How to Trim a Tomato Plant for Better Harvest

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Trimming your tomato plants will ensure that the fruits that grow will be hardy and bountiful. Trimming the plant allows the nutrients to flow in higher concentration to the plant, whereas if all the vines are allowed to mature fruits, the tomatoes produced will be hard and green. You will want to begin trimming at the beginning and maintain a trimming routine throughout the whole season. You can remove either the entire "sucker" vine or simply remove the tips.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato plants
  • Razor knife
  • Pinch off all shoots other than the main vines once they begin to grow. Tomato plants grow multiple stalks, and each offshoot will sprout flowers that eventually will produce tomatoes. In order to make sure that the tomatoes are full, ripe and healthy, it is best to prune the stalk down and keep only one main vine. This will ensure that all the nutrients and sugar go to only one set of tomatoes. To trim the excess vines, known as suckers, wait until the leaves have filled in, then pinch the heads off. Grab the base of the sucker with your thumb and forefinger, and rock it back and forth until it breaks and releases. You will need to do this to each sucker. By snapping them off, the plant will produce a scab that will cover the break and help heal the wound.

  • Don't use a knife. You should trim off the suckers while they are still young and soft enough to break. If they have grown too tough to tear with your hands, you will need to cut them with a knife. Generally, knives or pruning shears are not recommended for tomato plant pruning as blade cuts often lead to infection. If you must use a blade to trim, use a razor knife.

  • Trim off only the tips. If you are beginning the trimming late in the tomato plant's life and it looks like a giant wild bush, it may be more practical to simply cut off the tips of the suckers. Removing the ends of the flowering stems rather than the entire vine will lead to less chance of infection.

  • Repeat the trimming every week. Do not begin trimming unless you are ready to trim the sucker branches every single week. It will actually damage your tomato plant as each time the suckers grow back they are stronger and heavier, if you stop trimming halfway through the growing season, your plant will produce very little fruit.

  • Top off all of the growing tips. At the beginning of the last month of the growing season, that is about 30 days before the first frost, you will need to snip off all of the tips that don't yet have fruit growing on them. This allows for the final big push of nutrients to be directed toward maturing the final fruits of the harvest.

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