In the gardening world, tomatoes have the most strategies for
pruning and they can be quite confusing. So in this video we're going to go
deep into the world of the tomato to understand if you should prune and
if you should, how you should do it.
And even how the way you decide to grow
the tomato affects the pruning strategy. There's a lot of debate, I think in
the tomato growing world about, oh, what's the best way? There really is not one singular
best way for many varieties.
And so that's why I wanted to
approach the video this way. Hopefully to give you a little bit
more insight, a little deeper look. So without further ado, oh, by
the way, at the end of the video, I'm going to show you something you
should do at the end of the season for pruning as well.
So stay tuned
for that. But without further ado, cultivate that Like button for
incredible, amazing tomato harvests. And let's get into it. First of all,
why should you even prune a tomato? What's the, what's the purpose? What
are the benefits that you gain? Well, you don't have to technically, but I think myself and pretty much
anyone else who has experienced growing tomatoes would say that you should.
The reason why is because
it's multifaceted really.
You have leaves, right? So the leaves of your plants are
effectively just energy factories. Now, if you have a nice, crazy bushy tomato, well what happens to the
leaves on the interior? They're basically just getting shaded
out and so they're not really doing that much for the plant.
And you can almost think of them in the
world of a factory or an office as like an unproductive worker. What happens to
unproductive workers? They get fired, right? And so we're going to fire those by
pruning those out and thinning that out.
That also increases air flow
throughout the tomato plant. So tomatoes really are susceptible to
a lot of different types of diseases – early blight, Septoria leaf spot –
all things that can decimate a plant.
And they thrive in
conditions that are humid, moist and there's not a
lot of air circulation, so by pruning you actually
open that up quite a bit. Another thing that you'll do is
by pruning out the lower layer, you actually give yourself the ability
to interplant down there without it being shaded out.
So as a tomato grows up, what a lot of people will do is they'll
also prune off some of these bottom branches and that'll free it up, keep the disease off from the soil
and also allow them to plant in.
Now let's talk about indeterminate
and determinate tomatoes. The first thing we have to talk about
are the categories of tomatoes and your main two are going to be your determinate
and your indeterminate, right? And so just the names alone kind of give
away some of the characteristics you might expect from these two types.
Determinate tomatoes are called that
because their height and life span is determined. They get to about four to five feet
tall and their final bud at the top is a flower bud, much like this one right here.
And so they don't have any
more potential to grow. Now determinate tomatoes are great because
they grow in a short defined growing season where the fruit often ripens
at or near the exact same time.
And so if you have a short growing season
and you want a consistent amount of fruit to come right out at one time,
determinate can be a great idea. Also, they're much more compact. So if you're
short on space, they're a great idea.
Now pruning them is different
than pruning indeterminate. So indeterminate tomatoes,
as the name implies, their terminal bud doesn't really exist. It just keeps growing until
the season kills it off.
So if you're in a climate like
mine and you have some space, indeterminate can be a really good
idea. And when I say climate like mine, I mean San Diego is zone 10b. Some
people in our climate, myself included, can grow tomatoes well into November.
And I've even seen some people
overwinter their tomatoes, which is really crazy and it's just not
something you think that you could do, but certainly it happens. Now, when it comes to other random types, you have things like dwarf
indeterminate tomatoes, which have been bred to have
a compact growing habit, but technically are still indeterminate.
For the purposes of this pruning video, I'll put them in the category
of determinate as far
as the pruning strategy. And let's get into that
pruning strategy right now. Understanding the basics of tomato
anatomy is essential for pruning.
So first of all, we
have the main main stem, and you'll know why I'm calling that in
a second. This is the main main stem. Now, what's coming off right here?
Well, this is just your basic sun leaf.
This is just a leaf that's here to
produce a bunch of energy to send into the next piece that we can identify
right here, which is a flower bud. You've got a bunch of them
right here. Of course, this is what produces our tomato fruits.
Now you'll notice this keeps going up, right? Our main leader as
we'll call it, keeps going up, but what's this? This is coming out at a roughly 45 degree
angle between the main stem and a leaf node and it looks like it kind of is
producing a lot of the other pieces we've already seen.
leaf, there's another leaf, and it even seems like we might have
the beginning of a little flower bud forming right about there. Well, this is called a sucker and
on indeterminate tomatoes
and determinate alike, you'll see these.
pruning strategy changes, but this is really what you want to keep
your eye on when it comes to pruning tomatoes because these are the guys that
can really hamper and/or enhance the growth of your plant.
Now you know this is a sucker because
if we follow the plant upwards, we see another leaf node, we
see another young flower node, which you can barely see right here.
I'll bend it down just slightly.
You can see it right there. So
we know that this is a sucker. The danger would be to cut
this off without confirming
and then maybe you've cut off the main one and you've hampered
the growth of the plant completely.
I've swapped out our honking indeterminate
tomato for this determinate variety that grows really well in a grow
bag, provided you support it a bit. Let's talk about how to prune these
because it's much easier than pruning an indeterminate.
On a determinate variety
tomato the pruning is very simple. Just locate the first flower bud, which is right about here on this
plant, it's just not open yet. And you'll want to remove the suckers
anywhere below that and that's it.
You don't really have to do anything else. I suppose if you have some leaves that
are touching the ground down here, you may want to chop those
off. Now the thing about it, and you can see one of
the suckers right here, is if it's young like this
you can just snap it off.
And I'm going to get a little
closer so you can see it. So the sucker is right here. Now I could come through with
my pruning snips and snip it, but it's so young that I can just
pinch it off with my fingers.
And that actually will cause a little
bit less damage. If it's bigger, you do want to come through
and slice it with your shears. I'm just going to remove this sun leaf
right here because it is touching the ground and it's seeming like
it's suffering a little bit, so we don't want to introduce
And finally, here's an example of the last
sucker below the first flower node. This is larger, so I'm going to come through with
sterilized shears and clip that off. That's it for a determinate variety guys.
You don't want to hamper it by cutting
anything off above the first flower node. At that point, you're just deleting fruit from your
plant and you don't want to do that. We're just cleaning up the undercanopy
just slightly, letting this grow.
Just remember to support this and
now let's move on to indeterminate. With indeterminate tomatoes, you have a lot more options because
it is up to how you decide to grow the plant. If you wanted, you could just let
it sprawl all over the ground and grow.
Of course, that's going to probably introduce a
little more disease and it's going to take up a lot more horizontal
space, so I don't recommend it. But it's a thing that you could do. Now, the first thing I'm going
to do is a basic cleanup.
Before we get into talking about
some of the more detailed strategies, I'm just going to take off some of this
low growth that isn't really serving the plant. This leaf is just
smashing right into the soil.
It's not looking that good, and in fact, it does show a little bit of sign of
disease, so I'll take that off. Now, the thing about indeterminates is every
sucker has the ability to become a piece of the plant that produces
every other piece of the plant.
It's kind of like Medusa. You cut
off one head and you get two more. That's kind of how suckers
work in the world of tomatoes. It's kind of hard to see on this plant
because it's a very large plant that is a little unruly.
I purposely didn't
prune it just to do it for this video. But we do have our main stem right here. Now with indeterminates you can prune
every sucker off so you have what's called a single leader.
So one main stem that's producing all of
the flower buds that are producing all the fruit. You can let one sucker go
and that is a secondary main stem. So a double leader,
you can go three, four. I wouldn't go probably past four cause
at that point there's not really a point to pruning at all.
And so what I
could do here is I can say, okay, here's my main leader right here and
now I need to identify where the rest of the suckers are. So I need to come through and probably
do a decent cleanup here.
By the way, when you cut, that was way too close to
my eye. When you cut the suckers off, you can save them because at the end
I'll also show you how you can propagate from those very easily and have
yourself a little backup tomato crop.
It's going to be a
little hard to see guys, but we have our main leader right here. So already I'm seeing this
sucker I really don't need, so we'll take that guy off right there.
We have another large sucker right here, so I have the option to let this stay.
You can see there's a sun leaf I took off
right there because it was hitting the ground. So I have the option to
let this stay or take that off. There's a really low one right here. I'm going to remove this one because
it's just simply not necessary.
So we'll take that guy off. Remember,
this is a sun leaf. This is a sun leaf. We're going to leave that. Another
sun leaf, another sun leaf. If it's accessing sun, you
want to leave those guys.
So we have another sucker that's
a little lower right here. I'm also going to remove this one. So
it's starting to clean up a little bit. Now remember, it's easier to
see our main stem here now.
So we have our main stem. We have
another sucker here, another sucker here, and another one here. Now I'm going
to select for a double leader. So I'm going to have my main stem right
here and I'm going to choose one more to produce.
And so I'm going
to take off, let's see, I'm going to take off something that
doesn't already have fruit on it or buds. So I'll take this guy off right here. And I'm also going to take off, I think probably this, this one because this one is less
So we'll take that off. So now I have one, two. And there's just one more sucker
up here that I need to remove. So we're going to take that guy off.
And I'm doing this way too late. So don't wait as long as I've
Actually you can see, look, we have our main stem, there's
another one and there's another one. So I'm going to leave this as a triple
leader I guess because we have one, two, three, but that's it.
else I'm going to take off. Suckers can create suckers, by the
way. It's like a sucker-ception. So if you let it go crazy, and
sometimes these things grow really fast, you can miss some and then your
tomato plant can get unruly.
So really get in there and inspect. Here's the final sucker
I can see on this plant. So we'll just chop this guy off and now
we have a clean indeterminate tomato. Now that we've cleaned off
a lot of these suckers, this is actually my favorite
part of pruning tomatoes
is cloning them and making more.
So if they're diseased
or damaged or anything, you certainly don't want to do this. But if you're in a warm climate that
can have two seasons worth of tomatoes, then you just got a free plant right
So what you might want to do, if you're going to propagate this in
soil, is you could take this leaf off, for example, bury this in soil right
to there, and you have a free plant. Because remember the tomato stem has
totipotency or the ability to produce the roots around the entire main stem.
So when you bury this in soil, boom. I have another heirloom Costoluto
Genovese plant right here, ready to go. So I'll just prepare these really quick
and we'll talk in a second about the final thing you'll want to do when
pruning an indeterminate at the end of the season.
Now that our indeterminate
tomato is looking a lot cleaner, it's off to a great start. We've taken out a lot of those leaves
and those suckers that were going to take a bunch of energy away from the three
main leaders that we're going to use to grow this plant.
going to add this in. And let's talk about the final
pruning you'll need to do. And this is probably the most painful
one because at the end of the season, remember indeterminates, their season
ends when the weather kills them.
So when you sense that's
coming for your region, what you want to do is
something called topping. Now it's exactly what you avoided
doing throughout the growing season. Topping is taking off that top tip of
growth so the plant has no ability to put on any more vegetative growth.
that's doing is that's saying, hey, it's time for you to put all your
energy into those delicious fruits, the reason that we're
growing this, and sayonara. So you're going to decapitate your tomato
at the top and then you're going to let those fruits mature.
But guys, tomatoes, there are probably dozens of little
micro tips that I didn't cover in this video, but I hope this was an informative look
to kind of demystify the magical tomato. It's a fantastic plant.
probably the most popular plant, like I've mentioned. But there's
just a lot of confusion about it. And of course for myself as
well, as I continue to learn. So if you have a particular tip, drop
it down in the Comments.
Remember, it's the Epic Gardening community.
We're all learning together. But until next time, I'm going to take
this alien-looking tomato trellis, go out in the front yard
and put it back in the sun.