There's a reason why growing tomatoes is often the kick start of a new vegetable garden. As the top home garden vegetable and favorite garden crop, the taste of a fresh tomato taken right off its vine is incomparable to those in the market or grocery store.
Like most plants, tomatoes require care and attention for great-tasting fruit production. Part of this maintenance is pruning your tomato plant. Although pruning is optional, this technique is beneficial to the plant in terms of its appearance and fruit production. Learning the proper way on how to prune your tomato plant will help you achieve healthier and more productive tomato plants.
Before learning how to prune your tomato plant, it's very important for vegetable garden owners to understand the difference between the two types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes are often called "bush" varieties as they do not continue extending in length throughout the season. These tomatoes grow about 4 to 5 feet tall, and do not grow any further than that. They develop all of their fruit for a relatively brief period of time, making them favorable for commercial growers who want to mechanically harvest the fruit at once. Determinate tomatoes do not require pruning as doing so will reduce the fruit production rather than increasing it.
Unlike determinate varieties, indeterminate "vining" tomatoes continue to extend in length and produce fruit regularly over the course of its growing season. They grow stems, leaves, and fruits as long as they're thriving. If given enough space and trained, the plant will continue to grow upwards. Pruning indeterminates keep the huge vines in control, and skillfully doing so will result in a healthy and abundant crop.
To sum it up, determinate tomatoes require little to no pruning compared to indeterminate varieties.
The first reason why you need to prune your tomato plants is to make sure that the majority of its energy will be diverted to fruit production rather than on vegetative growth. Pruning also helps develop bigger fruit and speed up the ripening process since the plant has fewer leaves and fruit to take care of. Fruit production is sustained throughout the season and this continuous supply lasts until frost.
Pruning excess stems and canes also improves the air circulation and allows abundant sunlight to your plants. With good airflow, the plant dries faster after rain and becomes less susceptible to diseases caused by prolonged moisture. Reducing the number of leaves also makes it easier to spot pests, minimizing the risk of disease and damaged foliage while maximizing the efficiency of air circulation and photosynthesis.
The best cutting tool you can use to prune your tomatoes would be a pruner or garden clipper. This one-handed cutting tool is designed to be lighter and easier to control so you can work your way into the tomato stems, which rarely exceed an inch in diameter.
Most tomato plant owners use bypass pruners since they work well when pruning tomatoes. The scissor-like blades of bypass pruning shears maneuver best in tight spaces between branches and make the cleanest cuts for live stems, reducing the damage to the plant.
If you're looking for premium-quality garden shears, make sure they have a safety lock mechanism to prevent the blades from being wide open when not in use, which can pose a potential danger to anyone around. Of course, the best pruner has razor-sharp blades and is made to a high-quality standard, complemented by a protective coating to prevent rust and corrosion. There are many other features you can look for so it's best to learn how to choose pruning shears in detail.
Pruning techniques vary from one gardener to another.
One popular pruning practice that gardeners use is what they call, "Missouri pruning." Start by pinching off the tip of each sucker, letting one or two leaflets in place. Continue doing so until the plant reaches about 18 inches high to make sure your plant develops strong roots. Missouri pruning allows the plant to divert its energy in developing leafy foliage for photosynthesis and to protect the fruit from sunscald. This pruning method also applies best for places with warmer climates.
On the other hand, "simple pruning" involves removing the suckers entirely while they're still small and succulent. Begin by grabbing the base of the sucker between your thumb and index finger, bending it back and forth until it snaps off. Only use a knife or a sharp and quality pair of garden shears like the PrecisionPRO garden scissors when the sucker becomes too tough or leathery to remove by hand. Remember to disinfect your pruning shears before you proceed to another plant to prevent possible transmission of disease-causing bacteria.
Whichever method you choose, it's best to prune your tomato plants by removing the suckers immediately while they are still small. This allows the plant to keep its main stem strong and prevent the suckers from growing into weaker stems that are susceptible to bacteria, fungi, and viral infections that may spread throughout the plant.
Pruning your tomatoes not only maximizes fruit production, it also keeps your plant healthy and away from disease-causing bacteria and fungus that can cause damage when left unnoticed. Whether you're snapping the suckers off or using a clean pair of garden clippers, remember to prune your tomatoes regularly!
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