Pruning in tomatoes
For those who are new to the tomato plant; both to the way it looks and the way it grows, here is an insight – this plant grows in foliage quite a lot and can occupy a lot of space. The space occupied by the plant is also manageable if all the plant growth supplements the fruit growth and multiplies the yield. However, this is not so.
Sunlight energizes the tomato plant in a way that all its inputs received are channeled towards growing foliage. And the main component made by the plant is sugars!
These Sugars eventually are produced to such a large extent that they are more than what the plant tip needs. So, then the plant automatically uses all these excess sugars and gives rise to more branches and flowers. The more the growth, the more is the extended weight on the plant; forcing the plant to bend and be around ground level.
Thus, if left unattended, the plants become more like an overgrown mass of leaves and shrubs, defeating the purpose. So, it’s essential that the plant sugars are channelized towards better fruiting, generating a higher yield, and better quality of the fruits. Thus, pruning of tomatoes is always a help! At least for tidying up – if not for any other purpose.
And the key is to prune enough, but not too much!!
It should be done in such a manner that the fruit receives adequate sugars and protection from the leaves against sun scorching.
One more important point is that while pruning, only prune the indeterminate varieties (where plants will tend to produce leaves and flowers throughout its growing season)
If you are pruning determinate varieties, it may lead to less number of harvests
How to prune tomatoes?
We can prune tomatoes once it starts producing flower clusters
Start by removing old and yellow colored leaves at the base of the plant after transplanting.
Remove all suckers and their leaves before the first flower cluster. Do this irrespective of the type of tomato plant until the plant reaches a 12-18-inch height
Check for the thinner leafy sucker and pinch them off from the leaf axils to direct the reserve for growing fruits.
In indeterminate varieties, we should remove all the fruit-bearing shoots leaving only 4-5 stalks as more number of shoots leads to small and scanty tomatoes
Determinate type of tomatoes already has a pre-determined number of stems that will grow naturally, so pruning is not required above the flower cluster
Prune yellow, old, diseased and pest infested leaves and shoots as and when these are spotted.
To get the best out of the last growth, prune ‘top of the plant’ (remove the plants terminal portion) when plant hits the roof of your greenhouse
Pruning thus will ensure that the nutrients supplied are used by the essential parts of the plant, and the plant effort is more concentrated towards the better production of flowers and fruits- both regarding its size as well as regarding its quality
Basic thumb rule – Prune only whenever and where ever its necessary!!
Sushma completed her B. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Hiriyur and M. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Bengaluru. She is an avid gardener with expertise across soil based and soilless gardening techniques using substrates.