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How To Prune Tomato Plants

When growing tomatoes, the ultimate goal is to help the plant yield as much ripe fruit as possible. If you’re growing indeterminate or “vining” varieties (Big Boy, Beef Master, most heirlooms), pruning your plants to remove unwanted shoots and leaves ensures that all the nutrients are going to the tomatoes. If you’re growing a determinate variety (Biltmore, Heinz, Patio), too much pruning is counterproductive. See Step 1 to learn when and how to prune a tomato plant.

Step 1

Determine which variety you’re growing. Before you make any cuts, figure out whether you’re growing an indeterminate or determinate variety of tomato plant. Indeterminate varieties grow like vines, and they must be trained upright on poles and pruned in order to grow correctly. Determinate varieties contain themselves before they grow into a bush, and they naturally direct their energy toward fruiting without needing as much intervention. Here are the common varieties of each:

  • Indeterminate: Big Boy, Beef Master, Black Prince, German Queen, most cherry tomato varieties and most heirloom varieties.
  • Determinate:Ace 55, Amelia, Better Bush, Biltmore, Heatmaster, Heinz Classic, Mountain Pride and Patio.

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Step 2
Locate the suckers for removal.
Look for the tiny new branches sprouting in the spot where a branch meets the stem on an indeterminate plant. These are called “suckers” and they’re what you want to remove. Suckers left to grow will take energy from the rest of the plant and cause the plant to bear fewer fruits. This isn’t always a bad thing, but strategically removing suckers will help your plant bear large fruit all season long.

  • Wait for the stems and leaves below the first set of flowers to turn yellow before doing anything.

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Step 3
Remove all suckers and their leaves below the first flower cluster.
Do this no matter what kind of tomato plant you have. This keeps the plant strong by helping it grow a sturdy central stem. [1] This should ensure that the majority of the nutrients are sent to the fruits, instead of being wasted on the unwanted growing tips.

  • To remove a sucker, grab a growing tip by the base between the thumb and forefinger and bend it back and forth until it snaps cleanly. This should ideally be done when the shoot is young and supple. The small wound will heal quickly. This is called “simple pruning”.
  • As for stems and leaves, not the suckers, growing below the first flower cluster: If you live in a warmer zone such as Zone 9, you should leave them on until they turn yellow. They are important for helping to shade the ground until the plant matures. On the other hand, if your plant is in a humid environment (such as a greenhouse), remove everything below the first flower cluster to improve ventilation. Humidity can make it easier for sicknesses to flourish, and it also causes the wounds that are created while pruning to dry up more slowly making the plant longer vulnerable. By improving ventilation, you’re helping to protect the plant.

 

Step 4
Leave the thicker shoots.
Thicker suckers should not be snapped off, since this could damage the whole plant. If it’s thicker than a pencil, use the “Missouri pruning” method and pinch out just the tip of the sucker, leaving one or two leaves behind for photosynthesis and to protect developing fruit from sun scald. The drawback is that suckers will develop from the stem that you leave behind, which will require additional pruning. This technique is better when you’re dealing with large suckers; if the wound becomes diseased, it will be further away from the main stem. This method also leaves a few inches on the sucker to reduce the shock to the plant.

  • Prune suckers all summer long to keep the plant healthy. They grow quickly, so you may need to prune once or twice a week

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Step 5
For indeterminate varieties, pinch off all but four or five fruit bearing trusses.
These are the branches that grow from the main stem above the first flower cluster. Four or five will produce large, healthy fruit, but any more than that and the fruit will be small and scant. Choose four or five sturdy trusses to keep, then pinch out any additional side shoots, leaving the plant’s top shoot intact, known as the terminal shoot.

  • Make sure the vine-like plants are tied to supports after flowering occurs. Otherwise, the vine will grow along the ground and won’t produce healthy tomatoes.[3]
  • Determinate plants already have a predetermined number of stems that will naturally grow, so there’s no need to do any pruning above the flower cluster. If you prune above the flower cluster, you’ll be removing fruit-bearing branches without helping the plant.[4]

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Step 6
Remove yellow leaves.
Yellow leaves are leaves that use up more sugar than they produce. As the plant begins to mature, the lower leaves will naturally begin to yellow and wilt. This is perfectly normal, so pull these from the plant when they appear. It will keep the plant fresh and help ward off disease.

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Step 7
Top the plant.
To get the best out of the last growth of the season, it is necessary to “top” the plant. About a month before the first expected frost, or when the plant hits the roof of your greenhouse, remove the plant’s terminal shoot. At this point in the season, the tomatoes currently growing will have a limited time to reach maturity, so all nutrients must be directed straight to the fruit.

This article was sourced from wikihow – http://www.wikihow.com/Prune-Tomatoes

 

December Garden Tips

Holiday Trees
Nothing enhances a festive mood like the scent of fresh evergreens. Follow these tips to make the most of your holiday greenery:
  • Choose a Christmas tree that has firm needles that don’t fall from branches when handling the tree. Individual needles should bend rather than snap if you pinch them between your fingers. Also, inspect the stump; the cut end of a fresher tree will be moist and may have some sticky sap on it yet.
  • When you get the tree home, cut 2 inches off the base of the trunk. Plunge the freshly cut stump into a bucket of water. Trees can absorb 1 gallon of water in the first 24 hours. Check the water level in your tree stand twice a day for the first week. Add water as needed. Each day, trees can drink roughly 1 quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter.
  • If your tree dries out, the wound likely healed over and stopped absorbing water. Make a fresh cut on the stump and it can absorb water again.
  • When decorating indoors, avoid placing fresh evergreens on wood surfaces. Sap from branches can damage the finish. Instead, place greenery on parchment, colorful felt, or fabric.
  • When Christmas is over, recycle your tree yourself: Cut off branches, and use as insulation over perennials. In spring, chip or shred branches to create mulch. Cut the trunk for firewood. Season it this year to burn next winter.

Grow Living Color Indoors

Tuck amaryllis bulbs in pots for blooms in a few weeks. Leave the bulb shoulders protruding above soil; planting too deeply can rot the bulb. Water when soil is dry. Consider inserting a stake at planting time to support tall flower stems and flop-prone leaves.

Display poinsettias away from heat sources or cold drafts. Keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Poinsettias that dry out droop dramatically and drop their flowers.

Cyclamen thrive in cool temperatures (50-60 degrees F). Place them in a spot where temps tumble overnight. Display them in a warmer spot during daylight hours — somewhere you can enjoy the pretty blooms. Keep soil consistently moist.

Cold-Weather Know-How
Snow Tips: If possible, shovel or blow snow evenly across planting beds and around foundation plantings. Avoid heaping roadside snow onto planting areas; it’s most likely full of road salt. When snow accumulates on trees and shrubs, remove it with gentle upsweeping motions. Don’t bang on branches; frozen branches are more likely to snap and break.
Ice: When ice forms on tree and shrub branches, don’t try to break it off — you’ll risk breaking branches. It’s best to let the ice melt naturally.Purchase ice-melting products early in the season. Investigate what’s available in your area. Many products contain chloride (salt). Sodium chloride- and calcium chloride-based products damage plants more than potassium-based choices. Pet-friendly ice melt won’t harm plants.Forget melting ice; focus on creating traction. Use wood ashes, sand, or non-clumping kitty litter. Take steps to ensure material won’t be tracked into your home on shoes and paws. Sand can destroy wood floors, and ashes make a mighty mess.Don’t use fertilizer to melt ice. This creates nitrogen runoff issues that could damage local bodies of water.
Test Garden Tip: Avoid storing pesticides where they’ll freeze, like in a garage or shed. Some materials cannot withstand cold temperatures and will become ineffective. If odor is an issue, store in tightly sealed containers.
December Landscaping Tips
Planting Beds: Cover bare soil in vegetable and annual planting beds. Use straw, pine needles, chopped leaves, or some other organic material.
Spring Bulbs: Get any remaining bulbs into the ground as soon as possible (if soil isn’t frozen).
Winter Mulch: Avoid heaping mulch deeper than 2-3 inches. Greater depths favor vole colonies.
Vegetable Garden: Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts. They’ll typically keep even when buried in snow drifts.
Fruit Trees: Gather and dispose of any remaining fruits or nuts on trees or the ground beneath them. This reduces pests and diseases next year.