Vegetable gardeners have argued for years about whether they should prune tomato plants. Some gardeners are very religious about their pruning tomatoes, while others could care less. So which gardener is right? I have had successful tomato crops when I pruned and also when I didn’t prune tomato plants. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of pruning tomato plants:
Advantages of Pruning Tomato Plants
- Pinching off the “suckers” from a tomato plant will help the plant to concentrate its energy on the growing fruit instead of the leaves, creating better, healthier fruit. This is a process simply called “Pinching off”. Pinching off is done by pinching off the small branches that form in the “Y” between the main stem and a branch.
- Pruning any branching off at the bottom of the tomato plant that is touching the ground helps to ward off insects and especially disease, such as blights and wilts. Just clip the one or two branches, with garden shears or scissors, that are touching the soil right near the stem. Be careful not to snip into the stem when performing this task!
- Pruning the tomato plant also creates a neater, less cluttered looking tomato plant.
Disadvantages of Pruning Tomato Plants
- If you live in a very warm climate, pruning the tomato plant could hamper production. Having the extra foliage on the plant will help shade the fruit from direct sun light preventing sunscald on the fruit. Pruning the plant can expose the tomatoes to the hot sun.
- Pruning tomato plants should begin during the early stages of growth – when the plant reaches a height around 12 – 18 inches. Waiting to prune later on in the development could cause it to go into shock, reducing production (These can occur if you prune alot of branches at one time).
- For pruning to be successful you must continually keep up with the growth of the tomato plant and catch suckers when they are small. The suckers are much easier to pinch when they have just started to sprout.
If you have never pruned your tomatoes, try experimenting with one plant and see if there are any production differences between the pruned and unpruned plants. You might be surprised by what you find!