Pruning is a necessity to keep your tomato plants healthy and disease-free. This isn’t just some old gardener’s tale. Science shows us that it’s a real need.
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Why Should Tomato Plants Be Pruned?
Pruning tomatoes may not be on everyone’s priority list, but many tomato growers swear up and down that it is necessary to keep mature tomato plants healthy. Pruning tomatoes is also a good way to maintain your garden, especially if you have many mature plants blooming and fruiting.
Some people say that making unnecessary cuts in tomato plants may expose the said plants to some diseases.
However, if we look at published studies, the pruning affects some differences in the quality of the tomatoes themselves. For years, people who work with tomato plants abide by the traditional practice of occasionally pruning the plants to improve the yield.
Agriculturists agree that pruning tomato plants may help produce better fruits by reducing the plant’s energy load. It is said that in the first month of life, tomato plants produce sugar nonstop to develop leaves. The redoubling of leaves and associated structures happens roughly every two weeks or less. When the plant’s sugar levels reach peak point, that is when the flowering structures begin to emerge.
The nonstop proliferation of tomato plants, especially when the branch has gone horizontal, can cause the tomato plant to be too heavy for its good. Wild tomato plants are often seen bent to the ground, with a wild bunch of leaves overtaking its principal structures. There will likely be more than ten stems that grow up to five feet long. At the end of one season, there will be so much dense foliage that the tomato plant will have already contracted many plant diseases for lying on the ground.
If you feel that you need to prune your tomato plants for whatever reason, check out the guidelines we prepared below.
When and How to Prune Tomato Plants
How to prune tomato plants?
The best time to begin pruning tomato plants is to reach at least a foot to two feet in height. Remember that pruning is a form of stress to plants, so younger tomato plants should never be pruned. In some cases, the pruning process may cause a permanent shock to the tomato plants that they will die.
You will know that the tomato plant is ready for pruning when many branches are coming off the main stem of the plant. When the branches begin to meet, and additional ones are seen growing off the main stem, you are now witnessing the proliferating of tomato suckers. This will be the focus of the pruning process – the tomato suckers.
Prune Tomato Plants Tips
Using a pair of shears (if you don’t have any other cutting tool available), cleanly cut the tomato suckers from their places in the stem.
The best time to perform the pruning on mature tomato plants is first thing in the morning. Make sure that it is a relatively dry day, as extra humidity from the air can slow down the healing process of the plants.
Keep in mind that whenever you remove tomato suckers or inflict any damage to plants, they have to take care of the wounds. The wounds may take a bit of time to heal completely, but if you followed our earlier recommendations, this shouldn’t kill or stunt your plant.
Whenever you prune tomato plants, it is also imperative that you water your plants properly. Water only at soil level and the proper quantity so you can avoid splashing any soil to the tomato plants. Soil contains bacteria, molds, and fungi, and introducing these pathogens to the wounds of a pruned plant can be problematic at best.
The ideal setup for tomato plants is when they are supported, and they are also pruned regularly. The pruning reduces the need to divert sugar for the development of the leaves, and all of the available leaves are exactly where they should be, facing the heat of the sun. With little competition from within, the tomato plant diverts all of its stores of nutrients to the development of fruits, which we like.
Is there a connection between the number of stems of a tomato plant and the fruit quality?
Yes, there is. Tomato plants that have more stems tend to develop smaller sized fruit, for obvious reasons. With more stems comes more foliage, and foliage is always hungry for more sugar. There is another reason why tomato plants have to be pruned and supported.
Imagine a mature tomato plant developing so much foliage that it begins to bend to the ground. Horizontal is not a good orientation for plants because the leaves are no longer facing the sun. With less exposure to the sun, the leaves are unable to produce the average amount of sugar needed to support a growing plant.
In the end, we see a state where there is a sugar deficit, but the tomato plant continues to develop new foliage as a response to the sugar deficit. The presence of more stems also triggers the growth of new suckers and leaves.
The redoubling process goes on and on – there isn’t an internal switch that the tomato plant can use to reduce the impact of shaded leaves and reduced sugar production.
The Best Tools for Removing Tomatoes and Tomato Leaves
The thumb knife is one of the best tools for removing tomatoes and cutting off leaves and suckers. Thumb knives are made from silicone, and a single sharp edge is embedded on the sleeve that goes around the thumb, so you can easily grip and cut off neatly suckers and leaves. This type of knife is also a boon when you are harvesting tomatoes.
Other than the thumb knife, sharp scissors and shears can be used. However, if your other tools are not as sharp, you may create wounds on the plants that will not heal easily.