Commonly seen in the veggie garden is the tomato. In addition to being delicious and having a place alongside or inside of many meals, tomato plants and seeds are widely available. Most everyone can appreciate a crisp tomato on their burger, in their salad, or as part of a pasta dish, and as a result tomatoes are usually the first plant people invest in when they decide to start growing their own food.

Despite the popularity of the tomato, they do not always come easy. Depending on your climate, certain varieties may thrive while others do not. Sometimes your best, most determined efforts are not rewarded with the tomatoes for which you had hoped. This can make tomato growing a bit of a labor of love at times, but it is very much possible to get great tomatoes but adapting to the needs of those that you grow based on the area in which you live. One way to make and keep plants happy is by pruning them for optimum growth.

Pruning is a good choice for a couple of reasons. First off, it gives you the best chance to fight disease before it begins. Additionally, excess vines leech energy that could be going towards creating robust tomatoes. Pruning also creates more and larger tomatoes that are more flavorful. Pruning can be done by hand for smaller plants, but larger vines are best pruned with shears. The reason for this is that it is better to snip off excess rather than risk leaving a rip when pulling by hand. Don’t forget that plants in direct sunlight should be pruned less so than those in shade as some shade is necessary to prevent tomato burn.

When it comes to pruning for disease prevention, you want to remove leaves that are low to the ground. This applies in particular to those that make contact with the ground. Through ground contact, leaves get wet and contract disease which can then be easily spread through the rest of the plant. If leaves are present that are yellowing or have a damaged look to them, remove them immediately to prevent the spread of issues such as blight. In regards to excess leaves and vines, the solution is simple: remove leaves that are lower on the plant and will not be producing tomatoes. In addition to hogging energy, these leaves restrict air flow which can delay ripening.

In order to conduct a successful pruning, you want to begin with the lower leaves on your plant. Anything that touches the soil needs to go as that is a gateway to disease that you do not want. Remove these by hand or with shears as needed. Another part of the plant that may need to go is the sucker shoots growing on indeterminate tomato plants (not determinate). Essentially this means that heirloom tomato plants (indeterminate) need sucker shoots removed since they keep growing whereas determinate plants get to only a certain size before growing stops, then die after producing the first crop which makes this maintenance unnecessary and not beneficial. A good rule of thumb when dealing with sucker shoots on indeterminate plants is that you want to retain a strong main stem with only two or three sucker shoots left intact.

Once you have completed the pruning process, clean up everything you have removed from your tomato plants and take those pieces out of your garden. From then on, care for your plants as usual in order for plants to develop optimally. A little pruning effort now will increase the reward later in terms of bountiful tomatoes for your family to enjoy. Surely no one will object to that!