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prune or not to prune?

Posted by ChicagoDeli37 none (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 2, 12 at 17:00

Mixed thoughts on what I should do.
this season I have 6 different tomatos
all about 18 inches apart. These too in front
I did a few clippings of suckers but not much.
I had someone explain it to me really fast
But not in detail of how to actually prune.
here's the pic of the two growing fast right into
eachother. I have them tied up to stake
but are still kind of just going wild.

Left is better boy
Right early girl 50

From what I read...pruning allows the plant
to grow neater straight up the stake.
It produces less tomatoes but better
quality..because instead of focusing energy
on all the extra stems and leafs it focusing on
Making tomatoes better.
How true this is I do not know..
I definitely would like to learn to prune
And keep them much neater.
Any info would help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: prune or not to prune?

I wish I had advice for you, but I actually just have the same question, with a few differences, so I'm going to piggyback on your question.

I'm in New Orleans, planted young tomato plants in March, and they're now around five feet tall. I'm not used to my tomato plants getting so big, so for awhile, I just marveled at the size of them. But they're really not producing well. I've had a few big tomatoes, but the caterpillars get to them before they ripen. There are a few big, green ones on the plants now, but I don't want the caterpillar cycle to repeat. (I have used BT on them, which helped, but my question is really about pruning).

I also planted too close together, having no idea that they'd get so big, and now it's difficult to even get into the "tomato forest" in order to harvest.

With all the extreme heat, is cutting back a bad idea? And if I can cut back, I assume that doing it in the evening would be better, right? Also, how much can I cut back?

RE: prune or not to prune?

from what i can see / i would prune the branches and leaves that are touching or near the ground/ myself i like them roughly 8 or 10 inches above the ground / i myself dont think 18 inches are nearly far enough apart but as far as pruning the top of the plant i wouldnt it wont hurt them to touch each other

RE: prune or not to prune?

Hi to both of you. First i need to tell you that there are many discussions here about this question - pruning or not - that the search will pull up for you to read. It is one of the most common questions asked. We also have a great FAQ on it simply because it is so common.

As long as you understand that it is strictly optional and never required, that determinate varieties are never pruned, and that there is no such thing as 'suckers' then it is your choice. For most the need to prune or not is directly correlated to the method of support used - cages and Florida weave requires none, single stake supports may require some.

From what I read...pruning allows the plant to grow neater straight up the stake. It produces less tomatoes but better quality..because instead of focusing energy on all the extra stems and leafs it focusing on Making tomatoes better. How true this is I do not know..

Neater up the stake, maybe, but the rest is just someone's personal opinion. Improved quality claims are not supported by any research. Claims related to 'energy focus' are also not supported by research. What research does show is that pruning reduces the plant's ability to photosynthesize energy and sharply reduces production. Indeed many experienced gardeners would strongly disagree with both of your claims. So again, it your choice.

As to your specific circumstances, when plants are placed far too close together then some pruning may be required even though it will reduce production. Better spacing and proper selection of plant types is more efficient and effective. In some cases those options may not be available but if smaller, easily staked and neatly growing plants are your goal then stick with determinate varieties rather than indeterminates.


Here is a link that might be useful: Pruning FAQ

RE: prune or not to prune?

Thanks for the info. I think planting different types next to eachother was a bad idea. Determinate are obviously neater but what else is the difference? Once they fruit don't they stop? Unlike the other ones that keep going ?

RE: prune or not to prune?

I prune mine to keep the circulation possible. Central Va has massive heat and humidity so I don't want any chance wind to be blocked. 18 inches is too close for any tomato, Determinate or not. Pretty sure Determinates produce all at one time for easier harvesting. They are not that much smaller, in my experience, but they don't keep growing if a branch is lost.

RE: prune or not to prune?

I think planting different types next to each other was a bad idea.

Not sure what you mean by this? Do you mean planting different varieties next to each other? If so then that is no problem. Most tomato growers plant different varieties next to each other. If you mean different types - as in determinate or indeterminate - then yes that can cause problems because the indeterminates can shade out the determinates.

But Better Boy and Early Girl are both indeterminate varieties.

The real issue is planting them so close together. 3-4 foot spacing is normal so can you explain why you did 18"? Are you trying to do Square Foot Gardening?

Determinate are obviously neater but what else is the difference?

Determinate varieties are an average of 4 feet tall rather than the 8-10+ feet tall of indeterminates (the more you prune indeterminates the taller they get). Yes, they do tend to set their fruit spread over approx. a 1 month time frame and once the very top blossom cluster sets its fruit the plant stops growing taller. This does NOT mean that all the fruit ripen at the same time - it doesn't - and the fruit is distributed fairly evenly throughout the plant. Once the last of the fruit ripen you just pull the plant and if your growing season is long enough you replace it with a new plant.

I'm not sure what Harvey means by "they don't keep growing if a branch is lost" because unless it is the main stem that breaks off they do keep growing. That is why they are never pruned - because the lateral branches are what produces the fruit.

Indeterminate varieties are vines. They will keep growing as long as the weather allows and as long as good growing conditions are provided. This does not mean they will keep producing fruit all that time. They won't. They will shut down during periods of summer high heat and then pick up again once the weather cools IF they don't get diseased and IF you keep them well watered and well fed.

Healthy indeterminate varieties can get 12 to 16 feet tall or even more if that is what you want and if you have the room and the support. But that isn't what most small home gardeners want or can cope with and you can't support them with a stake alone.

So, if you are located in Chicago as your name implies (you really need to make that clear by including your zone/location in your posts as the rest of us do) then you are zone 5a or 5b if by the lake and IF you have a small garden then determinate varieties, planted 3 feet apart and staked as yours are, will serve you very well. You can also grow indeterminate varieties but you will have to plant them at least 3 feet apart and use big cages, not stakes, and do some limited pruning of leaf branches for the best production.

Hope this helps.


RE: prune or not to prune?

to add to this question, My Toms are planted about 36 inches apart and the leaves are just about touching each other. They are in 20 diameter 6 foot tall cages that i made from a garden mesh. My issue is that growing season is only about half over and my plants are already over seven feet tall. Pretty soon the main shoots are just going to kink and flop over.

I also debate whether to trim.

Thanks for you expertise.


RE: prune or not to prune?

What I DO thim, however, is a portion of the inner leaves within the cage just to keep the air flowing throughout the plant's inner matrix.

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