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Do My Own Gardening - How to Prune Tomato Plants

By DoMyOwn staff

Our little garden is not so little anymore! Since our last video, the tomato plants have grown at least another foot. The tomatoes and peppers are getting bigger, and so are all of the limbs. Some of the limbs are starting to yellow and show signs of possible problems in the near future. In this video, we will discuss how and why you should prune your plants!

 Do My Own Gardening - How to Prune Tomato Plants Video Play

Video Transcript

Two items on today's agenda. Number one, check up on our ailing pepper plants, and number two talk about doing some pruning!

I want to say that it's improving. If you'll remember this plant and the one back there, I've been spraying both of these with a foiliar spray fertilizer, to try and bring it back to life. And I think it's actually working. I have to go back and look at some old footage, but it looks like it's coming back to life.

These guys are still looking really good and healthy!

And if you look closely, in every plant, we are seeing fruit!

The other thing to point out, since putting these stakes in, I swear these plants have grown another ten inches up and they're continually growing outward. As a matter of fact, I'm going to have to tie back a couple of more limbs.

But on to what I want to cover in this episode, pruning your plants. Now according to the extension office, this is an optional step that gardeners use to help keep plants tidy, manipulate fruit growth, and even speed up ripening.

But they point out one other thing, and that is you should only prune indeterminate plants because they will continue to grow flowers and leaves throughout the growing season. If you prune determinate varieties you may reduce the harvest at the end of the season.

Our cages have done a really good job of naturally keeping those limbs gathered and collected and giving them a support system, so there's really no real reason to prune, according to the extension office.

Either way you look at it, the key to pruning is pruning enough but not too much to where the fruit is still getting the beneficial nutrients from the leaves and it's keeping them shaded from the sun.

And this is also comes with little word of caution. You should never prune tomato plants when your leaves are wet, as that might set it up for a disease problem.

Now, let's bust out our pruners and do some pruning!

One of the things that we're looking for are leaves and limbs that are touching the ground like this that are starting to yellow and blacken around the edges. We want to clean this up and get rid of if because we don't want to spread this to the healthier parts of the plant.

This will lesson the chance of disease and a nice pruned plant with fewer leaves, its going to be less dense, allowing more air to flow throughout the rest of the plant.

And another added bonus of pruning off these leaves and thinning out the canopy, it's going to make it easier to spot any kind of insect problems that we have that might other wise be hidding underneath here.

So all we're going to do is trace limbs like this all the way back to the main stem, and we're going to cut it off as close to the main stem as possible.

Here's everything that we pruned off. We'll either put it in a bag and throw it away or just toss it in a trash can. But here's what the garden looks like after everything has been pruned. As you can see things are opened up, we have better air flow through the bottoms of the plants, better sunlight, none of our limbs are touching the ground; looks good!

We wanted to prune off those limbs as close to the main stem as possible while trying not to damage the main stem. But look what I found after I opened this up. Got a nice vine growing underneath here with some good tomatoes popping!

The other benefit to pruning, if done at the right time, it's going to re direct energy to creating and ripening fruit instead of creating new leaves. You might get fewer fruit on a pruned plant, but what fruit you will get, most likely will be bigger had you not pruned in the first place.

And another additional benefit, because your training your limbs to grow up and your pruning them off, you can put your plants closer together and grow more fruit.

This is also great for anyone that lives in a cooler climate where your in a race against time to get your harvest before the frost comes in takes over, and kills anything that you've got growing.

Another thing you can do when it comes to pruning, when you first go to plant, go ahead and snip off those lower limbs or leaves to that you can get your plant deeper into your garden to really get a nice strong root system.

Now if it's early to mid season and you're planting, the extension office recommends that you continue to pinch off flowers until your plants have gotten to about 12 to 18 inches tall. Again, so that we can redirect energy to healthy root growth.

And like we showed in the last video, you want to continue to pinch off suckers through out the growing season to not waste energy in those areas. Now as the growing season starts to draw to a close, our tomato plants are most likely still going to be loaded with some fruit. We'll touch more on this when we get closer to that stage in the game, but to help speed up ripening late in the season, what we're going to do is go ahead and pinch off the top of each main stem.

Our goal is to do this about four weeks before the first expected frost sets in. This will stop flowering and any kind of new fruits from setting in and instead will re direct all of that energy to your existing fruit to make them bigger and richer.

So what if you already have big plants growing in your garden like what we've got?

As we've already showed you, by pruning off those lower limbs and those leaves that are touching the soil, we reduce the risk of soil born diseases setting into our plants.

As your plants get taller, it's recommended that you remove limbs and leaves up to 18 inches from the ground.

Again we want to work when our leaves are dry and not wet so that we reduce the amount of water that can splash around and off leaves and onto another and spread disease that way.

Now for our particular, garden because our plants are supported by cages, we wanted to remove those lower limbs again to promote good airflow.

Research provided by the extension office shows that leaves that are next to fruit clusters are the ones that actually send sugar and nutrients to the fruit.

So when we're pruning and thinning out our plants, we want to make sure that we don't remove leaves that are above or below a fruit cluster, so that we insure that those sugars and those nutrients get to that fruit.

Leaving those leaves alone will also, help shade our rippening fruit so that we don't get any kind of sun scalding going on.

So that's it for pruning! If you have any other further questions, leave them in the comments section below, email our customer service staff, or pick up the phone and give us a call.

For our next video, I think we're going to be touching on pest control. So make sure to subscribe to the channel by clicking this button, you can click this playlist to see all the videos in the gardening series so far, and also click this playlist to see our Do My Own Lawn Care series.

And as always, thanks for watching!