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Pruning tomatoes?

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Petee or anyone, 

How do you prune your tomatoes? I recently read where some will remove leaves and new growth 6 to 8 inches up so these leaves don't contact the soil inviting soil born disease. Then remove new side shoots to just one or two main stems allowing new growth at the tops of these only. I haven't done this with cherry and grape varieties since it world reduce yield. Another gardener from down your way once told me " once you get four sets of fruit, top off the plants new growth so all growth is concentrated to the fruit." What would you recommend? 

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I don't. I'll take off bottom leaves and plant more of the stem in the spring. This will encourage root growth. After that you only prune indeterminate tomatoes if you are going to do it at all.  Pruning determinate ones will lower your yield considerably. If you stake your tomatoes taking out the suckers will control the plant and perhaps increase the size of your tomatoes. It may also lower your yield. Late in the season some people top the tomatoes. If you take off the top it will no longer grow taller and will give the tomatoes on the plant a chance to ripen before the frost. Removing the side shoots will also increase air flow which might be a good idea if there is a lot of rain and high humidity that increases the chance of fungus diseases. It just depends on what your are aiming at. Highly controlled pruned plants are more likely to give you big, perfect tomatoes. Letting them grow will give you a higher yield 

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Indeterminate means tomatoes will form and ripen for up to two years or longer in the right climate.  Smaller fresh eating or salad varieties.  Tomatoes are a perennial plant.

Determinate means the plant will produce 1 major crop (like June bearing strawberries) and then possibly some smaller numbers later.  That might apply to big slicers.

All tomatoes need pruned for air flow.  They should be as open as possible without losing shade above ripening tomatoes.  They can sunburn. 

For soil-borne disease management, prune off all branches within 12 inches from the ground or possibly higher.  This improves airflow under the plants, reduces the amount of soil that splashes up onto the leaves, and makes weeding easier.  Do not plant tomatoes closer together than 30 inches and stake them heavily.  

You want a thinned  umbrella shape that is open, airy, and heavier above fruit.  Mulch well under the plant.  Remove the top when it is apparent that any new blossoms will not have time to ripen.  It will force hormones in the plant to concentrate on ripening the fruit that has already formed.


"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything"

Albert Einstein

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For practical and pruning purposes indeterminate tomatoes are tomatoes that grow tall and will grow best if staked or caged. They can get to be 5 or 6 feet tall. Pruning aka suckering is an option. Because they continue to grow they do produce over a longer period of time. This is why they are often topped off in our shorter growing season. 

Indeterminate tomatoes are bush tomatoes that grow to only 3 or 4 feet. The larger sizes grow best staked but it is optional but pruning is not a good idea as they stop growing at a given point and pruning reduces your crop considerably. 

The goals and problems of commercial growers and those of the home gardener are often quite different. Most of us aren't planting hundreds of tomato plants and planting them as close together as commercial growers do so we aren't going to experience the problems that come with acres of tomatoes. Nor do we have to produce tomatoes that are perfect. Enjoy your garden and limit the work. 

Here is a more extensive explanation of determinate and indeterminate from Horticultural Magazine http://www.hortmag.com/plants/fruits-veggies/the-difference-between-determinate-and-indeterminate-tomatoes

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Great information. Thanks to you both. I'm in the ball park with the exception of plant spacing this year. More plants than usual and I've crowded them a bit. Also thanks for the Japanese Beetle recommendations on the other topic.

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