In addition to today’s trellising Garden Projects, I decided to do a little trimming. Last night I was reading up on how to train and prune tomatoes, which is especially important given that we have a bunch of indeterminate varieties that can grow to be 8-9 feet tall (we’re not planning on letting them get much above 6 ft). Today I tried my hand at trimming the tomatoes…

Upfront in the middle of the bed we have a Cherry Sweetie, and in the back three in a row: an Early Girl / a beefsteak / another Early Girl [I’d provide links, but they’re all to seed companies, and I don’t want to endorse anyone in particular].

The Cherry Sweetie in particular seems prone to growing branches in pairs where one grows upwards and the other downwards — which makes for a really dense and messy plant. When you add that branches lying on the dirt is an easy way for the plant to pick up diseases or mold, it was clear that some thinning was in order.

These pictures are from one of the smaller plants since the left bed was too dense to get good photos.

Step 1: Once your plant is over a foot tall (12-18″) and has it’s first set of flowers, you can do a little trimming of the lower branches. These guys won’t get much sun since the new upper growth will shade them, and they’re more likely to sit on damp dirt picking up unwanted fungus/microbes. This is also a good time to locate branches growing downwards, or inwards crowding other branches — they can both go.

Step 1: Find the lowest branches that point ground-ward.

Step 1: Find the lowest branches that point ground-ward.

Step 2: Always trim at or near growth points on plants, on tomatoes, this is at the little “V” section of a stem called the “sucker”. You can either pinch unwanted branches off at the stem (give a little wiggle if they’re being difficult) or cut about 1/4″ away from the plant at a diagonal. I’m trimming in this picture because there are two stems at this growth point and I didn’t want to risk damaging the upper one.

Step 2: Either pinch off or trim about 1/4

Step 2: Either pinch off or trim about 1/4″ away from the plant, at a diagonal.

Step 3: With tomatoes, it’s better to trim less at first — you should leave between 2-4 main stalks, and never trim more than 10-20% of the plant in one session. Tomatoes can go into ‘shock’ if you over-do it and spend a week or two recovering, rather than working on making you new fruits! Instead, do a little at a time, come back weekly and take off lower branches working your way up to the first cluster of tomatoes. Little by little, you’ll have happier healthier plants!

Step 3: Happier plant!

Step 3: Happier plant!

Here’s another useful tutorial I found: How to Prune a Tomato.