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I am the first to admit that we have had years in which our garden looked like a jungle, and I've even written about coming to peace with that and still getting lots of veggies despite my lack of attention.
Alas, the truth is there are some real benefits to getting out there and trimming your tomato plants, benefits that can lead to a more plentiful and longer lasting harvest and can also make you an even happier gardener.
Here are the top 3 reasons why I am pruning my tomatoes this year:
1. To Prevent Diseases - let's face it, those downward-facing leaves that rest on the ground or the full branches that splay across your garden aisle can be like little bridges inviting pests and fungus to climb on aboard. Why make it so easy for them? Likewise, leaves that have yellowed and died are not unusual, and cutting them can help to prevent the spread of disease to the rest of the plant. According to the University of New Hampshire Extension Office, pruning can prevent fungal diseases like early blight and leaf spot, among others. Pruning out suckers or downward facing branches can help to increase air flow through the plant which will also help to deter the growth of certain diseases.
2. To Improve Yield & Quality - this is what it's all about right? Letting your tomato plants go crazy can produce a lovely amount of green foliage but it won't always increase your yield and quality when it comes to fruit. In addition to preventing disease, pruning suckers and dying leaves also gives your plant the message that it should put its energy into growing fruit instead of more greenery. Likewise, as you get toward the end of the season its a good idea to start to top off your plant or pinch off flowers so that the fruit that are growing will have time to finish before you get a frost. This article from North Carolina Cooperative Extension discusses how to decide which section to snip and which to keep, depending on your goals.
3. To Control the Chaos and, frankly, make our lives easier - aside from the obvious reason that we want more healthy fruit (covered in the first two bullet points) I do enjoy when I remember to prune my tomatoes and my garden looks more organized and controlled. It also means that we can walk down our pathways without stepping on fruit and that our support structures won't fall over under the weight of too much plant and fruit. All of these things save us time, maintenance, and frustration in the long run.
And yet, sometimes we won't remember to do it enough or do it perfectly. And I'm ok with that too. After all, while some of what brings us happiness is about how well we do keeping up with our garden, the other half of being a happy gardener is having a glass-half-full mentality no matter what goes wrong!
Do you trim your tomato plants? Do you find it helps?