hardland
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Location: Sth Florida

Pruning tomato plants, confused?

I've read a lot about the pruning of tom plants. I understand on the determinate type, you pretty much don't. On the Indeterminate type, it seems some people say leave it alone, others, only leave 3 leaves on the top of the plant, snap the rest off in an efforet to get all the energy, nutrients, sun, oxygen etc to the fruit stems? I'm in FL and want to get this right for the toms I plant in a few weeks. Thanks
Hey there Mister,
Can you tell me what happened to the seeds iv'e sown,
can you give me a reason sir, as to why they've never grown,

TZ -OH6
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Most published pruning guides are for commercial growing where timing, standardized fruit size, and ease of picking are more important than flavor. The recomendation to prune all but a few top leaves is for growing closely spaced plants on drop lines in a greenhouse where the plant (single vine) grows for a year and a half and can be 25 ft long. Plants are spaced about 12" apart.

It really comes down to how much space you have and what support methods you plan to use, and then prune accordingly. (See the sticky thread on support methods)

Per plant, a more or less unpruned plant will produce more than a heavily prune one, but it will take up much more room. You may be able to grow 2-4 plants in the same amount of space using a differnt support method (and pruning) and get more pounds of fruit for that area, but it is not guaranteed.

I have data on my stakes (2-4 vines) vs cages (6-8 vines) that show stakes produce about half what the cages do (half of the caged plant production is on the central trunk stems, half on the branches/suckers). I could possibly grow 4 pruned plants up the outside of one cage, perhaps getting 2X the production per cage/space, but that means fiddling with 4x more plants that need to be pruned and tied off every few days.

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rainbowgardener
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It is confusing, because lots of different recommendations out there. Pruning all but the top would be really radical and as TZ noted would definitely cut down the amount of tomatoes per plant a lot, while allowing you to grow more plants in a given amount of space.

The other extreme from that is the don't touch it at all folks. That can give you a huge bushy plant. Part of the difference why there are different recommendations is that there are different growing conditions. Folks that are growing in very arid climates can get away with the don't touch it at all regimen easier. For me growing in an area with very humid summers, it doesn't work as well because all that bushiness cuts down air circulation. My climate already fosters growth of fungal diseases, which tomatoes are pretty vulnerable to. Letting them be so bushy just adds to that.

So the middle of the road position in between those extremes is just to pinch out all the suckers, the new growth that starts in the trunk-stem joints or branch joints. This reduces the amount of branching and foliage, without diminishing your plant so much as more extreme pruning. I also start pinching off the new growth at the tips of stems once the tomato plant gets to be 5-6 feet tall, just to slow it down from getting bigger and bigger and get it to focus more on growing tomatoes instead.

The only other "pruning" I do (mostly what I do is pinching) is to cut off all the leaves/stems at the bottom that might touch the soil (spreading disease) and cut off anything that appears diseased. By the end of the season the latter means they are starting to look pretty pruned. But someone in a less humid climate would have to do less of that.
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hardland
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Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:05 am
Location: Sth Florida

Once again TZ and RG, thank you, great advice. I'm having a great time this year with the challenge of growing toms in the FL winter. Earlier in the week we had 85' weather, last night was 49'. A big issue for me is the lack of sunlight right now. Approaching Dec 21, we have sunrise at 6.40 and sundown at 5.30. I simply cannot give my toms more than 6 hrs of sun, with the trees and house. I spent last Sat hacking down some palms just to get some more early sun! Wife was not happy! First things first...
Hey there Mister,
Can you tell me what happened to the seeds iv'e sown,
can you give me a reason sir, as to why they've never grown,

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I started out trying the no pruning at all this year, but it turned out that the overlapping branches eventually shaded the interior to the point that interior foliage started to die-off. The outer matted vines also made it very difficult to harvest fruits hanging inside. :roll: So I HAD to start thinning the branches to open things up.

Next year, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try "espalier" training tomato vines on evenly spaced wires, kind of like grapes, but maybe 4 or 5 wires 12" apart (still noodling the idea at this point :wink:). These are going in my Front Yard Fence Row. They should look interesting.... 8)

TZ -OH6
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A market grower on a differnt site showed some pictures of his fields and he has rows with posts/stakes and a series of wires like you describe, but they look to be part of a permanent settup for Florida weave. I'm guessing that he uses twine for the second strand, holding the vines against the wires. My problem with Florida weave is that the sissal twine sags, and I don't really want to use nylon/Poly.



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