In the Garden ~ Pruning Tomatoes

By Ryan Sessions

It’s mid-July, and our Early Girl tomato vines have been producing for about a month. We’re picking about a pint of Sweet Millions a week and the heirlooms are coming along slowly but surely. With all these tomatoes coming in, we’re tempted to fill our basket and head into the house to dice em’ up, drizzle a little olive oil on top, along with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and basil for a quick bruschetta. Not so fast. There is still work to be done.

If you want your tomato vines to stay healthy and abundant, you’ll need to prune on a regular basis. Pruning helps fight off disease, exposes more leaves to the sun, and leads energy into the fruit rather than the extra branches and leaves. A few extra minutes a week will help will keep your plant from turning into a tangled mess that resembles a bush more than a vine.

That’s really all it takes… a few minutes a week on each plant- which could easily done while harvesting. To prune your vines, find where the branches come off of the main vine and you’ll likely see what is called a “sucker”- a branch that that grows in between the main stem and the branch (as pointed out in the photo above). Simply pinch the sucker between your thumb and index finger and snap it off. If you miss one for a couple weeks and it becomes too big to snap off, you can use clippers or a razor to do the job. There have been times where we missed one and it began to flower. You may be tempted to let that sucker hang out and do its thing, since flowers do lead to fruit. But remember- think long term. Happy and healthy plants are a gardener’s number one objective. Trust me- with that goal in mind (and a few necessary snips & snaps), you’ll end up with more tomatoes in the long run.

Photo credit: Torrie Sessions

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  • Mel

    Thank you! I did it this morning over coffee and they look so healthy! Lots of little stems and dead leaves almost fell off in my hands and the others snapped off really easily!

  • Melissa

    I never knew this. Thank you. Now, I must find time to snip before the Sessions garden inspection next week! :)