How to Prune Determinate Tomatoes: A 3-Step Guide

In this article, you will learn all about pruning and how to prune determinate tomatoes for optimum growth.

There’s nothing quite like a big, ripe, homegrown tomato in our garden. Did you know that tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits on our planet? Not only do they add an incredible taste to your food, but they are also really good for you.

They contain a lot of useful vitamins, antioxidants, and a wide array of essential nutrients and minerals!

Therefore, growing healthy tomatoes in your garden is probably the best thing you can do to up your culinary game. So, how can you get your tomatoes to be the largest and most flavorful ones?  The secret trick is pruning!

Without further ado, let’s get started, folks!

What is Pruning?

Pruning is a simple garden practice where you cut off the “deadweight” from the plant. That includes dead and dried leaves, stems, suckers, and any other parts of the plant that have signs of pest damage.

Don’t worry; pruning will not hurt your plant in any way. Instead, it will allow your plant to grow better. Furthermore, by cutting off the unwanted parts, you will give more space for new buds to grow.

That will further ensure your tomatoes are healthy and make them last for a long time as well.

What are Determinate Tomatoes?

Determinate tomatoes (also known as bush tomatoes) grow until they reach an average height of 3 or 4 ft. One way to identify determinate tomatoes is when the flowers of your plant start to bloom at the tip of its branch. That also means your plant has reached its full height.

Moreover, the fruit of determinate tomatoes starts to ripen at the same time. This trait is especially useful for people who grow tomatoes solely for the purpose of canning them.

Determinate tomatoes also do not take up a lot of space as they normally stop growing once they have reached the optimum height. That makes it a perfect choice for gardeners who are tight on space.

Determinate Tomatoes vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes: What is the Difference?

The main difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is their growth rate and height.

While determinate tomatoes stop growing after reaching a certain height, indeterminate tomatoes continue their growth. That may not seem like a problem first, but when your tomato plant reaches a height of 6 to 20 ft tall, it can be quite overwhelming. However, this height also depends on your plant’s variety.

They tend to keep growing until they get hit with a cold, hard frost. These types of tomatoes are not completely undesirable as some gardeners use them by slicing them for salads.

If you would like to achieve a continuous harvest throughout the year, you might find indeterminate tomatoes a better choice.

How to Prune Determinate Tomatoes

Pruning is the practice of cutting off the suckers at the bottom of the tomato plant. It is done to allow for optimal airflow from the bottom of the plant, which will also help prevent plant diseases.

For determinate tomatoes, the shoots usually stop growing once they have set a new terminal bud. If you accidentally cut off too much of the plant, there is a chance you may have reduced the overall yield.

Usually, you should prune a few suckers at the bottom of the tomato plant (5 or 6) up till the first cluster of flowers. However, the sucker under this first cluster tends to grow an extremely strong shoot.

In fact, this sucker is what will help produce a lot of tomatoes. Therefore, it is best to leave this alone without pruning. However, be sure to remove everything below this shoot.

When Is the Best Time to Prune Determinate Tomatoes?

The best time to start pruning determinate tomatoes is when you can see the first flower cluster blooming. If you are to prune your plant before this, you might not correctly identify which suckers need pruning.

On the other hand, some people might prune it too late. By this time, the suckers have grown huge in size, and by pruning these, you will be creating lesions on the stem. It will further cause more damage to the plant as the lesions can cause infections.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t panic! In order to reduce the chances of pathogen infection, you must let the lesions dry out naturally.

With all this in consideration, the best time to prune your determinate tomatoes is preferably the morning of a bright, sunny day.

Tools Needed to Prune Your Determinate Tomatoes

You do not need to have a wide range of specialized tools to start pruning. You also do not have to be an expert in handling these. That is because all you will be doing is cutting off a few suckers, a couple of dead leaves, and so on.

Most of the time, you can do this with just your hands. However, some people prefer using a few handy tools to keep the plant’s smell away from the hands. If you would like to use tools for pruning, here’s a list of what you will need.

  • Micro-tip pruners
  • Pruning shears/precision pruners (to cut the suckers, leaves, and stems)

And that’s it! Whichever tool you decide to use, be sure to clean them before you start pruning. This way, you will keep the plants healthy and also finish the process sooner.

Which Part of the Plant to Prune

If you are a beginner gardener, you might find the task of pruning to be very overwhelming. A lot of people see this as “cutting plants.” However, they fail to realize that pruning helps your plants in many ways.

By trimming off dead leaves and other parts, you can instantly give the plant more space to grow new shoots. Moreover, you will also keep your plant safe from a possible pest infestation.

Additionally, a well-pruned tomato plant also contributes to the overall aesthetic of the garden.

So don’t worry, plant parents! You are not hurting your little tomato plant in any way. If you would like to help your determinate tomatoes grow better, we recommend that you follow our simple 3 step guide on how to prune determinate tomatoes to perfection!

Step 1

Take a look at the bottom of the plant and see where your tomato plant grows from. Once you have identified this, you can start pruning the suckers at the bottom of your plant.

Step 2

Continue pruning them till you see the first flower cluster. You can also cut any dead and dried leaves, stems, etc.

Step 3

The top branches of the plant need to stay intact. Accidentally pruning these branches can negatively affect the health of your plant.

So make sure you are very careful during the process.

Once you have pruned your determinate tomatoes, you are now guaranteed to have a better yield! Be sure to prune them whenever necessary.

Final Words

If you love gardening and love trying out new techniques, then pruning is a must for you!

When compared to other gardening hacks and techniques, pruning is a fairly easy one. However, it carries a lot of benefits. It helps to improve the life of your determinate tomatoes by keeping them away from pests and insects.

Additionally, pruning also gives space for new buds to sprout. Therefore, it’s safe to say that pruning promotes the healthy growth of your plants. So, why not try it for your plants?

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