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Pruning Tomato Plants – Tips On Removing Tomato Plant Leaves

As you read and learn about a specific plant’s pruning needs and preferences, you may develop some pruning anxiety. This is especially true of pruning shrubs, which have all sorts of strict rules like, “prune immediately after flowering,” “only cut back during dormancy” or “cut the flower stem above an outward facing bud or above a five-leaflet.” With such specific pruning rules, you may feel like you need to set up a diagram next to a shrub to prune it properly.

Not all plants are fussy about pruning, though. Most annual and perennial plants are much more laid back when it comes to pruning habits. Forget to deadhead them? They’ll forgive you. Cut it back too short? No worries, it’ll fill back out in no time. One of my favorite forgiving plants to care for are tomato plants.

Can I Cut Tomato Leaves?

Yes, you can. Many years ago, before I really knew anything at all about plants or gardening, I bought a small starter Sweet 100 tomato plant. I planted it in a large pot on a sunny balcony and in just a few weeks it sprawled all over the balcony railings, covered with fruit blossoms. Then one night a particularly nasty storm blew it off the balcony, ripping many of its stems off, battering and bending what remained. I was heartbroken and figured that was the end of my tomato plant. Still, I placed it in a safer spot and cut off all the broken and damaged stems.

After I removed all the damage, it was as small as it had been when I purchased it. I didn’t have much hope that I would get any tomatoes from it, but every evening I found myself sitting next to it, enjoying the summer breeze and carelessly picking at any suspicious looking leaf on the plant. The way it responded to my pruning reminded me of the mythical hydra, sprouting new stems, leaves and flowers wherever I snipped and pinched.

Your tomato plant won’t really instantly grow three new stems in the place of every stem you cut, but it will reward your pruning efforts with a bounty of delicious fruit. Regularly pruning tomato plants will help the plant produce more fruit. Plants need foliage to create energy from photosynthesis, but the growth and development of foliage uses up a lot of the plant’s energy that could be used for fruit production. Removing dead, diseased or just unnecessary leaves and stems from tomato plants increases the fruit.

Cutting Leaves on Tomatoes

When it comes to cutting back tomato plants, there are some things you need to know. Tomato plants fall in to two categories: determinate or indeterminate.

Determinate tomato plants are shrub-like. They grow to a certain height, then stop growing up and instead fill out and grow bushier. Determinate tomato plants also go to flower and fruit all at once. Patio, Roma and Celebrity are a few popular varieties of determinate tomato plants. Because they fruit in a shorter time span and grow as more compact plants, determinate tomato plants need less pruning.

When you first plant a determinate tomato, you should prune off any flower sets that form before the plant is 18-24 inches tall. This will redirect the plant’s energy from flower formation to developing strong roots.

As the plant grows, prune out any crossing, crowded, damaged or diseased stems and foliage to keep the plant open, airy and free of pest and disease. Removing tomato plant leaves that grow just beneath the flower sets will send more energy to fruit formation.

Indeterminate tomato plants are more like wild vines. These grow as long as they can go and continually bear new fruit sets. You can save space in the garden and focus on fruit production by growing indeterminate tomato plants vertically up poles, arbors, trellises, fences or as an espalier. They can be trained and trimmed easily to grow as single stemmed, heavy fruit bearing plants by removing excess tomato plant leaves and sucker stems that form along the main stem.

Many heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and Better Boy tomatoes are popular varieties of indeterminate tomato plants. In late summer, they can be top pruned to redirect the plant’s energy into ripening its last fruits.

When pruning tomato plants, or any plants, focus first on removing foliage, fruits or stems that show any sign of disease or pests. Then sanitize your tools and wash your hands to prevent the spread of any pests or disease that may have been present.

Pruning tomatoes is the best way to keep your plants healthy, and maximize yield. In this post, I’ll tell you why you should trim tomatoes, which types need it, and when to do it. Then I’ll show you exactly how to prune tomatoes step-by-step.

If your tomato plants grow huge every summer, but don’t produce much fruit, then it’s time to bring out your pruning shears. Getting into the habit of trimming tomatoes on a regular basis will give you the best yield.

Some people are intimidated by the thought pruning plants. But don’t worry, I’m going to make this super easy for you! Below I will walk you through everything in detail.

Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to pruning tomatoes…

  • What Types Need Pruning?
  • Do Tomatoes Need To Be Pruned?
  • Why Should They Be Pruned?
  • What Are Tomato Suckers?
  • When To Prune
  • Tools To Use
  • How To Prune
  • FAQs
    • How much should I prune?
    • How do I make my plants bushy?
    • When should you top the plants?
    • Should I cut off dead leaves?
    • When should I thin my plants?
    • Should I pinch off the flowers?

What Types Of Tomatoes Need Pruning?

Before we jump into the details of trimming tomatoes, it’s important to understand that there are two types to consider: determinate and indeterminate. Learn how to tell the difference here.

The reason it’s important to know the difference between them is because they don’t require the same amount of pruning. Pruning determinate tomatoes is super easy…

  • How to prune determinate tomatoes – Remove the suckers at the bottom of the plant, only up to the first flower cluster. Do not prune the top branches, or it could negatively impact fruit production.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that! However, pruning indeterminate tomatoes is a bit more complicated. So, the rest of this post is all about that.

Large tomato plants overgrowing the cage

Do Tomato Plants Need To Be Pruned?

Pruning isn’t required in order to grow a healthy crop of yummy tomatoes. If you’re happy with how your plant looks, and the number of tomatoes it’s been producing, then there’s no need to trim it.

But if it’s overgrown and hasn’t been producing many tomatoes, then it’s time to give it a good trim.

Why Should Tomato Plants Be Pruned?

Regularly pruning tomatoes is very beneficial to the plant, and can result in even more fruit. Here are a few reasons why it’s to important to trim tomatoes regularly…

  • Results in higher yields – If you don’t prune tomatoes, they’ll spend a lot of energy on growing leaves and suckers. This can take away from fruit production, meaning you won’t get as many tomatoes.
  • Prevents disease – Thinning tomatoes improves airflow, and helps to prevent fungus issues. Proper pruning will also help to prevent blight, and other soil-borne diseases.
  • Keeps them looking nice – Unpruned tomatoes can look overgrown and weedy. Plus, when they outgrow their support, they can quickly flop to the ground.
  • More ripe tomatoes – Timely pruning encourages the fruit to ripen faster. That means you won’t be stuck with a ton of green tomatoes that don’t have time to turn red before frost.

Related Post: Tomatoes Not Turning Red? Try These 5 Tricks

Done pruning the bottom of my tomato plant

What Are Tomato Suckers?

Tomato suckers are the extra growth that appears between the stem and a branch joint. If left to grow, suckers will become another branch that can develop flowers, and even tomatoes.

The reason to remove them is because they compete for the energy available to the plant. This extra growth can cause the fruits to be smaller, and lower overall tomato yield.

Once you remove the suckers, your plant can dedicate more energy to producing tomatoes, rather than wasting it on the weak sucker growth.

Suckers can also make the plant look overgrown, and cause it to become very heavy. So pinching them out on a regular basis allows you to control their size and shape.

A sucker on a tomato plant

When To Prune Tomatoes

It’s best to start pruning tomatoes when they’re small, as soon as the flowers begin to form. Then keep up with it on a regular basis throughout the summer. This will allow them to produce as many tomatoes as possible.

Then in late summer, you should get more aggressive with it. At this point, you can top the plants, and pinch out any new flowers. This will help the fruits ripen much faster, so you’re not stuck with a bunch of green tomatoes when frost comes.

Tools For Trimming Tomatoes

You can simply pinch off small suckers on tomatoes with your fingers. If you don’t like the smell on your hands, then use a pair of micro-tip pruners.

It’s best to cut off larger suckers, stems, and leaves using pruning shears to avoid damaging the main stem. Personally, I like using precision pruners for the job.

Whatever cutting tool you decide to use, always be sure to clean and sharpen them before pruning tomatoes. That will help to prevent any damage or disease issues.

Related Post: How To Build Sturdy Tomato Cages

Pinching tomato plant suckers

How To Prune Tomato Plants

You don’t have to worry too much about over pruning, tomatoes can handle a pretty heavy trim. But it is important to know how to prune tomatoes in order to ensure you’re doing what’s best for their health, and to maximum fruit production.

Here are the steps for trimming tomatoes…

Step 1: Trim out the dead leaves – Remove any dead or yellowing leaves that you see. This is an easy first step, and will help to clear the clutter so you can focus on pruning the rest.

Step 2: Remove the bottom leaves – It’s important to remove all of the leaves that are touching the ground. This will help to prevent infection from soil-borne diseases, like blight.

Cutting back the lower leaves

Step 3: Pinch out the suckers – You don’t need to remove every single sucker. That can become very tedious, especially if you haven’t done it before. I usually try to remove the largest suckers towards the bottom first, then pinch out some of the smaller ones on top if I have time.

Step 4: Prune back extra leaves – This final step is optional, but good to do for overgrown tomato plants. Prune off or trim back some of the largest leaves to further thin it, control the size, and stimulate fruit growth. Don’t trim off too many leaves though, plants need their leaves to grow.

Related Post: Growing Vegetables: The Ultimate Veggie Garden Guide

Removing leaves from tomato plants

FAQs About Pruning Tomatoes

In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about pruning tomatoes. If your question didn’t get answered after reading through this article, and the FAQs, ask it in the comments below. I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

How much should I prune my tomato plants?

If you’re unsure of how much to trim tomatoes, start by removing all of the suckers. If it still looks overgrown, then you can prune out a few of the leaves to control the size, and thin it more. But be sure to keep most of the leaves on the plant.

How do I make my tomato plants bushy?

Indeterminate tomatoes naturally grow tall rather than bushy. So, if you want bushier plants next year, try growing a determinate variety. Otherwise, pinching the new tips of the main branches will encourage them to grow bushier.

When should you top your tomato plants?

You can top your tomatoes in late summer so the existing fruits have time to ripen. I start doing this anywhere from 4-6 weeks before our average first frost date.

Should I cut dead leaves off my tomato plant?

Yes. It’s good practice to prune off the dead leaves regularly to keep your plant healthy, and prevent the spread of disease.

When should I thin my tomato plants?

You can thin them as needed throughout the growing season in order to control their size. See more details in the “When To Prune Tomatoes” section above.

Should I pinch off tomato flowers?

Pinching the flowers will allow the plant to focus it’s energy on ripening the tomatoes that have already started growing. I recommend pinching off the flowers in late summer (4-6 weeks before frost), since brand new tomatoes won’t have enough time to mature anyway.

Pinching off tomato flowers

While pruning tomatoes is not required, it’s the best way to get the maximum yield from your plants. Once you get into the habit, trimming tomatoes on a regular basis becomes second nature. And you’ll be able to grow the biggest crop of tomatoes in the neighborhood!

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Share your tips for pruning tomatoes in the comments section below!

Managing your tomato plants by learning how and when to prune them is one of the key secrets for producing a healthier and better crop of tomatoes. Tomato plants are hardy and typically produce a good crop even without pruning, but pruning them produces an even better crop of delicious, mouth-watering tomatoes. Pruning your plants properly can encourage larger, healthier fruit to grow.

Why Should You Prune Tomato Plants?

Determinate varieties, or those that do not continue to vine, require less pruning if left to their own growing patterns simply because they eventually stop. Unfortunately, indeterminate varieties, or those plants that continue to vine and grow longer or taller, often become difficult to support if they are not pruned.

Since they continue to flourish and increase their overall weight and need for support, indeterminate varieties require special care and support in order to produce the healthiest crop of tomatoes.

If your tomato plants are left unsupported, eventually the added weight of too many branches and too much fruit will cause your plant to lay along the ground exposing your tomatoes to disease and pest infestation. This will also lead to smaller tomatoes or a longer time period for them to grow to full size.

As you can see, pruning does come in handy for several reasons. It is definitely worth the time and effort to learn how to prune your tomato plants so that you can have a successful crop.

Each leaf of a tomato plant performs the process of photosynthesis or the production of sugar, which is used for the growth of the plant and its tomatoes. If too many leaves and branches exist on your tomato plants, then some of the leaves will not be able to get the proper amount of sunlight to create the sugar they need to sustain themselves.

When this happens, the plant is less healthy and struggles to survive. In severe cases, the plant has so many unnecessary leaves and branches that not even the tomatoes are receiving a sufficient supply of sugar.

Eventually, the leaves that are struggling to survive turn yellow and fall off. However, this takes a while to occur and the damage to your plant has already begun. Moreover, the tomato plant is also at risk of getting a disease since its components are not functioning at optimal level.

If your tomato plant is unsupported, not only will all of its leaves fail to get the proper sunshine it needs for photosynthesis, but also, the plant will be at even greater risk of disease since it will be prone on the ground rather than upright and supported.

This fact also leads to a smaller and less productive crop since properly pruned plants can produce at a quicker rate. Moreover, plants that are lying on the ground often cover some of the leaves and fruit, blocking the sun that these plants need to remain healthy.

How to Prune Tomato Plant Seedlings

Pruning your tomato plants begins with your seedlings. Early pruning techniques encourage the growth of strong stems, an important facet to a healthy, producing tomato plant. Tomato plants with a single strong stem typically produce larger fruits while needing less support.

Typically, tomato plant seedlings outgrow their initial containers and need to be transplanted several times before finally making it into the ground. In order to encourage strong stems and a strong root system, it is important for you to prune your seedlings prior to transplantation to each new container as well as their final growing spot.

When you transplant each seedling, gently remove all leaves except the ones that are above the soil line. Tomato stems root on their own as long as they are covered with soil. This strategy encourages a strong stem as well as a strong root system to support your tomato plant.

How to Prune Tomato Plants: Indeterminate Varieties

Since all of the leaves on a single-stem tomato plant typically receive sun, this type of plant usually produces a healthy crop of tomatoes. Early pruning leads to the growth of a strong stem by eliminating unnecessary suckers or secondary stems that divert sugar production away from the primary stem.

When planting your tomato plant in the ground, you are going to remove all of the suckers from the plant. In particular, remove all growth below the first cluster of flowers on your tomato plant.

If you are interested in producing a larger crop of smaller tomatoes, then you can allow as many as four additional stems to grow on your plant. Any more than four stems and you are seriously impinging upon the size of your tomato crop.

If you choose to have more than one stem, you should follow this technique. Allow a single branch to remain above the first node that rests on the stem of your plant directly above the first flowering cluster. Then, allow another branch to remain above the second node that sits on the stem of your tomato plant above the initial cluster of flowers. The node looks like a small bump on the stem.

Once your plant continues to grow, you can allow new growth as desired. More stems mean a larger, longer-producing crop in indeterminate varieties of tomatoes. This allows you to continue picking tomatoes for several more weeks.

How to Prune Tomato Plants: Determinate Varieties

Determinate varieties of tomatoes have a well-defined producing season. Therefore, they require minimal pruning as they will eventually stop growing and producing new stems on their own. In general, the only pruning that you need to do is to remove stems and leaves below the first cluster of flowers on the primary stem.

Any additional pruning has no effect on the number or size of the tomatoes that are grown. Therefore, any additional pruning is simply a waste of time.

Want to learn more about pruning tomato plants?

Check out these websites:
Pruning Tomato Plants from University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Training Systems and Pruning in Organic Tomato Production from Extension.org

Over the past 10 years, I have regarded the prospect of drought in this garden as a state of grace fervently to be desired. The thought of dry day following dry day in an inevitable procession is a promise rather than a threat. The combination of high rainfall, global warming and low-lying, heavy soil ensures a pretty constant state of sogginess which the rain tops up on a regular basis. On the whole this is good for plants, but it can become wearisome for their human tenders. In fact, just being able to step out of the back door without putting my boots on is a rare treat between October and May.

The last real rain we had was on 20 March, and it had been exceptionally dry before that. This dry spell has been accompanied by hot sun and cold winds – both of which have sucked up and dried out moisture. We have had a dozen nights of frost, which also dries overnight moisture. The result is as near to a drought as I have known it these past 10 years. The ground is parched, with that dry, biscuity texture you normally associate with high summer – or here, with one high dry summer in about four.

I have rather neglected the vegetable garden, because I have been chasing around getting the other dry-weather stuff done. But I returned to it this week with a prodigal air. I planted out broad beans and peas that have been growing in pots, first in the greenhouse and for the past three weeks in cold frames. The mistake I have made in the past is to treat them in the same way, whereas they need subtly different regimes.

Beans are tough and are fundamentally robust, big plants, that need lots of water and rich soil to do well. Peas need rich soil, too, but are altogether more fragile plants, especially when young, and need nothing like the same water, again, especially when young. In the past, I have lost dozens of peas sown in pots by overwatering, which reduces the pea seed to slime. The trick is to sow them into damp compost and leave it unwatered until the shoots appear, thereafter giving them just enough moisture to stop them drying out. But I have a tendency to be heavy on the hosepipe with young plants, even though I know that too much water will cause as much harm as too little.

I also experimented with sowing the first batch of peas (‘Douce Provence’) in Coir-7s, which was a mistake as all legumes have a long first root which whizzed straight through the coir package and out the other side before any decent rootball had developed, so they all had to be put into pots – which I might as well have done first time round. I wish I could sow them directly outside, but the slug damage is so great that it is not worth it.

I can get away with a May outdoor sowing because the plants grow fast enough to outrun the slug’s jaws.

I transplanted this lot and stuck them all with pea sticks cut from my friend’s wood in Wales. Last year I grew the peas up chicken-wire supports, but it is not the same. Peas need pea sticks – everything else is an excuse for not managing to get hold of any. They work, they look good and they add much-needed vertical structure to the garden. They also make fantastic kindling. Why don’t garden centres sell pea sticks? Or bean sticks, for that matter. Why do these things have to be treated as folksy ‘bygones’? I also put up the hazel for the climbing beans, even though I have not even sown these in pots yet. I have found that there is nothing to be gained by hurrying these and will not think of planting them out before the end of next month. I dug a pit beneath each wigwam and filled it with compost, as they are frantically hungry for food and water. I usually grow radishes and lettuce on the spot to occupy the gap between now and June.

The first broad beans, ‘Aquadulce’, went out at the very beginning of March, having been sown in January and grown on under glass. They have only just begun to put on any top growth, but these early-sown beans do establish bigger roots and therefore grow away stronger than spring-sown ones. I added some ‘Red Epicure’ – which has wonderful crimson beans – and sowed another batch in root-trainers for planting out in a month’s time.

I think that the trick of growing broad beans is to regard them as a delicacy and a treat rather than as a dull but necessary maincrop.

A young broad bean is a fabulous treat growing on a lovely plant.

I had planted the first of our potatoes – ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Premier’ – a month ago and did the rest the other day. I have learnt not to be in a hurry with the potatoes. Last year, the ground was not ready until 2 June, but we got a decent crop, especially of ‘Romano’ and ‘Sante’. It was the first year that I had grown ‘Romano’, and they are an excellent potato with good waxy flesh and keep wonderfully. We ate the last of the harvest a few days ago, and they were in as good condition as when first lifted, having spent the winter in nothing more protective than a couple of large plastic pots covered with a sack in the potting shed.

I kept seed of both varieties – the first time I have done this. You are always warned to plant specially grown seed potatoes, that have been raised in ‘clean’ ground and treated (unless stated organic) but we are trying to recycle as much seed of our own as possible this year.

People get very obsessive about how they plant potatoes, as though there was a right or wrong way. But the only secret is in preparing the ground well, and the dryness has made this easy. I use a mattock and draw deep rills about 3ft apart, popping the seed potatoes in at about 9in spacing. I measure nothing. You need enough space between the rows to earth them up, and enough gap between each seed potato to give them room for enough moisture and goodness. But how much is that? It has to be down to common sense and experience. I do rub off too many ‘eyes’ but only roughly as they go on to the ground.

That is the careless, I-am-an-unfettered spirit bit. But there is the serious matter of doing it right. Not right by the book but right by the Zen of potato planting. You can dress this in all sorts of ways, but it always comes back to the absolute truth that seeds or plants that are planted with proper care do much, much better than those that are not. Some of this is technical, but only a small part. The care is one of spirit. Potato planting is one of those things that have to be done with a rhythm and concentration, feeling the woodiness of the mattock handle and the dry smoothness of potato skin and the exact texture of the soil as the rills are drawn back over. Get those things dead right and the harvest will – with absolute certainty – be the better for it.

This is the sort of talk that makes the more strictly scientific gardening establishment curl up with embarrassed contempt, but I am a reasonable man, willing to acknowledge and live side by side with every shade of opinion and belief, as long as you accept that I am right.

Your roots

If you have containers, it is now an important moment in their calendar.

· Any early bulbs that have been grown in containers can either be moved out of the limelight to over-summer or lifted and stored in a spare pot while the main pot is replanted.

· Permanent planting should either be potted on to a larger pot (just a little bigger) with some fresh potting compost, or scrape the surface of the compost off and replace with a mulch of rotted compost.

· If you live in a sheltered spot, hanging baskets can be planted up now, but let them acclimatise in a sheltered spot for a week or so before hanging up.

· Plant sweet peas, passion flowers, gourds, courgettes, climbing beans with a wigwam of bamboos to support them for the summer.

Growing Tomatoes in a Greenhouse

Those who are new to greenhouse gardening often think that glasshouses are best suited to growing flowers, herbs, and perhaps cool season crops like leafy green vegetables. The common belief among novices is that “picky” summer vegetables like tomatoes and peppers can be started in a greenhouse in late winter or early spring, but must be moved outdoors once the weather warms up.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. While it may be easier for a newbie to tend a tomato crop planted outdoors, growing tomatoes in a greenhouse isn’t difficult once you get the hang of it – and nothing beats having a year-round supply of delicious, home-grown tomatoes. Growing Tomatoes outside can be quite challenging given the UK’s unreliable climate and weather conditions. Growing tomatoes under glass will always yield far more fruitful crops, year in, year out.

Before starting, it’s important to ensure that you have the proper environment for growing tomatoes in your greenhouse. Unless it’s already summer and you’re planting for a fall crop, you will probably need to supplement the natural light inside your glasshouse with grow lights timed to operate 12-16 hours per day (high-pressure sodium lights are the best choice because they facilitate the growth of tomato flowers and fruit), and you may need to add heaters and timers to maintain proper indoor temperature. If possible, nighttime temperatures between 15 and 18 degrees and daytime temps between 22 and 28 degrees are optimal; heat mats placed under the plants can help as well. Finally, good air circulation is important to maintain constant humidity and prevent the spread of airborne plant disease.

Ready to grow? Here’s your guide to growing tomatoes in a greenhouse.

When to Plant Tomatoes in Your Greenhouse

When to plant? Hey, you’ve got a greenhouse – you can plant anytime you want! Seriously, though, most gardeners want to have an outdoor tomato crop during the summer, so we’ll start there.

The first step is finding the “last frost date” for your immediate area, which will tell you approximately when the danger of winter frost has passed. With that information, you can count backward to the proper date to start your tomato seeds. There are a number of online resources which allow you to enter your region or town and find out the proper last frost date to use. You should start your seeds six weeks before that date, and plant the seedlings outdoors between a week and ten days after the last frost date; that’s to avoid the danger of a very late surprise frost, and also because tender plants appreciate it when you give the ground an extra week or so to warm up. In the UK, the normal period for sowing seeds is between the start of March and the end of April. You can check out our greenhouse growing guide for advice on the timings for planting and harvesting of all manner of plants and vegetables.

Of course, the real advantage of having a properly-heated glasshouse with adequate lighting is that you don’t have to be a slave to the seasons and can sow your seeds at any time. That doesn’t mean you can just throw some seeds into some soil and be feasting on juicy red tomatoes on New Year’s Day, however. All tomato plants require plenty of attention, but those grown during the cold seasons need extra care – and that begins with choosing the right plants.“Determinate” varieties, often called bush tomatoes, are hardier and better suited to late summer, fall and winter planting because their shapes provide better protection for the fruit and take up less space, making them the best choice for most home greenhouses where space can be at a premium and temperatures can vary. Determinate tomatoes produce their crops all at once rather than fruiting throughout their growing season (like the indeterminate varieties which prosper outdoors during the summer). Staggered planting dates throughout the cold weather months can ensure a continuous supply of greenhouse tomatoes.Indeterminate varieties can be grown in a glasshouse as well, but will grow much higher and require strong support for the vines; many feel cherry or plum tomatoes are the best indeterminate for indoor growing. In general, indeterminate tomato plants will produce a bigger crop, but determinate varieties will give you more fruit per square metre.We’ll get into the specifics of planting seeds and tending plants shortly, but be aware that growing “off-season” tomatoes in a greenhouse during winter’s shorter days (with less natural sunlight) and in colder weather demands greater attention to maintaining proper temperatures and humidity, and positioning plants so they receive as much sunlight as possible (supplemented by grow lights as needed).

Growing Tomatoes from Seeds

There’s certainly less effort needed to start your indoor tomato garden with plants from the garden centre, but it’s more rewarding to grow tomatoes from seeds and watch the first seedlings emerge. If you’ve never done it, it’s worth the extra time just to experience the thrill of seeing the small plants grow and thrive. You’ll also have a much greater choice of varieties when growing from seeds.

One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make comes well before you see fruit, shoots or even the first sprouts – it’s choosing the tomatoes you plan to grow. We’ve already mentioned the difference between determinate and indeterminate varieties; the amount of room you have in your greenhouse and the type of fruit you prefer should both be considered when making this decision. Most seed suppliers and online sites clearly label the best choices for greenhouse growing; a few commonly suggested varieties are Roma VF, Tumbling Tom and Red Alert for bush plants, and Alicante, Gardener’s Delight and Shirley for indeterminate plants which will be cordoned (more about that later in this article).

Now that you’ve selected seeds, it’s time to sow them. The process is the same whether you plan to keep them indoors in pots, move them to grow bags, or transplant them into the ground inside your greenhouse or outdoors. You’ll initially sow the seeds in pots, so let’s start there.

Growing Tomatoes in Pots

Some gardeners start their seeds the way that commercial operations do, in the small cell packs that are sold to consumers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re better off using small 7.5-10 cm tall pots, wide enough to let the seedlings spread their roots. Fill the pots almost completely (leave about 1 cm of space at the top) with soilless potting mix, seeding or multipurpose compost, and place a few seeds on top near the middle of the pot. Most of the seeds will germinate, so don’t put too many in each pot – three to five seeds should do it. Cover them with a thin layer of soil mix or compost and press down gently so the seeds are completely in contact with the soil. Don’t forget to label the pots with their variety and starting date.

Now place the pots in an area of your greenhouse which receives at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. The more sunlight and the warmer the environment, the faster the seeds will germinate; the grow mats and grow lights we’ve mentioned will be a big help. You can even cover the pots with plastic to keep the heat in. If you take the plastic shortcut, though, be sure to remove the plastic as soon as you see the first sprouts. Otherwise, the chances are good that your plants will suffer from a lack of air circulation, contract the fungal infection known as “damping off” disease, and die.

Don’t overwater your seeds because they will rot in soggy soil. When the topsoil becomes dry, just sprinkle enough water into the pots to moisten it. You should see seedlings within about two weeks, and in six to eight weeks they should be large enough to be transplanted into their own, larger pots. During that growing period, be sure to provide good air circulation for the seedlings with an open window or a small fan, and if the greenhouse is cold at night, consider using horticultural fleece to warm the small plants.

It’s time to transplant the seedlings when they’re 2-3 cm tall and have developed a few leaves. Place each into a separate pot, handling them by their leaves and making sure the roots go as deeply into the compost or potting mix as possible. Once a plant has grown to about 20 cm it is ready to be transplanted again, into its “final” pot, a grow bag, or the ground. If the final destination is outdoors, don’t move plants them until it’s warm enough – usually mid-May or later in the UK – and be sure to harden them off first.

For tomato plants which will remain in pots for the entire season, don’t skimp on the size. If a plant outgrows its “final” pot, it’s a major project to transplant it again. Smaller varieties like bush plants or cherry tomato vines should go into a six litre (or bigger) pot, while indeterminate varieties will need one that’s at least ten litres. There should be many small holes in those pots (if you don’t use specially-designed containers like Airpots, you can drill your own) so the roots can breathe. Some pots are more like decorative garden ornaments, shaped like pagodas or drinking troughs. All are ideal providing the size is such that the plants can root down and spread adequately.

You will of course position your tomatoes where they have room to grow and receive as much sunlight as possible, but also be certain that you place the pots where you can provide support for the plants. Even bush tomatoes can benefit from supports like cages, but vining varieties will require cages, trellises or stakes.

Growing Tomatoes in Grow Bags

Grow bags became quite popular in the 1970s as a way to cultivate tomatoes along the inside borders of a greenhouse without “using up” the soil in the ground or exposing plants to diseases or pests which might be present in the soil. They fell out of favour for a while, but are once again popular – and a terrific way to grow tomatoes in a glasshouse (or outdoors, to make the most of a short growing season).

Ready-made grow bags the easiest to use, and also contain compost designed to work without the drainage normally provided by the holes at the bottom and sides of pots. If you’re planting directly into bags of compost or making your own bags, though, you’re best off puncturing the bottom of the bag in a few spots because your plants will most likely need the drainage help. There are also grow bags made of porous material, which provide the best drainage and aeration possible for your tomato plants.To get the bag ready, use your hands to break up all clumps of compost which may have formed inside, then open the pre-cut slots at the top (or cut your own, if necessary). Soak the pot containing your small tomato plant in water for an hour to prevent root damage and then use a trowel to create space for your plant and its root ball. The hole should be deep enough so the top of the root ball sits completely inside the bag and can be covered with a thin layer of compost. Gently firm the plant and the topsoil, and water well.Remember, the plants will get much larger and their roots will spread inside the bag. A 60-litre grow bag shouldn’t be home to more than two plants, and a 75-litre bag should hold three at most. A grow bag support frame can be a worthwhile investment, as it slips underneath the bag and holds canes or poles used to support the plants as they grow.

Some Great Greenhouses to Grow Tomatoes in.

There are a number of different compost products on the market. Seeding compost is light on nutrients while potting compost has the nutrients your plants will need as they grow, and multipurpose compost can be used for both seeds and plants. The ideal approach is using the “proper” compost for each stage of your plants’ development, but that can get expensive. A cheaper approach is to purchase grow bags – even if you don’t plan to use the bags – and use the compost that’s inside the bags. It’s the same quality of compost that most commercial growers use, and if they do fine with it, you can as well. If you have your own compost pile, don’t hesitate to use it; many experts swear by homemade compost for their tomato crops.

Cordon Tomatoes

The term “cordon” is often used interchangeably with the term “indeterminate,” but in reality, cordon refers to the stem of an indeterminate tomato plant when it grows without extra branches. How does a plant grow without branches, you ask? That requires some actual gardening. First, though, a very short biology lesson.

The important structural parts of a cordon tomato plant are the roots, the main stem (which grows from the roots), and the leaf stems (also called “trusses”) which grow out from the main stem. The leaf stems are where the flowers grow and the fruit develops. As indeterminate varieties grow, they send out many small side shoots (sometimes called “suckers”) above or below the leaf stems. Those shoots, if left alone, will grow into new “main” stems or create even more side shoots, using up much of the nutrients the plant needs to create fruit.The best crop of tomatoes, therefore, is produced when the plants are pruned (or cordoned) to ensure that they only have one main stem. That is done by pinching off those small side shoots regularly; checking each plant once a week will let you catch the side shoots early enough that they’ll snap off easily in your thumb and forefinger when you bend them. As long as you don’t accidentally remove or damage the leaf stems above the shoots, you’ll end up having a single tall vine with productive leaf stems growing lots of tomatoes.

Stopping Tomatoes

A cordon tomato plant probably will never grow tall enough to let Jack climb up to find the Giant’s gold, but it will keep on growing and growing – and diverting nutrients to the new growth – unless you stop it. That’s easy to do by a process known as stopping tomatoes (sometimes called topping tomatoes).

Once a plant has grown four to six leaf stems (the decision depends on how tall your greenhouse is and how well the plant is flourishing) it’s time to stop its upward growth by cutting the main stem at a point two leaves above the top leaf stem. From that point on, all of the plant’s energy will be used to grow those beautiful red tomatoes on your existing trusses.

Determinate varieties do not need to have side shoots removed or to be stopped.

Feeding Your Tomatoes

There’s nothing complicated about feeding your greenhouse tomato plants. Simply use a nitrogen-rich liquid fertiliser every one or two weeks (read the label on the container to determine the optimal feeding schedule) while the plants are first growing, and then switch to a high-potash, high-potassium “tomato plant” fertiliser after the first tomatoes have started to set.

Two other quick feeding facts: first, if you have a sick plant it should not be fed; starve the plant until it starts to recover. Second, liquid fertiliser leads to an accumulation of salts in the compost. Skip a feeding twice during the plant’s life cycle and give lots of extra water instead, to wash out some of the salts.

Watering Your Tomatoes

A general benchmark is that a greenhouse tomato plant needs a little over one litre of water per day, more in hot and sunny conditions, less in cool and cloudy conditions. Plants appreciate daily, light watering much more than being drenched every once in a while. The latter will lead to cracking or splitting in the tomatoes’ skins.

The best way to know if your tomato plants need water is to examine the soil and the plants. The soil from the top to a depth of 5 cm should be moist but not soggy and the leaves should not be wilting. Dry soil and wilted or dark green leaves are a clear indication that the plants aren’t getting enough water. On the other hand, soggy soil and light (almost yellow) leaves are signs that you need to cut back on your watering.

Tomato Diseases and Pests

When you grow tomatoes in a greenhouse, they’re less susceptible to blight than ones growing outdoors. However, there are two pests which are quite common to glasshouses and can do great damage to your tomatoes.

  • Red Spider Mite: You can’t see these mites (which love the protected environment of a greenhouse) with the naked eye, but you’ll know there’s a problem if you see mottling, bronzing or speckling on the top of your plants’ leaves. Immediately turn down the heat and continually mist the underside of the leaves (where the mites nest) with water; then get a predatory mite called phytoselius persimilis, which will eat the red spider mites, at your local garden centre. Avoid pesticides, because they won’t kill the red spider mites but will kill the “good guys” instead.
  • Whitefly: Whiteflies show up in the spring and start as tiny (1.5 mm), scaly crawlers before becoming small white moths as adults. It’s best to be proactive because whiteflies are quite common in glasshouses. There’s a two-step process: in early April introduce the parasitic wasp known as encarsia formosa, which will eat the nymphs, into the greenhouse. Then later in the month, hang fly-catching sheets near your plants to catch the adults. Most whiteflies are resistant to pesticides; the sprays that do still work can also be absorbed by your tomatoes.Other issues which affect outdoor tomatoes can be a problem in greenhouses as well. Growing marigolds near your tomatoes will help attract hoverflies if you have an issue with aphids, but many chemical sprays will also do the job. Mosaic virus is also a major issue in the UK, and is distinguished by leaves which become misshapen and a mottled yellow in color. Remove the leaves from plants and from the greenhouse immediately, be sure not to touch any other plants until you’ve washed thoroughly, and give the affected plants plenty of food and water – they should recover much of their strength.

It is possible to grow tomatoes in pots, but there are a few BEST TOMATO VARIETIES FOR CONTAINERS that are easy to grow, taste great and produce heavily. Check out!

Tomatoes are one of the most loved vegetables (technically a fruit). And why not? They are easy to grow, can be grown in limited space, productive and delicious. Growing tomatoes in containers is also not difficult but to ensure successful harvest and great flavor, choosing the right tomato variety is essential, which is why we are posting our list of some of the best tomato varieties for containers that you can try!

Hybrid Determinate for Pots

1. Big Boy Bush Tomato

A medium sized tomato variety, bushier growth and really productive. While these plants are merely half the size of their original predecessor, the Better Boy, they still produce a heavier crop of tomatoes with the same delicious flavor. Prized for its bush habit that doesn’t require excess staking, this hybrid determinate variety roughly takes 72-80 days to mature and performs best when you cage them well.

Pros and Cons– Suitable for small space gardeners, easy to grow, high yield, disease resistant, aromatic and flavorful tomatoes, might need some staking.

2. Bush Champion

Bush Champion as its name says has a compact growth and desirable qualities of early bearing and heat tolerance appeals to gardeners who need to grow tomato plants in space-constrained spots like containers or raised beds. This low-maintenance compact tomato variety grows around 2 feet high, with bigger, meatier tomatoes than most of the early determinates. Moreover, it matures early, within a matter of 65-70 days and the harvest tends to last several months.

Pros and Cons– High yield, disease resistant, low maintenance, suitable for containers, average taste.

3. Bush Goliath Tomato

Developed specifically for patio gardeners and people with limited garden space. This plant grows up to a maximum of 3 feet tall and bears large, sweet and red 4-inch tomatoes packed with succulent texture, flavorful meat and adequate sugar content. It keeps producing consistently up to the frost and needs as much as occasional shaking from time to time.

Pros and Cons– Suitable for containers, sweet and large fruits, long harvest season, needs little staking, pest problems.

4. Celebrity Tomato

Image Credit: Bonnie Plants

The Celebrity tomato cultivar is widely tolerant of a variety of conditions. Also, called semi-determinate due to its ability to reach the height of 4 feet. This sturdy plant produces clusters of plump, robust and crack-resistant tomatoes that are largely prized for their exceptionally rich flavor, making the variety an all-round, dependable choice for all your basic recipes, including sandwiches, snacks, bruschetta, and slicing. Celebrity vines are remarkably sturdy and thus do not heave under the weight of fruit, though they do benefit from the support of a stake or cage to stay upright.

Pros and Cons– Productive, flavorful fruits, disease resistant, produce fruits for a long time, requires a large container to grow.

5. Early Girl Bush Tomato

A relative of the popular Early Girl cultivar, this hybrid is perfect for the areas with short growing seasons or for those who want quick harvest as it takes 54-62 days to reach maturity. The dense bush is apt for containers and doesn’t grow large, suitable for medium sized pots. With ideal growing conditions, it is possible to get a yield of 100 tomatoes or more from a single plant!

Pros and Cons– Large fruits, high yield, start to produce fruits quickly, needs no support or staking.

6. Patio F Tomato

This dwarf determinate variety is an excellent choice for container gardeners, fruits just bigger than cherry size, you can try to grow this variety in small containers or 2-3 plants together in large ones. It doesn’t produce heavily but the fact that it is smaller in size you can grow many plants to improve productivity.

Pros and Cons– Compact, grows well in small to medium sized pots, needs no support, average yield, average taste.

7. Window Box Roma Tomato

This early maturing tomato cultivar was bred with the sole purposing of growing in pots, window boxes, and containers. Being a hybrid determinate, it is a dwarf plant that grows up to a height of no more than 2-3 feet and produces a prolific crop of 2-3 oz pear-shaped, bright red tomatoes that are sweet, flavorful and last long on the shelf. Perfect for salads, sauces and anything fresh off the vine.

Pros and Cons– Very productive, flavorful and sweet, can be grown indoors.

8. Tumbling Tom

Tumbling Tom bears sweet cherry tomatoes in red to yellow color. This variety is suitable for hanging baskets and small containers. Excellent for small balconies! This determinate cultivar has a trailing habit, it is easy to grow and produces heavily.

Pros and Cons– Productive, suitable for hanging baskets and containers, good taste.

Hybrid Indeterminates for Pots

1. Sun Sugar

This indeterminate cherry tomato variety has earned positive reviews of growers due to its rich and sweet tomato taste. Sun Sugar is easy to grow and disease resistant and has a long growing season until frost. This highly productive cultivar can provide 100s of tomatoes from just one plant. However, the plant can reach up to 6 feet tall and requires large to medium sized container and support.

Pros and Cons– Early maturing, excellent flavor, productive, disease resistant, requires large containers.

2. Carmello

When it comes to flavor, hybrid tomatoes are often a major let down, but thankfully that’s not the case with the Carmello variety. Favored the world over for its high productivity and intensely delectable 8-12 oz juicy red fruits, Carmello is believed to maintain reliable growth irrespective of the changing weather and even manages to produce a sweet, rich flavor during the coldest part of the season.

Pros and Cons– Large and juicy fruits, good flavor, suitable for container growing.

3. Sweet 100 Tomato

Sweet 100 Tomato is a hybrid indeterminate variety that bears scarlet and juicy cherry tomatoes. It produces fruits in large clusters right until frost. While it is a favorite for garden plots, it also works equally well in big containers when staked and pruned regularly. Gardeners cite that their sole issue with Sweet 100 is their overproduction. Tomato Dirt has an article on this!

Pros and Cons– Heat resistant, highly productive, requires support and large container due to the size and spread.

4. Sweet Baby Girl Tomato

Sweet Baby Girl Cultivar features bite-sized red tomatoes on vinelike stems that tend to reach a height of 70-78 inches and spread 20-25 inches when left untamed. It has rich tomato flavor and long harvesting season. With thorough pruning, this variety has the potential to produce flavorful tomatoes that taste incredibly sweet and have a long shelf life.

Pros and Cons: Productive, rich and sweet flavor, long harvesting season.

5. Sun Gold

Sun Gold cultivar is one of the most favorite cherry tomato varieties of many growers due to its sweet taste. The small sized tomatoes on this plant remain orange in color and never turn red. The size of this tomato cultivar like ‘Sweet 100’ is huge and requires big containers (anywhere between 18-24 inches in size) and support. For balcony gardeners, try only if you have a large balcony.

Pros and Cons– Sweet flavor, matures in 55-65 days, needs large container and support.

Heirloom Determinates

1. Principe Borghese

Famous for sun drying, this Italian heirloom variety is a fairly big determinate plant featuring small, egg-shaped fruits that have few seeds and pack a high flavor punch. However, don’t be fooled by their size, as their rich tomato taste makes them wonderful for sauces, roasting and pizza topping. Moreover, the determinate vines yield a prolific supply of fruit, ideal for selling in bulk in fresh markets as well as making specialty products.

Pros and Cons– Productive, heat resistant, doesn’t stop fruiting above 100 F, requires medium to large sized containers.

2. Manitoba

This super early heirloom tomato cultivar was developed specifically for the short summers of Manitoba prairie regions. With an amazing disease tolerance and vigorous habitat, this sweet slicer is a great choice for short growing seasons and northern climates alike.

Pros and Cons– Mature early, tangy taste, suitable for regions that have a short growing season.

3. New Yorker

As the name suggests, this variety sets well in cool growing conditions characteristic to North-Eastern U.S. Its compact, determinate and vigorous structure is a great hit with people looking to grow tomatoes in space-constrained spots in containers. It bears round, scarlet-red tomatoes in abundance, which are perfect for fine canning or slicing up for salads.

Pros and Cons– Productive, average in taste, crack resistant, free from blossom end rot, developed specifically for growing in North or other regions with a short growing season.

4. Sprite Tomato

If you happen to like grape tomatoes and lack the space to grow tall plants, Sprite tomato variety is the perfect alternative. Suited perfectly for patio and container gardening and can be grown in 5-7 gallon small sized pots. Its short, compact size doesn’t come at the sacrifice of yield, as this variety is known to produce prolific tomatoes with thin, crisp skins and rich, sweet flavors that are utterly delightful to fussy eaters and tomato aficionados alike.

Pros and Cons– Sweet flavor, can be grown in small containers, low maintenance, prefers warm temperature, less juicy.

5. Sophie’s Choice

Sophie’s Choice is a dwarf heirloom tomato variety that doesn’t exceed the 2 feet height usually and looks great in small 5-gallon containers. It is one of the best early ripening tomato varieties (55 days average), produces a decent harvest, the fruits are large and flavorful. Particularly this variety prefers more watering (it also recommends on the growing condition) and suitable more for cooler regions.

Pros and Cons– Flavorful, perfect for small containers, large juicy fruits, average harvest.

Heirloom Indeterminates for Pots

1. Green Zebra

Not only attractive in appearance but different in taste too, this variety is favorite of many chefs. Suitable for salad decorations and toppings The Green Zebra cultivar is believed to have an indeterminate habitat, yet it is a lot less rangy and grows quite compactly and has an ability to reach a whopping 6-7 feet height depending on your climate. Popular for its unique flavor derived from a slightly lemon tart balancing the sugar content perfectly.

Pros and Cons– Disease free, looks unique, average and balanced, some growers reported it as acidic, due to the color it’s hard to find out whether it ripens or not.

2. Japanese Black Trifele

The mahogany color of the fruits and glossy skin make this a nice ornamental fruit, while the fairly compact structure allows it to adapt remarkably well to the container culture. Just a single stake should be enough to provide adequate support to the plants. And to top it all, the delicious, smoky flavor of the heirloom tomatoes makes it a wonderful addition to your salads and sauces.

Pros and Cons– Highly attractive, productive, average or good taste (depends on the growing conditions).

3. Stupice

Perhaps the earliest heirloom ever, Stupice plants are compact and bear small fruits that produce well even in cooler zones. The dark green potato-leaf foliage is appealing to the eye, while the small red fruits mature rather early and offer a balanced flavor.

Pros and Cons– Cold tolerant, good for regions with short summers, average taste.

4. Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson is one of the most popular tomato varieties, and a must try for anyone looking for growing tomatoes in a container. It’s small, and its upright habit makes it a nice choice for pots, while its striking, dark purple four-inch tomatoes with incredibly sweet, earthy and smoky flavors are a hit in even the pickiest of eaters.

Pros and Cons– Easy to grow, excellent taste, sweet-earthy flavor, average yield.

5. Brandywine

Brandywine is a popular indeterminate heirloom variety that can bear fruits up to 1.8 lbs or 0.7 kg, which is huge. Brandywine tomatoes are the tastiest beefsteak tomatoes, having sweet tomato flavor it’s worth growing. To grow, choose a large, at least 15-gallon container and provide support.

Pros and Cons– Excellent flavor, big fruits, takes the time to mature (80-100 days), average yield.

6. Indian Stripe

Good for warm weather, the Indian Stripe is an heirloom cultivar known for its great taste, which is similar to Cherokee Purple but the only difference we’ve found is that it is more productive. Like other indeterminate varieties, it also requires a large container. If you’re looking for a heat tolerant tomato variety, also try Solar Fire.

Pros and Cons– Productive, heat resistance, great taste, requires medium to large containers.

Specially-Bred To tomatoes for Container Gardening

1. Mountain Gold

An orange-fruited tomato variety, Mountain Gold has been bred to be superior regarding plant habit and disease resistance over its counterparts. Plants are stout, compact and bear a heavy crop of smooth-skinned, medium-sized, 12-oz fruits, with a mild, sweet flavor.

Pros and Cons– Decent sweet and mild taste, productive, disease resistant, good for slicing and salads.

2. Ace 55 Hybrid

For intense red, low-acid tomatoes that thrive in the middle of the season, experts recommend planting Ace 55 Hybrid. The plants show vigorous growth, protecting the fruits from sunburn, and the sweet, balanced flavor negates the chances of indigestion. Other desirable traits include disease tolerance and a determinate habit, which makes it apt for growing in containers.

Pros and Cons– Sweet flavor, productive, suitable for container growth.

3. Health Kick Hybrid

Considered to be a breakthrough in the history of tomato breeding, the Health Kick Hybrid is one variety that contains 50% higher amount of lycopene than regular ones and produces a bountiful yield of 4-oz deep red fruits within 75 days only. Its high yield, compact determinate habit make it one of the best tomato varieties for growing in containers.

Pros and Cons– Easy to grow, can be grown in small to medium sized containers, said to be healthier than other tomatoes, ordinary taste.

A Few Other Tomato Varieties To Try

  • Bushsteak
  • Balconi ‘Red’
  • Silvery Fir Tree
  • Tumbler
  • Polish Linguisa

Eight of the best tomato varieties to grow

With 10,000 varieties of tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colours, it can be hard to know which are the best tomato varieties. Some are great for adding fresh into salads, while others come into their own when they’re cooked. Some prefer a hearty beefsteak variety, while for others only the sweetest tomato varieties will do.

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To help you pick, we polled BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine readers to discover their favourites. Take a look at readers’ eight top tomato varieties for salads, grilling, baskets and more, below.

‘Gardeners’ Delight’

‘Gardeners’ Delight’: a large cherry, cordon variety. This old favourite was a resounding winner, netting 48 per cent of the public vote. It has a delicious tangy flavour, and is reliable and prolific when grown under cover or outdoors. It was voted best for salads.

Ripe cherry tomatoes ‘Gardeners’ Delight’

‘Moneymaker’

‘Moneymaker’: a salad, cordon variety. This is popular for its reliably huge yields in poor soil and bad summers. It was voted the top all-rounder – great for use in sandwiches and salads, roasting and grilling.

A heavy yield of salad tomato ‘Moneymaker’

‘Sungold’ AGM

‘Sungold’ AGM: a cherry, cordon variety. This orange cherry was voted the sweetest, and is best eaten raw. It also has good disease resistance.

Hands-full of orange cherry tomatoes ‘Sungold’ AGM

Best for baskets: ‘Tumbling Tom’

‘Tumbling Tom’: a cherry, bush tomato, voted best for growing in hanging baskets. This compact variety has sweet fruit, and is available in classic red and yellow varieties and also does well in pots and containers.

Ripe ‘Tumbling Tom’ cherry tomatoes

‘Ailsa Craig’

‘Ailsa Craig’: salad, cordon. This flavour-packed variety has been around for 100 years and for good reason; it has thin, dark-red skin and a firm texture.

Salad tomatoes ‘Ailsa Craig’ ripening on the vine

‘Shirley’ AGM

‘Shirley’ AGM: salad, cordon. Popular with exhibitors, Shirley is ideal for growing in an unheated greenhouse. It matures early and has good disease resistance.

Salad tomatoes ‘Shirley’ AGM ripening on the vine

‘Marmande’ AGM

‘Marmande’ AGM: beefsteak, cordon. Its meaty texture and strong flavour make Marmande perfect for slicing into sandwiches and for cooking. Can be grown outside.

Advertisement Beefsteak tomatoes ‘Marmande’ AGM ready to harvest

‘Golden Sunrise’ AGM

‘Golden Sunrise’ AGM: salad, cordon. These unusual, vivid-yellow fruits have a fantastically sweet flavour and are great for adding colour to salads. Other recommended yellow tomato varieties include the Tomato ‘Sungold’.

‘Golden Sunrise’ AGM tomatoes ripening to golden-yellow on the vine

Image via Green Yatra

Is there anything quite like a big, juicy, ripe tomato? One of the most versatile fruits on the planet, it’s not only incredibly tasty, but also really, really good for you. They’re rich in vitamins A and C and folic acid, and also containing a wide array of nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein.

Grow tomatoes in your garden, and you’ll have the best—and most culinarily exciting—summer ever.

So how do you ensure that your tomatoes grow to become the largest, most flavourful tomatoes? The secret is in pruning.

We’ve talked a little bit about pruning before, and pruning tomatoes yield similar results: more tomatoes grown over the length of the season, removing pests, etc.

The plant can concentrate on growing more fruit as opposed to more foliage, using plant sugars to grow and ultimately yielding larger, tastier tomatoes.

As pruning ensures that more leaves grow, more leaves are presented to the sun. This in turn encourages photosynthesis, increasing the efficiency of this crucial process. And of course, photosynthesis encourages more growth! It’s the perfect catch 22.

To prune or not to prune?

Through pruning properly, you can maintain the structure of the plant, and the ideal is a strong single-stem tomato plant. All of the plants’ energies will be directed into one stem, which yield the best tomatoes.

The leaves on a pruned plant also dry faster, preventing bacteria or fungus to grow.

Note that not all tomato plants need to be pruned. There are two types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes, which include beefsteak and sandwich tomatoes. Pruning won’t make a difference for these guys, and in fact can prevent your plants from growing fruit, as they grow at the tips around the same time.

Indeterminate tomatoes produce vine-like stems, and pruning is necessary on these plants as they will continually grow until the plants die. Unlike determinate tomato plants, indeterminate tomato plants do not grow fruit; rather, they grow on side shoots.

Four stems is the most you’d want your indeterminate tomato plant to have. The fewer stems your plant has, the larger your tomatoes. Though you will grow fewer each time, you’ll get more tomatoes that are better in the long-run as your plant will live for longer.

The how-to and what nots

Pruning is simple: either use your fingers to pinch off where a stem meets the stalk, or use a pair of gardening scissors, though you most likely won’t need that. What you’re pruning are the “suckers,” or the small shoots that grows at the joint where the branch of the tomato plant meets the stem.

If left unpruned, it’s the suckers that will grow into branches that you don’t want more than four of. So, when they’re still small, pinch them right off. The best time to prune suckers is early in the morning on a dry day, which will promote the wound to heal.

Tomatoes can also be grown in an Urban Cultivator indoor garden. Soil-free and hassle-free using hydroponics and automated controls that keep the temperature and light at optimal levels, it’s the easiest way to grow.

Pruning is the same for plants grown in an Urban Cultivator; pinch off those suckers, and you’ll get great tomatoes.

Do you have any extra tips about pruning tomato plants? Let us know in the comments section!

So you want more tomatoes? It’s simple…. start pruning tomato plants! You’ll get the greatest yield when you learn how to prune tomato plants.

In this article, we share tips on HOW TO enjoy your tomato growing experience more with smart tomato plant pruning for better yields. Read on to learn more on how to prune tomatoes.

Growing tomatoes is somewhat akin to growing bonsai. It takes quite a bit of care and attention to train your plants and manipulate fruit production.

When done correctly, you will be greatly rewarded with larger fruit that actually ripens quicker.

Our Favorite Pruners

When it comes to pruning it helps to have the right tools. The Felco #2 pruner has been in our hands pruning hundreds of thousands of plants over the past 40+ years.

Learn why in our article on the Felco F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner

Before You Plant Tomatoes, Choose the Right Tomato Variety

Right at the outset, it’s very important that you understand the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

Determinate types of tomatoes grow to a determined height, usually about 4′ to 5′ feet tall, and they do not grow any taller.

You should not prune determinate tomatoes. Pruning determinate tomatoes will reduce tomato production rather than increasing it.

Indeterminate tomatoes grow as tall as they possibly can.

If given space and trained, the indeterminate plant will just keep growing upwards endlessly.

You want to prune indeterminate tomato plants.

Skillfully pruning indeterminate tomatoes will result in a healthy and abundant crop.

Have Good Support In Place From The Start

When you plant indeterminate tomatoes, you should begin with a method of support in place.

For good tomato production, you need to stake tomato plants with high trellises, stakes, or sturdy rope to support them as they grow tall.

Related Reading:

  • Want Tastier, Sweeter Tomatoes? Give Them Some Epsom Salts
  • Tomato Growing Dos & Don’ts

Tomato plants firmly supported allow you to plan your pruning and to carry it out with a clear vision.

As you work with staking tomatoes, you will support the main stems and trim away the auxiliary stems or tomato suckers.

With your tomato plant and your support system in place, you will want to begin your plant pruning project. Be careful not to prune away main stems or excessive amounts all at once.

Remember, your tomatoes need to have good leaf structure for proper photosynthesis.

The main thing you want to do is trim away suckers (vegetative growth) that sprout out between the main stem and producing stems.

What About Tomato Plant Cages?

You won’t want to use tomato cages like these for this type of project as the cages tend to hold all of the limbs together.

Cages make it difficult to work around and determine which need pruning and which limbs should remain on the tomato plant.

Cages are far more suited for bush tomato determinate tomato varieties than non-determinate.

Why Does Pruning Or Trimming Tomato Plants To Increase Yield Work?

When you carefully prune and trim away nonproductive suckers and leave healthy, producing limbs in place.

Pruning plants like this will put the majority of their energy toward fruit production, not waste the tomato fertilizer applied and not expend energy on vegetative growth producing more and more leaves.

The suckers that appear between the main stem of the plant and producing stems are in essence new tomato plants.

The suckers take a lot of energy away from the plant reducing the ability to produce fruit being produced by the main limbs.

When you cut away the excess, you also improve the airflow to your plants. This means a reduction in fungal disease such as leaf spot, early blight, and powdery mildew infection.

With good airflow plants and leaves easily dry quicker after rain and watering.

Reducing the number of leaves on your plants also makes it easier for you to control pests.

Very simply put, you can see them more easily when they have fewer hiding places.

Fewer leaves also means more abundant sunshine to your plants and your fruit.

This adds up to early ripening. This is very helpful in areas where the growing season is short.

Indeterminate tomatoes tend to sprawl quite vigorously if not pruned.

They continue to grow, spread and take up a lot of space.

Carefully pruned and trained tomato plants take up far less space in your garden.

This means that you can plant more and plant them closer together.

Even though your individual plants may have fewer tomatoes, these tomatoes will be larger.

The fact that you can successfully grow more plants in the same square footage means that you will have a bigger crop.

If you are asking us the question of – “Should you prune tomato plants?” We would say “Yes”!

Exactly, How To Prune Tomato Plants For Maximum Yield

Pruning methods vary somewhat from one gardener to another.

Some use a technique to trim tomato plants known as Missouri pruning. With this technique, you begin by removing any blossoms that may be on the plant when you plant it.

This gives the plant energy to recover from transplanting and to develop leafy growth early on.

Follow-up by continuously pinching off the growing tips of the limbs leaving just the two bottom leaves.

Continue removing flower clusters until your plants reach about 18″ inches high. This will ensure your plants develop strong roots.

When your plant develops its first flower cluster of tomatoes, examine it and cut off leafy suckers growing below that fruit cluster. As your plant grows taller, continue cutting off leafy suckers.

Always cut off below producing limbs. Remember, the leaves growing closest to fruit clusters are the ones that deliver sugar to the fruit.

For this reason, when you prune your plants don’t cut off the leaves surrounding the fruit cluster.

These leaves not only provide valuable sugar to the fruit, they also help to shade it from the damaging rays of the sun known as sun scald.

How To Prune A Tomato Plant For Northern Gardens

Missouri tomato pruning to increase yield is a good method for warmer climates, but in colder climates, it’s better not to wait until the plant grows to 18″ inches to begin cutting off suckers.

Gardeners in northern regions typically remove suckers as soon as they appear even very early on.

No matter which method you choose, it’s wisest to trim tomato plants and remove suckers when they are very small.

If you can pinch them off with your thumb and forefinger, and you won’t scar your plants.

If one does escape your notice and you need to cut it off, be sure that your pruner blade or sharp knife makes a clean cut.

Near the end of the growing season it’s good tomato plant care to top off the plant. Prune off all the growing tips so the fruit remaining on your plant will ripen fruit before the first frost.

This works because cutting off the growing tips causes the plant to stop producing flower clusters and produce new fruit.

This directs all of its energy toward the remaining fruit. This causes faster fruit ripening.

Trimming Tomatoes Will Keep the Lower Parts of Your Plants Clean!

One very important aspect of pruning tomatoes to will help increase the yield of tomatoes. Always keep the lower portions of the mature plant very thoroughly pruned.

Under no circumstances should your plant’s leaves ever be touching the ground. Keeping them off the soil will help keep them dry. This helps prevent disease.

Do not prune tomato plants (these are our favorite pruners – a review here) when the leaves are wet. Pruning wet leaves promote the spread of disease.

Once a plant reaches a height of two or three feet, begun to produce blossoms and set fruit, cut off the foliage that is a foot or less from the ground.

This increases air circulation and helps prevent fungus spores from being splashed onto the lower leaves during rains.

This will help you avoid problems with tomato blight and a number of other common tomato diseases.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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