Pruning Time: When To Start Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning is one of those critical practices in tomato farming. Even more important is the timing of the activity; when to start pruning tomato plants. Timing is everything when it comes to pruning whether it is a kitchen garden or a large-scale farm.

The timing, and pruning routine, will vary depending on the tomato variety you have chosen for the farm. The two broad categories are determinate and indeterminate.

For the indeterminate variety, immediately you see suckers start pruning tomato plants. The first suckers appear between the branch and main stem soon after transplanting your plants. Pruning may begin much later because you do not prune suckers for determinate tomatoes. For example, in case of leaves touching the ground or sick. There are other exceptions below which would benefit you to know.

Let us break it down. Pruning refers to removing those parts of the plants that are undesired. All the way from the nursery, some situations may call for pruning before you get to the transplanting stage.

Exactly when to start pruning tomato plants

Nursery/Seedbed

Tomato diseases may begin infecting your crops in the nursery. In such as case, you might need to remove the infected leaves from the seedling or remove it entirely. Luckily, if you keep with good nursery practices, you will rarely have major outbreaks.

Sometimes the plants are so tiny, so it would make sense to remove the whole crop if you planted many seedlings. However, the bigger seedlings could sustain losing a leaf or two.

Transplanting

After the nursery, the next phase you might need a little pruning is transplanting. Some seedlings may be short, while some may have many branches.

When you transplant, the leaves from the two examples will most likely touch the ground infecting the plant with diseases from the soil. Removing the lowest leaves allows you to have more stems under the soil without the leaves touching the ground.

It is best to bury part of the stem with the roots while transplanting. New roots emerge from the stem. Together with the original roots, you increase water and nutrient absorption into the plant.

All the way to just before season end

when to start pruning tomatoes at transplanting
Pruning tomatoes after transplanting

After transplanting, you wait for the suckers to get about 2 inches tall to start pruning them. Pruning suckers will require garden clippers or blades for cutting, or you can pinch them off. You only want to keep the main stem.

As the tomatoes mature, more suckers will appear, so you should continue cutting them. The leaves will get bigger and heavier. The lower ones might hang low and touch the ground. It would be best to shorten the branches or cut off the whole branch in such a state.

Read More: Preventing Tomato Diseases After Pruning

What about the best time of the day?

The best time of the day to prune your tomatoes is in the morning and late afternoon or evening. Put simply, hot temperatures during pruning stress the plants causing them to wilt. You could also prune in cloudy weather, regardless of the time of the day, because it is cool.

Avoid pruning in wet weather or soon after irrigation. Pruning leaves scars, and if the stem is moist while the scars are still fresh, tomatoes could easily catch a disease.

Determinate or bush tomatoes are occasionally pruned only in case of disease or some leaves touching the ground. You do not remove the suckers as you do for indeterminate tomatoes.

When is it too late to prune tomato plants?

Speaking of disease, one of the main reasons you should prune your tomatoes is to control and prevent disease. Another reason is to steer the growth of the plant. You can read about the other benefits of tomato pruning here.

Because of the benefits of pruning, when is it too late to prune tomatoes should not be a question. It is never too late. Whatever time you jump in will benefit your plant in the future.

However, avoid pruning towards the end of the growing season. It is among the common pruning mistakes beginners make that lead to sunscald, among other problems.

Pruning is a preventive measure. You should initiate preventive measures early, but you can start them later if you do not.

Once that plane has taken off, most are unaware that there comes a time when you have to stop. Stopping the pruning exercise could be because the planting season has ended.

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