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question about pruning tomatoes

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question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/2/2013, 10:15 pm

Last week in a discussion about tomatoes (can't remember which thread it was in and can't find it) someone said you shouldn't start pruning the suckers until tomatoes were forming. (I was horrified, because I had just finished pruning my plants!) I have LOTS of buds and now, LOTS of flowers, but still no tomatoes yet. But my plants are getting HUGE and unruly. A couple of them have giant suckers on them, which now also have flowers, which makes me not want to prune them. HELP! I'm not sure what to do. I saw a video that demonstrated pruning on plants much smaller than mine.

Also, while I was planning on pruning pretty heavily, I was planning on leaving a couple of suckers as well. Should I leave these alone, and just start pruning the new ones? Some people say you shouldn't prune above the blossoms. What about those suckers? It's all so confusing. And I have watched/read a lot about this. I'm still confused.

On another note... the tomatoes I have growing in buckets - I had planned on making a trellis for each one, but I didn't, and now they're getting pretty big. So, I decided I would go get some of that wire fencing stuff and make cages to go around the buckets/plants. But, how do you prune them through the cages? And should I make them 7' tall or 5' tall? (the fencing is 5'x7') Or should I do something else entirely?

Thanks bunches!

*** edit to add*** they are all indeterminate varieties

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jimmy cee on 5/2/2013, 10:41 pm

I cut off my suckers as soon as their big enough to grab.
I also keep the lower part of my tomato plants clear of everything, including lower branches, 10 - 12 inches from the ground
I don't allow my tomato branches from growing out to far, try to keep them from touching each other. Some allowance for this is ok.
I've done this for years and have always had great crops, and no blight..
This has been my method of trimming tomato plants, it's worked well for me..
This seasons tomato's will be interesting with the new SFG bed

One more thing, in containers I let them grow anyway they want to..

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  Coelli on 5/3/2013, 12:29 am

I started suckering mine right away - now granted, I am still a novice tomato grower, but even though I have been suckering my plants are fruiting like crazy and still growing upward. Some of them are a good 3' tall now with multiple fruits in various stages and the suckering doesn't seem to have hurt them at all. I'd say go ahead and sucker now before the plants put too much more energy into suckers that are just going to come off!

And be careful... make ABSOLUTELY SURE there is a top to the plant with flowers. I was suckering below the flowers, but didn't realize that two of my plants had terminated themselves above them somehow! Hoping they sucker near the top now so we can keep going...

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/3/2013, 1:11 am

@Coelli wrote:

And be careful... make ABSOLUTELY SURE there is a top to the plant with flowers. I was suckering below the flowers, but didn't realize that two of my plants had terminated themselves above them somehow! Hoping they sucker near the top now so we can keep going...

Thanks Coelli, and Jimmy. Smile

I think ^^ this ^^ is one of the things confusing me. I keep hearing not to prune above the flowers, but I have huge suckers growing above some of the flowers. (I swear, I miss going to the garden for ONE DAY because of rain, and now it's like plants on steroids! lol)

I watched more videos and read more articles awhile ago, and I will just keep trying to figure it out. I am DEFINITELY going to continue suckering the lower ones though! And there are a couple of plants that look like they split, like, I can't tell which one is the sucker, and which one is the main stem, because they look the same. It's like the branch went out in both directions. Since I had planned on allowing at least one or two suckers to grow on the plants in the bed, I guess I will leave those alone. lol I will try to get some pictures up tomorrow so people can see what I'm talking about.

Coelli, do you have any advice about the container ones? How to contain them?

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/3/2013, 1:47 am

ah ha! I found this video, and it really explains the process very well. YAY!!! Very Happy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eak7yj0tEvM

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  sanderson on 5/3/2013, 3:11 am

Also check out growingyourgreens series on you tube for pruning and growing tomatoes vertically. Any cage around tomatoes should have openings large enough to reach your hand in, 5 x 5 or 5 x 7. If it doesn't, cut openings here and there so you can access the tomatoes.

Once the plant goes vertical, it is so easy to see and access new suckers. My Early Girl is only 37" and has 7 bunches of tomatoes from red, ready to pick on the lowest, to flowering on the top one. Two large suckers that I over-looked started flowering. I cut them off and started new plants in pots.

I have a couple of typical 5 foot tomato cages for potted tomatoes. I stick a 5-6 'sturdy bamboo next to the plant and secure it to stand with stretchy green plastic tape or string so that it sticks straight up the center of the cages. It kind of looks like a 4-spoke wagon wheel. You could use wire or anything strong since the tomato is gently secured to the bamboo stake and not the wire cage. For tomatoes next to the trellises in the sfg boxes, again I stick a tall bamboo next to each tomato and secure the top of the bamboos to the top of the electrical conduit frames.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/3/2013, 12:07 pm

@sanderson wrote:
Once the plant goes vertical, it is so easy to see and access new suckers. My Early Girl is only 37" and has 7 bunches of tomatoes from red, ready to pick on the lowest, to flowering on the top one. Two large suckers that I over-looked started flowering. I cut them off and started new plants in pots.

I pruned them earlier and they look so much better now. Not quite so crowded. I took off a lot of the bottom leaves that are close to the ground as well. It was like a jungle in there. Now there is room for more of the leaves to get some sunlight. Some of them were buried before.

I have a couple of typical 5 foot tomato cages for potted tomatoes. I stick a 5-6 'sturdy bamboo next to the plant and secure it to stand with stretchy green plastic tape or string so that it sticks straight up the center of the cages. It kind of looks like a 4-spoke wagon wheel. You could use wire or anything strong since the tomato is gently secured to the bamboo stake and not the wire cage. For tomatoes next to the trellises in the sfg boxes, again I stick a tall bamboo next to each tomato and secure the top of the bamboos to the top of the electrical conduit frames.

Sanderson, do you have a picture of how you do that? Since I didn't stake them (they're in self-watering buckets) I don't want to disturb the roots now. I'm weaving the ones in the bed, and so far it seems to be working fine. I had intended to make a stringing trellis out of some pvc for the ones in buckets (someone on here has done it) but I'm not sure how to attach the pipe to the buckets. The stretchy tape idea sounds like a good one. I already have some tall bamboo stakes that I could use I just need a way to attach them. I thought about using string or something, but I didn't think it would work. And I thought about using some kind of clasp thingy (I have no idea what they're called) but I don't want to drill into the buckets because they're self-watering. Then I thought, maybe some elastic, but again, how would it hold them in place? So, the stretchy tape idea sounds good. Where do I find that?

Thanks for responding! Very Happy

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  sanderson on 5/3/2013, 3:29 pm

Dear Jazzycat, Yes I have lots of pics, but I don't know how to insert them on this website. I will privately give you my email address, if you reply, then I will send you some pics.

I have some 1 x 3 and 1 x 4 boxes. I will pound 2 1-foot rebars into the ground on the outsides of the 1-foot ends of the boxes, then slip 1/2 inch pvc pipes over them and a little into the ground. Probably about 2-3 feet tall. Using pvc 90 degree connectors, install a pcv top bar. Will look something like the electrical conduit frame, only shorter and white. Then I will stick a tall study bamboo next to each tomato and secure in a good vertical position with stretchy green tape at the top of the horizontal pvc

Wow, do you know how I can insert pics in this forum?? Do I have to create a public web site like blogger.com? Anyone??

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  yolos on 5/3/2013, 3:36 pm

@sanderson wrote:
Wow, do you know how I can insert pics in this forum?? Do I have to create a public web site like blogger.com? Anyone??

No, you do not have to create a public web site. Try this thread.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t129-how-to-post-a-picture-located-on-your-computer

Then ask questions if you have problems.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  No_Such_Reality on 5/3/2013, 3:58 pm

@sanderson wrote:My Early Girl is only 37" and has 7 bunches of tomatoes from red, ready to pick on the lowest, to flowering on the top one. Two large suckers that I over-looked started flowering. I cut them off and started new plants in pots.

I love this site when I learn new things. I see I need to do some pruning weekend. My tomato is out of control and laying down.

How do you do the start from a pruning? I've seen the pruning instructions so get that part. Does it work better with a small new sucker or can you end clip a fairly robust sucker and get it to root?

Ah, easy to follow internet directions. http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/4207/how-to-start-tomato-plants-from-cuttings

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/3/2013, 6:00 pm

@sanderson wrote:Dear Jazzycat, Yes I have lots of pics, but I don't know how to insert them on this website. I will privately give you my email address, if you reply, then I will send you some pics.

I have some 1 x 3 and 1 x 4 boxes. I will pound 2 1-foot rebars into the ground on the outsides of the 1-foot ends of the boxes, then slip 1/2 inch pvc pipes over them and a little into the ground. Probably about 2-3 feet tall. Using pvc 90 degree connectors, install a pcv top bar. Will look something like the electrical conduit frame, only shorter and white. Then I will stick a tall study bamboo next to each tomato and secure in a good vertical position with stretchy green tape at the top of the horizontal pvc

Wow, do you know how I can insert pics in this forum?? Do I have to create a public web site like blogger.com? Anyone??

aaaahhhhhhh I see. GREAT idea! Thanks sanderson! Very Happy Now I get it. Would still like see that though. I'll pm you with my email address.

And where do you get the stretchy tape?

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  HOUSTONMOM on 5/3/2013, 8:26 pm

@No_Such_Reality wrote:
@sanderson wrote:My Early Girl is only 37" and has 7 bunches of tomatoes from red, ready to pick on the lowest, to flowering on the top one. Two large suckers that I over-looked started flowering. I cut them off and started new plants in pots.

I love this site when I learn new things. I see I need to do some pruning weekend. My tomato is out of control and laying down.

How do you do the start from a pruning? I've seen the pruning instructions so get that part. Does it work better with a small new sucker or can you end clip a fairly robust sucker and get it to root?

Ah, easy to follow internet directions. http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/4207/how-to-start-tomato-plants-from-cuttings
Hi,tried both and it doesn't really matter they both work .One really easy way to root a sucker is to cut the bottom tip on a diagonal as you would with fresh flowers before putting in a vase then put it in bottle of water for a week the more area exposed to the water the more roots you get.Or you can just stick it in a square of your garden directly but that has been hit and miss with mine .The water bottle works every time for me just cover the outside of the bottle or put it in something like a deep pot if it's a clear bottle so its dark at the roots but the leaves still get light. the interesting thing is I accidently cut off a sucker that had several blooms and they stayed on the whole time it was rooting and didn't get affected.Hope that helps.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  sanderson on 5/3/2013, 9:22 pm

Jazzycat - I'm going to try to insert photos showing 3 ways I have staked tomatoes.

Early Girl growing vertically in a pot, supported by bamboo stakes secured withing traditional tomato cage



Early Girl growing vertically in a pot, supported by bamboo stakes secured withing traditional tomato cage (#2)



Securing bamboo to top of trellis



Bottom of bamboo inserted in box near the tomatoes



Four different tomato plants in pot, each secured to one of the four spokes



I hope this helps, Sigrid

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  camprn on 5/3/2013, 10:39 pm


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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/4/2013, 12:34 am


Interesting thread. Thanks camprn.

Now I have another question. I've noticed on a couple of plants a sucker coming up from the ground (or just below). Because they are at ground level, should I leave them and just keep pinching the tops? I don't want to chance opening them up to disease, since they're at ground level.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/4/2013, 12:37 am

Sigrid, yes, thanks bunches! Smile

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  littlejo on 5/4/2013, 9:06 am

Jazzycat, remember where you are, trimming off the suckers is fine, but the heat will be upon us very soon, and the plants will like some leaves for shade.
I'd choose the tallest option for the trellis/support for tomatoes. 7 ft is good, then they will grow toward the ground.
Jo

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/4/2013, 10:27 am

Jo, I just took off the bottom leaves, below the first blossoms. They were very close to the ground, some were touching the ground. I had some of them slightly contained by pushing them up into the string I'm using to weave the plants, but it really was very messy underneath. I'm not planning on trimming any leaves above the first blossoms, unless they look diseased or spotted or something, or they really need some air space. Then I might surgically select just a few to trim that aren't shading tomatoes. Smile

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  sanderson on 5/6/2013, 2:54 am

Jazzycat - I bought the green stretchy tape at either Home Depot, Lowes or OSH. I had plenty on hand when I started my sfg so I have looked for any this year. Sig

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jewlz2121 on 5/21/2013, 4:49 pm

Hope you don't mind me asking a question on your thread. I understand about pinching suckers off. I'm also under the impression that we're to cut off leaf branches that look discolored or chewed, right?

OK, now what if there is a leaf branch that looks like it needs to come off, but there is a sucker coming up from that branch. Which do you keep? What I've been doing is cutting off the icky leaf branch and leaving the sucker to grow, sort of like a replacement for what I cut off. Am I doing this wrong?

I hadn't been out to the garden for 3 days due to rain and it was like a jungle out there. I had a hay day pruning and now I'm wondering if I pruned too many leaf branches off.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  camprn on 5/21/2013, 7:58 pm

I pinch all suckers but only prune leaf stems from below the lowest active fruiting stem. Take care to not prune too much, the plant does need healthy leaves to collect sunlight. There are a few older threads that go into greater detail.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  johnsonjlj on 5/22/2013, 4:33 am

Jazzycat, how are the tomatoes doing? Wondered if you ever got any type of trellis system or cage for your tomatoes and how it's working out?
We made huge tomato cages this year from cattle panels purchased from Tractor Supply. I have cages around my determinates and used the panels to make trellises for my indeterminates. The squares in the cattle panel are quite large, so it's easy to get in there and prune as needed. I prune to keep my plants from touching the ground and to ensure good air movement through the plant while still keeping plenty of leaves for shade. Due to the location of my garden, which gets the intensity of the Florida sun from about 11 until sunset, I also use some shade cloth.


Early-morning photo of one of the determinate tomato plants, just before it received a much-needed trimming.


One of our indeterminate varieties, trained up a cattle panel trellis.

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/22/2013, 10:27 pm

Nice! Your plants look healthy and beautiful. Very Happy

I've only trellised two of the container plants. So far, the other ones seem to be doing OK without anything holding them up. I harvested a bunch of bamboo from the corner of my property and it's drying, at the moment. Once it's dry enough, I'll hook them up.

I just posted some photos in another thread (2013 tomato tuesday-lower south). You can see how they're doing there. I don't want to repost here as well. I just trimmed them really well again yesterday. I did the same as before, taking off the lower leaf stems, and just thinning out *necessary* leaf stems that were crowding everything. If everything works like last time, in another few weeks, I'll need to trim them again. I think next year, I will probably plant the tomatoes every 1 1/2 to every 2 squares, so I won't need to trim them in order to give them the air space they need. However, the plants look amazing. What a Face

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Re: question about pruning tomatoes

Post  jazzycat on 5/22/2013, 10:29 pm

@jewlz2121 wrote:Hope you don't mind me asking a question on your thread. I understand about pinching suckers off. I'm also under the impression that we're to cut off leaf branches that look discolored or chewed, right?

OK, now what if there is a leaf branch that looks like it needs to come off, but there is a sucker coming up from that branch. Which do you keep? What I've been doing is cutting off the icky leaf branch and leaving the sucker to grow, sort of like a replacement for what I cut off. Am I doing this wrong?

I hadn't been out to the garden for 3 days due to rain and it was like a jungle out there. I had a hay day pruning and now I'm wondering if I pruned too many leaf branches off.

jewlz2121, I NEVER mind when people hijack my threads, or ask their own questions, etc. I learn things that way. Smile

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