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To prune or not to prune

St. Simon's Island, GA(Zone 9a)

What is the general consensus about pruning the sucker shoots off of tomatoes? I don't plant bush types, because I don't have the space, and I do stake my plants, but I can't decide if pruning is more helpful than not pruning. Any thoughts?

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Think of them as lateral branches. The reason to prune is to shape the plant and to open it up to increase airflow. Some times they are pruned to try to get them to fruit sooner. It depends on your particular situation. Try some each way

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

2011 we had lots of tomatoes staked in our garden. I kept them pruned to main stem. We got loads of very big tomatoes. Ripened earlier than other peoples tomatoes.
Didn't do it last year & had a lousy crop. I will be back to pruning this year.
I have pruned in my hoop houses for last 15 years. It's a must in there.

Thumbnail by CountryGardens
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I try to remove the suckers on my indeterminate tomatoes and I have always a huge crop.
I have a few small determinate varieties that grow like shrubs and I don't remove the suckers there. Example for the Gold Nugget tomato plant.
But yes, 99% I remove the suckers.
Since I plant many varieties close together, If I don't remove the suckers I will just have a giant tangle.

The plants will have more ventilation and sun between the leaves avoiding any kind of problem.

St. Simon's Island, GA(Zone 9a)

Thanks, I appreciate the info. I will sharpen my pruners and be ready.

East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

Ok, this is going to sound incredibly stupid, I'm sure, but when you say prune to main stem, CountryGardens, does that mean that you have the main stem and then you have , say, a branch (ignore incorrect terminology) coming off it and then you remove absolutely every sort of tertiary branch that begins to grow from that secondary branch? I don't know if I've explained that well enough. I have a mental block about pruning and am convinced that I never quite understand what I'm supposed to do whether it's tomatoes, fruit trees, kiwis, hazelnuts, raspberries...

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

First picture is before pruning, second is same plant pruned.
Only leave the original main stem.

Thumbnail by CountryGardens Thumbnail by CountryGardens
East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

Thank you, CountryGardens. It looks basically like you're just diligently removing suckers, right? I do have one more question - do you prune aggressively the bottom 12 or 18" of the main stem to keep leaves off the ground?

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Yes, just enough to keep them off the ground.
Remove leaves when you lower stems to ground.

East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

Thanks much.

Decatur, GA

Well with this advise and great pictures I may have to try pruning. I just seemed to me in the past that the more branches and leaves the better the plant would perform. But I guess not. It still seems counter intuitive but I am going to try it this year with some of my plants for comparison.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I think a lot of it has to do with your growing conditions. Here, in the heat and humidity, pruning allows for better air circulation. That being said I've gotten a ton of tomatoes from plants that are sprawling, and not even staked.

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

I mostly prune to a single leader (main stem) but depending on the tomatoe will do up to I find cherrys get bigger when held to 3 leaders. Listen to Bernie he knows his stuff.

This is the way a friend of mine treats his tomatoes.

Thumbnail by eweed

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