Should I prune Better Boy tomato plants?

sureshot006(6)June 21, 2012

This is my first year growing better boy tomatoes. They've been in the ground for 5 weeks, are about 36" tall, have a TON of leaves and stems (in my inexperienced opinion) and a few small tomatoes. I've attached a picture of the tangled mess.

I planted them about 2.5 ft apart, not realizing how huge the plants would get. Last year my tomatoes did terrible because of poor soil. I didn't expect this!

Some are supported by standard tomato cages and twine, the others are supported by wood stakes and twine. The leaves are so dense, I worry about disease.

I know better boy's are indeterminate and don't require pruning. However, I'm not so sure I should let these things grow so many stems. Any advice would be appreciated!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Normally I would say no. It will cost you tomatoes and stresses plants. But given your way too close planting and weak support system I don't think you have any choice but to do some pruning. Just don't get carried away and do it gradually, not all at once.

If stakes are used, even strong tall stakes, then some pruning is almost mandatory unfortunately. And the 3-4 ring so-called tomato cages are a waste of time and money IMO if you are growing indeterminates as they support nothing but small determinate varieties.

You really need to give some serious thought to improving you plant support system for next year. There are many much better systems. Do some research here into real tomato cages made from CRW and also check out the Florida weave system. There are many discussions here on caging and staking plants, many with excellent pictures included.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 10:00PM
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sureshot006(6)

I'll definitely provide better support and space next year!

I had no idea what I was in for. Last year was my first year with a garden and my tomato plants were so spindly and bare, they didn't need any more than a single stake and this spacing would have been fine.

I'll try pruning the inner most parts and see how it goes.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 10:20PM
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qaguy

You want better support? Check out my PVC cage design.

IMHO, it's the best around.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Matkey tomato cage

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 10:38PM
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tim45z10

I cut the suckers off of my better boy and it went into shock. It stopped growing completely, the few tomatoes it had stopped ripening. I ended up pulling it and planting a different one.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:58AM
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tim45z10

I cut the suckers off of my better boy and it went into shock. It stopped growing completely, the few tomatoes it had stopped ripening. I ended up pulling it and planting a different one.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:59AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I cut the suckers off of my better boy and it went into shock. It stopped growing completely, the few tomatoes it had stopped ripening. I ended up pulling it and planting a different one.

Thus the advice above - do it gradually, not all at once. Some people get carried away hacking all of them off - which isn't called for rather than just removing a select few and doing it over a several day period.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 9:44AM
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sureshot006(6)

With the risk of losing the plants because I don't know how they'll react to even slow pruning, I'll probably try to construct better supports around the plants this weekend, and try to help them grow up instead of out.

I do like the pvc idea. I assume they can be disassembled and stored quite compact.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:20PM
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