Does pruning increase taste and size of tomatoes?

lubadub(5B PA)September 7, 2010

Recently I came across several articles stating that pruning suckers and thus limiting the number of vines increases the taste of tomatoes as well as their size. The writers of these articles were not known to me but one referred to a study done at Cornell which supported the taste/size comments. What are the feelings of some of the experts here? What do you think, Carolyn? Does limiting the number of vines on a plant improve the taste and size of the tomatoes?

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It certainly improves the size. That is well documented. It also increases the earliness.

If a certain pruning technique altered temperature and balanced out how sugars gut used/deposited than I could see how that could effect taste.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:32AM
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I've never seen much advantage to pruning other than maybe getting more plants in a smaller space and maybe a hair earlier first tomatoe, but at the cost of overall production in both number of tomatoes and length of harvest.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 8:11PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Size? To a degree for some of the fruit at least but less overall production. Taste? No effect IMO. Any benefits are certainly not enough of a difference in either to warrant all the work associated with pruning not to mention the lost production.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 9:59PM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

Pruning is an art. Getting it right strikes a balance of foliage and fruit. Prune the lower foliage. Limiting main stems to 2, 3, or 4 can increase size while overall production manageable. The support means offers advantages over sprawling in ventilation, disease and pest control and environmental damage (wind and heavy rain). My preference is the trellis method with overhead support of main stems at points below the blossom clusters.

The ability to work around the plants lower sections is easier with pruning. The mulching is easier and there is more working space for companion plantings.

Topping a plant may limit vertical growth but also restricts nutrient flow if too much removed. Remember that the upper leaves protect the fruit from the sun. Some varieties are very prone to scald. Upper pruning may restrict nutrient flow and lead to blossom-end-rot.

There is much more to pruning than the pinching and cutting. Attention to watering and soil are important. Prune dry plants or invite disease. Mulch plants later in the spring to allow the soil to warm.

Look for more local data on varieties and pruning impact.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato support & pruning

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:53AM
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Unless one grows on the ground, there usually little if any statistical difference between pruning and not pruning in the total yield weight between the same system for growing.

The research has found: pruned plants produce earlier. The individual fruits that pruned plants produce tend to be larger fruits than those not pruned with the same system.

Another way to say that is that unpruned plants produce more but smaller fruit. Pruned plants produce fewer but larger fruits (sooner). However, the total yield difference between the two ends usually ends up being the same (controlled studies taken on numerous plants rather than 1 or 2 in a backyard).

Since most market growers get better prices with larger fruits and hitting the market earlier, pruning can be worth the labor.

Since the current research is indicating that temperature seems to have more of an influence on taste than other environmental factors such as light (the previous thinking) and soil, then it could be that pruned plants, with less shading and thus potentially higher temps, might produce a flavor difference. I just haven't seen anything in the research backing that idea. It is just a probability.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 3:04PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

I'd bet that thinning fruit would make the remaining tomatoes bigger and tastier, since each would be fed by more leaves.

I also think that having fairly fat tomato cages gives better results, since the leaves can get more sun and air.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 5:26PM
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We grow dozens of tomato plants, but the ones in our high-tunnel are pruned to two main stems and are continually pruned when suckers start.

The tomatoes tend to be much larger and ripen earlier (may be due to planting earlier in a protected environment, though)

We get ripe tomatoes starting in mid-July here in NH in the high tunnels but late August in the field. The field-grown ones are supported using re-bar and baling twine weaved from the re-bar to the plants and so on. Works like a charm . . . however, you end up with "Walls of Tomato Plants" . . . which is neat in itself.

We'll continue to use both methods since we like early tomatoes, not only for eating but for the Farmers' Market!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 1:44PM
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wiringman(ZONE 4)

my experince is quite like Mulio's

one more advantage is easier harvest.

an example is last year i pruned and trellised my opalka tomatoes to one ore two main branches and i got way better production and up to 1 pound fruit. this year i got ill and didn't get to them. the result was much less fruit and smaller fruit.

well that is just two different years look at things.

i do prune suckers with vengeance. i am sure that directs the plants energy into the fruit as that is how it reproduces it's self.

the best way to decide is to try it your self and see if the work is worth it.

another benefit is a neater garden and you can plnat more in less space.

the way i look at it is seed is cheep and with trellises i can plant more plants in less space that results in more and bigger fruit at an earlier date.

i live in zone 4 so we have to work to get good production.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 3:52AM
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To me it's..."If you want the NFL....GO to the NFL". Or, if you want big tomatoes....GROW the big tomatoes! Like Big Zac, Porterhouse, etc. You can prune a Stupice all ways but Sunday's and you still have a ping pong ball. Sure you might get a slightly larger ping pong ball by 5% but it's still a ping pong ball. I don't prune a single healthy branch and have mostly huge healthy plants and grow monsters on my varieties that are supposed to grow monsters. Gene Pool trumps. Same for taste IMO....Genes trump all.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 7:59AM
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hocasati(Willamette Valley Z6)

Organicdan: Thank you for the educational link on how to train and prune tomatoes.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 8:24PM
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melon_grower(ZONE 10)

It helps to maximize the size of the tomato. I have one with a 16-inche circumference. I did not weight so I don't know how much and I gave it away so I don't know what it tastes like. All I've heard is that it was good.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 2:27PM
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