I am growing two types of tomato plants in ground, roma and cherry tomatoes. I’m an inexperienced gardener. There are many tomatoes forming on both types of plants and many flowers as well. In an effort to get the plants to focus on bearing fruit I decided to prune them. I think I have cut back way too much foliage and now my plants look naked. I read a lot of conflicting information online about pruning and am realized that maybe this was not a good option. Will my pruning shock the plants and prevent the rest of the flowers from producing good fruit or stop the fruit already growing from maturing ? I’m so distraught about this.
Before you begin pruning your tomatoes you have to determine whether you are growing ‘indeterminate” or “determinate tomatoes. As the name implies indeterminate tomato plants keep on growing. Their side branches and shoots continue to grow even after fruit is set, and they can be stopped only by frost. This type of tomato produces a lot of fruit, but the tomatoes tend to mature later in the season. Determinate tomato plants tend to stop growing once the plant sets fruit. These plants tend to be shorter and produce less fruit. However, fruit on these type of plants mature earlier than the indeterminate varieties.
Most cherry tomatoes are vining, indeterminate varieties, but you can also buy determinate varieties. Indeterminate cherry tomatoes continue to grow and set fruit throughout the summer until the plant is killed by frost in fall. Roma tomatoes are determinate tomatoes. These tomatoes grow to a specific size. These “bush” type tomatoes generally grow to 3 to 5 feet tall and bear fruit in about 4 to 6 weeks. After setting fruit, the plants lose vigor. Since this variety of tomatoes does not continue to grow after flowering and setting fruit, they are a more compact plant and betters suited for small gardens and containers. Most tomatoes varieties that are used for canning are early-ripening determinate varieties.
In most cases determinate tomaotes require no pruning other than removing all suckers below the first flower cluster, because pruning won’t affect their fruit size or plant vigor. If you do any pruning at all above the first flower cluster on determinate tomatoes, you’ll only be throwing away potential fruit.
For indeterminate tomaotes in order to optimize your tomato yield they need to be planted properly, fruits need to be kept off of the ground by trellising, and removing extra side branches called suckers. As your tomato plant grows, side shoots, or suckers, form in the axils, between the leaves and the main stem. If left alone, these suckers will grow just like the main stem, producing flowers and fruit. The farther up on the plant a sucker develops, the weaker it is, because the sugar concentration gets lower as you move up the plant. When suckers are between 3-4” remove them from the plant by pinching them back to the main stem. Pruning suckers will reduce overall yield of your tomato plant, but the fruits you harvest will be larger and will ripen earlier.
Fine Gardenening Magazine’s article on Pruning Tomatoes has a number of instructional videos on how to go about pruning the different type of tomatoes.