I cut off my plant's central stem

AaronPee(8)June 29, 2013

This is my second year growing tomatoes, still a novice. It appears I cut the top of the central stem off of one of my plants-- an indeterminate Zebra Green-- while pruning, and didn't notice until a couple of days later. Now all my other plants have flowers, but this one just has leaf growth and doesn't seem to be gaining height. Did I ruin this plant's chances of setting fruit, or is it possible the plant will generate a new central stem?

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uscjusto

I've seen tomato plants that are pruned by cutting the top half of the plant off, right at the central stem. Growers do this to encourage the plant to grow out rather than up.

Your plant should recover if the root system is intact and healthy.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 1:38AM
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miesenbacher(7)

You should have suckers coming out of the existing branches. They will form new stems.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:18AM
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AaronPee(8)

Heheh, miesenbacher, I actually pinched all the suckers too; but yes, there will undoubtedly be more!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:54PM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

I constantly try to wrap my head around why people seem to feel a need to prune their tomatoes. I say, just let em grow. (Unless you NEED to open up the center for airflow to prevent disease or something.) I trim neither 'suckers' nor stems nor central leaders. I do know that other people do it differently. I just doubt all their 'efforts' are actually helping.

Anyway, having cut off the growing top is not a disaster by any means. Just don't trim any more, and let the tomato find its own way. It should have one or more good growing tips within 2 weeks or so.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 12:58AM
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AaronPee(8)

fcivish: I read that for determinate varieties, which produce their fruit all at once, it is better not to prune, except to remove lower stems early on to help strengthen the central stem. I read that for indeterminate varieties, which continue to produce fruit until frost or so, pruning suckers as well as non-fruit-bearing stems is recommended as it will increase the size of fruits as well as the overall yield measured by pounds.

But, as my original post states, this is my second year growing tomatoes, and my first year keeping notes for future reference, so my practices are all based on hearsay.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 5:24AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I read that for indeterminate varieties, which continue to produce fruit until frost or so, pruning suckers as well as non-fruit-bearing stems is recommended as it will increase the size of fruits as well as the overall yield measured by pounds.

One can read all sorts of things but that doesn't make them true, or even worth trying. There is ample research available, and discussions here about it, that proves that what you read is NOT true.

You may get a marginal increase in the size of some of the fruit but the overall amount will be substantially reduced.

Your choice.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:33AM
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sue_ct(z6 CT)

This pruning suckers things goes back at least 40 years, passed down among home gardeners. We did it growing up. A lot has been researched and learned since then and lot more info is available to you via the web. The problem is people keep passing along the old stuff without finding out if its true or if there is a better way first. I second what Dave said. Just because you read it doesn' t make it true. The problem is that so many people believe this you read it a lot and assume so many people can't be wrong. They can.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 11:43AM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

I grow around 125 to 150 tomato plants each year, for fun and breeding, and I have been doing it for DECADES (I won't say how long, exactly). Almost ALL of my tomatoes are indeterminates. I just don't LIKE determinates, for the most part. (For one thing, Indeterminates usually beat Determinates for TASTE, because they are NOT bred for commercial farm production, where appearance and shipping ability are paramount, but taste is not very important.)

I put all of my tomatoes into large, 54 inch tall cages and similar things, including home made tomato towers. I NEVER NEVER NEVER deliberately trim a tomato plant off, or a sucker or any type of branch, unless I NEED to do so for some reason. Naturally, there is almost never a real NEED to do so. I actually go YEARS between deliberately trimming a single branch.

My tomatoes grow well, grow all season long, produce early and keep producing right up to frost. I have never seen ANY evidence from ANY source that trimming tomato plants, branches, suckers, etc produces more fruit, better fruit or larger fruit.

That is why I said I just have trouble wrapping my head around the ideas that some people have that we must trim trim trim our tomatoes. I'm just like, "WOW!"

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 4:17AM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

It is well known in the Orchard industry that pruning your trees is actually a stunting technique.

I think it is the same thing with tomatoes, though this may be less obvious.

Each stem, branch and leaf is a source of production for the tomato. The chloroplasts process sunlight in all the green areas and turn it into sugar. This sugar is then used to make such things as starch, cellulose, pectin and other components of the plant and fruit. In other words, consider each little leaf and twig to be a miniature motor for your plant, providing it with growth and fruit potential. It is true you might not need ALL of those motors. And by trimming some of them, you might force the remaining ones to be more efficient, but you will NEVER increase efficiency enough to replace what you have removed, in my opinion.

Mother nature knows best. The genes of the tomato plant direct it to grow and take maximum advantage of the conditions it sees. I think it sees better than you do, in almost all circumstances.

(I do want to make clear I am not condemning you. Many people trim their tomatoes. Hey, they are your tomatoes, you can do what you want. I am just trying to state my case for my personal belief about why people might not want to do that.)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 6:15PM
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thejewster

Never prune tomato plants. Trust Me. Cutting the main stem at an early stage is not the end of the world.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:56AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

This pruning suckers things goes back at least 40 years, passed down among home gardeners.

My mom will be 91 next month. Her father trained her to prune all tomato suckers.

Observation taught me that it's not a good idea.

Just took Mom the first tomato of the season Wednesday (a Husky Cherry Red from one of the pots on the front porch).

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:18AM
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ncrealestateguy

What is never mentioned by the growers that say pruning decreases yield is that you can plant 30% more plants in the same space as opposed to just letting them go. So, if the pruning process causes anything less than a 30% yield in fruit, then you will be ahead in productivity.
I will know for sure by the end of this season as this is my first year pruning to 3 stems. Like I said, I was able to get 30% more plants in the same space.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:52PM
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ryseryse_2004

Tomatoes don't need to be pruned. Let them grow up/flower/produce.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:46PM
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CaraRose

If you got room, do it. If you're like me and attempting to grow 6 toms in a 2x3 raised bed, you're going to have to prune. The trade off of lost production per plant is made up by more plants in a small space, and more of different varieties so I can try lots of different kinds.

Mine are currently doing quite well in their 1 sf spacing and being pruned to two stems. Should be interesting to see how they handle such a small space by late summer when they're all quite large.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 5:17PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Posted by RyseRyse_2004 5 (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 15:46

Tomatoes don't need to be pruned. Let them grow up/flower/produce.
%%%%%%%%%

There are two major schools of growing tomatoes:

SCHOOL 1: Tomatoes don't need to be pruned. Let them grow up/flower/produce (In your own words).

SCHOOL 2: Prune them down to shape and size that you, (The gardener) thinks that they should be in, not the way the plants decide to be . You are the master of destiny in your garden not the plants to dictate to you. (In my own words).

Disclaimer: TO EACH THEIR OWN.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:22AM
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ncrealestateguy

Ryse, I never said they need to be pruned. I only emphasized that all the naysayers against pruning need to complete the thought of, "pruning decreases productivity" by adding ", BUT, pruning allows the grower to grow about 30% more plants in the same place"

So, while it may be true that pruning lowers productivity per plant, it may or may not lower productivity for the entire garden space.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 7:10AM
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sleevendog

So the op's question was answered that it will recover even though it has been heavily 'pruned'. And expect a much lower yield in fruit...

I can't wrap my head around those that do not prune can't wrap their head around those that do...
I prune because i want more varieties in a smaller space and need to go 'up' with trellising and protect from critters and bunnies and such...

My neighbor wants volume and grows 30 plums, two varieties, so he can make sauce....
removes skins, and all the watery seeds cavities...then cooks to death...
I want fresh and many varieties...many oxhearts that do so well for me and are meaty, not watery...freeze whole, roast then freeze, etc. at the end of season. Much different wants and needs and desires.
He did not want any of my extra plants this year. I might just stick them out in the field with the sunflower rows...let them be...and might get the best crop of my life! : )

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:53AM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

There certainly COULD be reasons to prune, such as a desire to put more plants into less space, as has been stated. Also, I have had Indeterminate plants that reached 14 feet and more in length in one growing season. This is a bit unwieldy. And, pruning can help with trellising, help open up air flow, etc. BUT, I guess what I am saying is pruning a plant will MOST LIKELY reduce the production on that pruned plant. So, I think that people who prune tomatoes to INCREASE production on those plants are most likely making a mistake.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:50AM
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ApacheRosePea00

This is my first year gardening so I am torn on the pruning discussion here. I do have a question though.

If anyone can answer me one question, I have one plant that just now decided to really grow vertically. It has 5 or 6 main vines but only two are near my trellis. Can I top the other vines to stop their growth(if not, they are going to end up on the ground or breaking off in a strong wind)? This information would be much appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:58PM
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