Should I prune tomato branches?

garden4lyfeAugust 10, 2014

I have a huge cherry tomato plant and it has many flowers

and it also has many useless branches with just leafs on

them, would it be okay if i remove all the useless branches

and just keep the flowers? It gets kinda crowded with the

branches.

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zensojourner

Indeterminate varieties - varieties that get really viny and sprawly and keep growing all season - tend to put out suckers - these are extra shoots that grow out from between the leaf and a branch instead of growing from the main stem. Determinate varieties - varieties that are bushier more than viny - usually don't sucker out.

Some people swear you must prune those suckers off. Others never bother. I'm in the latter camp. In 40 years of gardening, I have never pruned a tomato plant and they always produce just fine.

However people who prune do so because they believe - they have been taught - that suckers "suck" the life and strength out of a tomato plant and if you don't prune them, your tomatoes will be smaller and fewer. However however, studies have shown that pruning can result in larger fruit, but unfortunately it also results in fewer total tomatoes.

Also, pruning can make the fruit more susceptible to sunscald, and it can make the plant more susceptible to disease (because of the wound to the plant, which becomes a highway for diseases).

I don't think it's necessary to prune tomatoes. I can understand doing it to increase fruit size if you're going for jumbo tomatoes for show I guess, but I'm pretty sure that growing big cherry tomatoes is not an issue, LOL!

However, if the suckers REALLY are getting in your way, I guess you could prune a few off to make the vine a little more manageable. Just be careful not to remove too much at once, and make sure whatever you use to prune with is clean and as close to sterile as you can manage. It should be sharp too, to reduce the chance of additional crush damage to the plant.

Personally I'd just train the branch - tie it up to whatever supports you are using - to be out of the way rather than actually lopping it off.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 5:27AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You can trim back (not remove) some if you wish. But there is no reason to "remove them all" as they are not useless branches as you label them. The plant is just growing as it does naturally.

Pruning is an personal option but it is never "required".

Dave

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 12:15PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

I prune my tomatoes just to keep them from getting too big. When they reach the top of my 8' trellis, I start topping them. When I haven't, the tomatoes weigh down the branches and snap them. They also get too fat and I have a difficult time finding tomatoes growing in the middle of the plant. Often they get wedged between vines and I squish them trying to get them out. So for me, pruning isn't about making better tomatoes or anything like that. It's just about keeping the size of the plant manageable. In the process, I don't get as much production out of them, but I'm so overrun with tomatoes every year, that hasn't been a problem.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 10:29PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Tomato plants, are perennial by their nature, tho they are grown mostly as annual in the northern hemisphere.

Therefore, by their genetic program and data, they have no recognition of frost. And so they grow as if they will live perennially. In this case they could have made good use of every sucker/new growth they have. But as far as we, The Gardeners, are concerned and know there is a window of time for tomato plants to produce fruits for us. And that is our concern. In reality we know more about tomatoes than tomatoes know themselves. That is why we grow them our way not letting them to grow their way, as if there wont be a cool fall and a First Frost .
This, in my view, is a proactive gardening; where the gardener takes charge, intervenes. Pruning and keeping the plant size under control is one aspect of proactive gardening.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 2:11AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Not sure where you are, but in HZ10 eight foot cherry vines have a really hard time pumping water in midsummer. I top them at six feet to keep them green. I'm probably losing some fruit that would try to grow at the tips I cut off, but it seems to be beneficial for the whole plant.

I see no reason to cut off branches lower down, even if they don't have fruit or flowers. Useless branches? They're probably pretty useful to the plant, in that they are absorbing sunlight.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 1:41AM
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