It’s time for part two of our “aggressive tomato pruning” guide this year. A bit ago, we talked about indeterminate sucker pruning and growing tomatoes vertically. For this tip, it doesn’t matter the type of tomato you’re growing, we apply this tip to both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes alike!
Once your tomatoes are well established, between 3 to 5 feet tall, it’s a great idea to come along and prune all the bottom foliage, branches and suckers from the plant. We generally prune all the branches up to the first tomato cluster. Be careful with those flower clusters, though, that’s your golden harvest!
If your plants are on the shorter side, say 3 feet, be sure to leave at least 18-24 inches of foliage up top. You may need to do the pruning in two or three separate steps, starting at the bottom and working your way up over multiple weeks.
This technique does three things. One, it promotes excellent airflow around the bottom of the plant. This is a preventative step that discourages mold or algae from gaining any kind of foothold in your soil. It also discourages pests from climbing on your tomato. Just like a parent might trim the lower branches of a tree to prevent their kid(s) from climbing it! Third, it further encourages growth into existing fruit, flowers and more vertical growth.
It might “seem” like you’re harming the plant, and to some degrees the plant probably doesn’t like it. But, you’ll observe the plant will rapidly recover and start compensating by growing elsewhere. Once you start this process, you’ll also see suckers start to pack on like mad in indeterminate tomatoes, so keep trimming them if you’re promoting vertical growth.
We’re trying promote maximum “valuable” growth in our short season, we don’t want our plant spending time on “worthless” lower leaves. For determinates, we’re trying to achieve maximum plant size and for indeterminates, we’re trying to achieve the most numbers of flower clusters as soon in the season as is possible. To put it simply, any flowers that don’t exist by early July will be challenged to produce a fully ripe tomato by the end of the season.
We’ll be covering part three in late July where we seriously take the hacksaw to our tomato plants. If you think this is aggressive, we get even crazier! You’ll see! And then you’ll see our harvest soon thereafter!