18" tall at this point.

Here is a link that might be useful: Avg Weather

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:54AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
How do I stabilize a possible hybrid?
Hi, I am in New Zealand where heirloom seeds are relatively...
Has Anybody Grown This Tomato ?
I was in HD looking for Big Beef seeds. But they did...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Can I prevent mealy tomatoes?
I cut open my first ripen tomato and it was totally...
Supermarket Tomatoes Plants II
Here we go again. I have started 8 more seedlings for...
Sorry, Don't like Sungold
Contrary to popular beliefs I find them much too sweet,...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™