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Tomatoes: how to prune tomato plants?

Tomatoes with large fruits, whether they are old (‘Rose de Berne’, ‘Coeur de Bœuf’ ….) or modern (‘Honey Moon’, ‘Prévia’…), benefit from being trained on a single stem, staked on a wooden or metal support, in a spiral or even around a thick string as in professional greenhouses. This way of growing allows to aerate the plants, to expose the leaves to the sun, to avoid the confinement of humidity, favourable to diseases such as mildew or alternariosis. It is therefore necessary to eliminate all the secondary stems that appear along the main stem in the armpit of the leaves – the suckers – as well as those that sometimes form at the end of the flower clusters.

To avoid that the cutting of the suckers opens a door to diseases – in particular to botrytis, the grey rot – which could then contaminate the main stem, several precautions must be taken.

1st tip : cut the thin stems

Cut the stems when they are still thin. Use a sharp, clean knife and cut in the morning on very dry foliage.

2nd tip: cut flush or 2 inches from the stem

If the gourmand is very thin, you can cut it flush with the stem. Otherwise, leave a small snag of 2 inches which will dry and eventually fall. Intervene regularly on the stems to avoid letting the gourmands grow and the cut will always be more difficult to heal.

3rd tip: focus on cherry tomatoes

For cherry tomato varieties, it is advisable to keep 2 or 3 stems, leaving only 2 or 3 suckers to develop, provided that the plants have been spaced sufficiently far apart so that each stem finds its place on a stake, without taking the light from its neighbors. Some gardeners let all the gourmands grow freely, without staking, on the ground or leaning on a fence. But I have never seen good results, with plants often diseased and, in the end, much less productive.

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