Pruning Cherry Tomatoes

ctnewbie08June 5, 2008

This is my first time gardening, so forgive the newbie question, but I have to know - are the rules to pruning cherry tomatoes any different from pruning regular tomatoes? I have a lovely cherry tomato plant growing wonderfully and along the main stem there are about 7-8 branches. The flowering branches are mainly towards the top of the plant.

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city_tomato

Why prune at all? You'll get more maters if you don't.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 5:22PM
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solanaceae

Actually that is not true. One may end up with more tomatoes with pruning indeterminate plants. The first question is this determinate or indeterminate. It applies to determinate.
The reason why pruning may help is lower leaves will end up being shaded rather early.The plant is directing energy in a non productive area in that case and takes more energy than it makes. A taller pruned plant will expend energy into growth that is likely to receive light through the season. You do have to get this right. Remember a tomato plant thinks its going to sprawl like its wild Peruvian cousin. If you train it up it will not sprawl and sections will be shaded that would not be naturally.
There are other factors such as vertical space. In hot area shading as much as possible also is desired. I think its very specific to your goal but it does not necessarily impact production. Pruning may encourage disease or may prevent it.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 5:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

are the rules to pruning cherry tomatoes any different from pruning regular tomatoes?

First we really have to know what you mean by this as many interpret the so-called rules very differently. ie: many mistakenly think that you HAVE to prune. So how do you define the "rules"? And how are you supporting it and what variety is it and is it in the garden or in a container? ;)

Personally, determinate or indeterminate, all I would do is remove the leaf branches below the first fruit cluster and leave the rest. I wouldn't prune any further unless I was having trouble supporting it for some reason or if it is growing in a really crowded location of some sort. Then I might trim back some of the leaf branches. But all the suckers will produce fruit for you so removing them could cost you fruit to eat.

Dave

PS: Have you checked out the FAQ here on Pruning? It may be of help.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 6:20PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I agree that there are no pruning rules, at least that I know of. So I'm curious as to what others consider rules.

Strictly speaking tomatoes don't need sunlight to pollenize or to grow or to ripen. It can change color sometimes, but growth proceeds. How many of you have pulled ripe tomatoes from the center of your plants where it is shady?

But the energy for all those processes comes from photosynthesis and if you prune heavily you decrease the foliage cover which decreases ATP energy production.

In addition, many folks like to have some backup foliage in case foliage diseases appear.

Further, having a good foliage cover can also help deter initial problems with sunscald, which usually doesn't start until fruits are being harvested and the vines are being rearranged.

No need to prune determinates and with indeterminates most of my tomato growing friends may remove some of the lower branches to help deter splashback reinfection of foliage pathogens shed in a previous year.

I do think there are many folks who still feel that pruning, that is removing suckers, aka lateral branches, is necessary b'c suckers "suck" energy from the plant and they don't produce blossoms and fruit.

That's not true.

Carolyn, who not only considers most pruning to be plant abuse, LOL, but also used to grow almost all of her tomatoes by sprawling, which is fine if one has the room, which I did, and one isn't growing near a slug farm. ( smile) And it sure saves a lot of work. Most of the techniques of staking and trellising came to this country with Italian immigrants in the late 1800's who adapted the methods they used for grapes and tomatoes in italy to the tomatoes they grew in the USA.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 7:33PM
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sprouts_honor(5, southern shore of Erie)

If using a cage support, I usually prune a few of the suckers because the plant usually out grows the cage and can tip over even if the cage is tethered to a stake. Plus, I always have so many cherry tomatoes and can't give them away. So losing a few due to pruning isn't a bad thing. I usually prune the leaves near the bottom/inside later in the season. It makes it easier to harvest fruit in the middle of the cage and provides some air circulation. If you support with a trellis, you won't have that problem.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 9:58PM
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ctnewbie08

Thanks for all the responses! Note to Newbie-self, "never use the word 'rules' amoungst gardeners!" LOL

Since some were curious, I found the pruning "guide" from this site: http://www.taunton.com/finegardening/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx?nterms=74872

I just wondered if you treat a cherry tomato plant like any other tomato plant and from what I could piece apart from all of your answers it sounds like I should. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 11:09AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Please keep in mind, that just like all the opinions expressed here, that site is just another gardener's opinion. ;) It isn't considered an absolute authority in other words.

The need to prune all depends on the type of tomato and how you support it. Experiment and see which works best for you.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 11:15AM
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piantini

This site helped me pretty good!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Plant Pruning

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 12:48PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It's the same site ctnewbie08 linked and yes, it is an informative site but please recognize that it is just one opinion on the subject - not tomato gospel. ;) Many find that some of the claims it makes can't be supported by hands-on experience. So as I said, don't take it all at face value. Instead, experiment, see what works best for you in your garden.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 1:04PM
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trudi_d

I prune only for safety reasons or to cut down on jungle-like growth. With an IND cherry tomato which can grow to humongous size pruning isn't goting to effect cropping--you will have loads of fruits either way.

If the plant has stems which develop into something that you would trip over then prune them back.

If the plant is crowding your space then prune it back too--it's your garden and YOU are the boss of your plants. Don't be a slave to them; give yourself adequate walking and shoulder room so you are comfortable.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 1:14PM
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solanaceae

I have also read one other reason besides the particular space one is working with is pruning may cause earlier fruit at the cost of total productivity. Someone with a lot of plants may benefit from pruning a few plants to get early fruit until the others take over.
An interesting experiment it would be.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 1:15PM
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trudi_d

Do you have a link or article title with author so we can look at that?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 2:50PM
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johnny_tomato_seed

Sorry to get off the subject just a bit. Okay, I read the organic magic a few times and seems there are a lot of speculation on what happens but nothing specific as far as timeline and when that "switch" turns on where energy is put toward making tomatoes instead of foliage. So I am going to try to make an educated guess using analogy. Please don't be offended. It's the best way I can try to guess it.

Pruned tomato = Person dropping out of high school to go work for McDonalds.
Unpruned tomato = Person who goes to college or higher education.

So in the link, the person did a side by side experiment where he pruned one plant completely down to a stem, the other one plant he pruned all the suckers, but had more stems.

He found that early on the extremely pruned plant grew taller faster and fruit earlier, ie the high school kid decided to spend no more money on books and go work for McDonald instead. So he saved up some money and was able to buy some bling bling, ie got tomatoes earlier.

This goes for a while. The kid who went off to college had to spent money on books, etc...(building the plant). He is "building his foundation".

So fast forward 5 years later, the kid at Mcdonalds got some money in the bank (tall plants) and bought himself a few more luxury items (tomatoes). Now the college kid got a nice big offer from a big company and soon he got money not only to catch up but surpasses the high school kid, more plants, foliage, flowers.

This is my analogy and how I understand it. I am reading that the majority of people agrees that pruning will give you taller plant and fruits SOONER. But in the long run, you will suffer because of less fruit production. But if you spend all your money (energy) on growing plants and not prune at all, you may stretch your resources thin and get smaller tomatoes and less tasty ones ???

There's got to be a middle ground somewhere, meaning pruning just enough in the beginning and let them go when they get tall enough. This way you can get a mixture of abundant fruit, big fruit, and tasty ones. But then again, the fact that any pruning was done will limit fruit production. Can't the pruners and non-pruners just get along? ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: organic magic

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 11:11AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I am reading that the majority of people agrees that pruning will give you taller plant and fruits SOONER. But in the long run, you will suffer because of less fruit production.

There most definitely is a middle ground. ;) But first, the assumptions you are making:

1. the majority of people DON'T agree that pruning will give you a taller plant and fruit sooner. Some believe that, many do not. Raybo has a photo posted here in another thread of an 8' tall CP that isn't pruned and bearing fruit. I have also posted pics in the past of 8' Giant Belgiums - never pruned and full of 1 1/2 to 2 lb. fruit.

I currently have a 5' Sweet Cluster never pruned with blushing fruit on at the same time that my lightly pruned 4' Stupice (early variety) is ripening its first fruit. I also have 4 Black Cherries topping 5 feet that have never been pruned at all and will likely hit 8' by summer end.

If you prune extensively then yes, I would agree that you sacrifice production for 2 reasons. First, you have lost permanently all of the energy resources those pruned branches would have provided to the plant and you are risking, in some climates, fruit loss due to sun scald. Pruners say you make up for that lost production by being able to put more plants in the same space. I can see that logic if all you want to to taste many different varieties. But if your goal is as much tomato production in the space available, the logic escapes me. ;)

2. But if you spend all your money (energy) on growing plants and not prune at all, you may stretch your resources thin and get smaller tomatoes and less tasty ones.

I don't agree. First, unless you are applying massive does of nitrogen, your plant growth keeps pace with the fruit production and vice-versa. Second, since size is primarily genetically determined a normal fertilizing and watering program will provide you with what are normal sized fruit for the variety. ie: the Giant Belgiums I mentioned above.

As to less taste? Granted, some taste (which is a very subjective value judgment anyway) MAY be lost due to the extra watering required late in the season in hot climates that loss can be prevented with earlier picking. But if the unpruned plant remains mostly healthy, even late in the season the fruit should still contain about the same sugar/acid balance, so the same taste.

The "Organic Magic" site and claims made on it have been discussed here numerous times in the past (search "organic magic") and refuted by many in great detail. Some even tried the experiment and posted comparisons. You may wish to review those discussions as well. Then try your own experiment as many of us have in the past - prune one and leave another and take notes. It is the best way to find out what works best for you in your garden environment.

Hope this is of some help to you.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 2:04PM
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johnny_tomato_seed

Dave:

Once again your wisdom is invaluable. What I meant to say is that those that believe pruning helps believe that they fruit sooner and be taller. Sorry for not being more clear, ;-). I won't be pruning my cage unless the foliage gets in the way of getting to the fruits. But I will be pruning the florida weave tomatoes, just for space and support reasons.

I can't wait to post pictures of my fruit and plants on this site, no doubt with my thanks and gratitude to the wisdom of Dave and Carolyn ;-). I learned so much in a short time.

Happy Harvesting !!!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 4:38PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Then you have a great comparison study going already! Good for you.

I'm doing one of my own this year - decided to try a Florida weave for the first time to compare production, ease of care, plant health, etc. I cheated a bit and planted them a bit further apart than the typical weave calls for and only weaved/wove 4 plants to a set of 3 poles - I know it's overcompensating but I'm chicken when it comes to new experiments. ;) With 2 separate sets going and the further spacing I hope to not have to prune as much as normally recommended. So far all is going well and they sure are going to be easier to pick than the caged ones.

Happy Gardening!

Dave

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 5:06PM
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