Are you pruning your tomatoes? And do you even need to?

by Susan Harris

Newbie tomato-growers are subject to confusion, and that includes this newbie.  Recently, I saw this advice from Fine Gardening about pruning tomatoes and was ready to run for my pruners and tackle this essential job.   But then I noticed in parentheses at the very end the news that only Indeterminate tomatoes need pruning, and I’m suddenly stumped.  What does that mean?  Fine Gardening’s pruning guru Lee Reich also gives a nice lesson in tomato-pruning in this video, repeating the news that Determinate tomatoes don’t need pruning at all.   Time to find out which kind I’m growing.

So I found a simple explanation of the differences between Determinate and Indeterminate and – ah, finally – got a simple answer.  The shorter bush-type tomatoes grown in containers are Determinate and don’t need pruning, while the taller, more vining Indeterminate types do.

So now I know something else about the bush tomatoes I’m growing – Patio, Better Bush and Superbush – that they yield their fruits at almost the same time – within a 2-week period – and then that’s it.  As opposed to the taller, vining-type tomato that grows and produces fruit right up til frost.  Now I want to find some in-ground space for this longer-season type!

I also consulted the ever-useful Maryland Home and Garden Information Center for their lowdown on growing tomatoes.

4 Responses to Are you pruning your tomatoes? And do you even need to?

  1. Gene Sumi says:

    The explanation you gave on you blog is spot on. Gardeners should always check the label or packet information on any tomato plants or seeds to spot the words “determinate” and “indeterminate” to know which type they would be growing.

  2. Pam J. says:

    If you do plant any in-ground tomatoes be sure to fence them in. Deer like them even more than they like hostas.

  3. I’ve pruned in some seasons and not in others. In the end its usually about the incredible tangle in the garden. I have been using a red/orange plastic mulch the last 3 years. Again I can’t decide if it’s the mulch, the fertilizer, or the varieties affecting the yield.

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