Tomatoes are one of those wonderful, easy-to-grow vegetables that taste so much better homegrown than anything you can buy in a store. No self respecting gardener or even garden-dabbler would let a summer go by with a tomato plant or two. Or, like I did in my not very large backyard one year, twenty, which was a bit ridiculous. They were mostly free tomato seedlings from the Orillia Community Garden that I just didn’t have the heart to compost, so into the soil they went. I didn’t know exactly what type of tomatoes they were, but there’s no such thing as a bad tomato, right? Well, they weren’t bad tomatoes, but they were little, teeny tiny yellow pear tomatoes and I had millions of them by the end of the summer. There are really only so many things you can do with tiny yellow tomatoes. Let’s just say I’ve never grown a yellow pear tomato since…
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, back to pruning. One lesson I learned that summer, besides you gotta know when to say no with the free seedlings already, is that pruning is your friend, especially when it comes to tomatoes. An unpruned tomato plant is a giant, scraggly, bushy behemoth that looks very impressive but doesn’t produce very many tomatoes. And it’s scary. One day you’re noticing your tomato plant has really grown over the last week, the next day you’re thinking you haven’t seen your cat in quite some time. And it’s hard enough to find Mittens again, you really don’t want to go back in there to try to harvest whatever veggies there might be.
The basics of tomato pruning are as follows:
1) The tomato should ideally have 1 central stalk, but you can get away with 2 or 3
2) Suckers suck
Suckers are parts of you plant that will eventually take over your plant. They are not extensions of your plant, like the branches of a tree, but rather the evil clone twins of your plant that want to suffocate your plant out of existence. Your job is to get rid of them, not once, but constantly as they crop up during the summer. It seems like a big commitment, but it’s really so much better than trying to wade through a crazy overgrown plant later on.
How to recognize a sucker is completely impossible to explain with words. Luckily, we have created a video that will make it easy and fun! Maybe fun is a stretch, but once you get a few plants under your belt you will be sucker-crusher extraordinaire and totally unstoppable.