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Pruning And Staking Tomatoes For More Fruit

Feb 23, 2008
Beautiful, gigantic, and perfect tomatoes do not grow by themselves! While tomatoes originated in the wild, centuries of cultivation have produced countless varieties, each needing their own special care. Some varieties of tomatoes grow in compact bushy forms, while others grow and grow, like vines, continually setting fruit. For healthy tomato plants, careful attention must be paid to the individual needs of the variety. Some varieties are robust and disease resistant, while others need more care. Depending on the type of tomato and desired yield, pruning and staking tomato plants will ensure a healthier, more robust harvest.

What is Pruning?

When most people think of pruning, they think of trees and shrubs. We prune trees to change the shape, increase air-flow through the canopy, reduce the size, and remove dead or diseased wood. Tomato pruning works in much the same way. When you prune a plant, you stimulate new growth. Proper tomatoe pruning techniques ensure that pruning stimulates fruit growth and plant health, rather than more growth overall.

Pruning for Plant Health

Tomatoes benefit from good air circulation, as they are prone to diseases if their leaves stay wet or are encased in constant humidity. Pruning helps thin the tomato plant so that air moves freely. Tomatoes, when attacked by disease or pests, can recover; however, the injured part of the plant must be removed so that the injury does not spread to the rest of the plant.

Pruning for Increased Harvest

Every time a plant flowers, once the flower is pollinated, it will produce a fruit. Juicy tomatoes we love to eat are actually the fruits of the tomato plant. Vigorous, vine types of tomatoes will grow forever if not stopped! A plant can only produce a certain amount of sugar to "feed" the fruit; consequently, tomato plants with more fruits will produce smaller fruits. Pruning side-shoots helps lessen the amount of fruit on the plant, and allows the plant to send all of its energy to a few, select fruits. Removing side-shoots altogether ensures that the tomato plant "concentrates" its nutrients and energy into the tomatoes on the plant.

What is Staking?

Staking is the process of providing support for a plant. Staking helps promote air flow throughout the plant, ensuring less buildup of moisture, and fewer diseases. Staking also helps support tomato plants as they grow and produce heavy fruit. Tomato stems are brittle, and will break under too much strain. Many types of staking mechanisms exist including cages, trellises, and single stakes. For overall support, cages are easy solutions. Tomato cages can restrict air flow, so trellises and frames are a better option for overall plant health. Consult a tomato growing reference like How To Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes for a comparison of 11 staking techniques.

The proper staking technique will depend the tomato variety and individual gardener's harvesting goals.

Pruning and Staking are keys to successful tomato growing, as they promote overall plant health and higher fruit yield.
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