I fully admit, the general success of the self-watering planter I built has made me a little lazy on the gardening front. It’s been a relatively quiet time in my garden since I cut down what remained of my spinach plants, froze them, and turned them into pizza topping for my father’s day grilled pizza experiment. (Yum!) The weather has been intermittently wet, doing a nice drizzle most evenings. This has been great for my new sod, and meant I haven’t taken a good look at the garden beyond going out and snipping the occasional lettuce or herbs. I finally noticed that my peas and cucumbers were starting to look for things to hold on to and I went out to spend some quality time with my planter.
Let me start by saying when it comes to growing tomatoes, there are two types: determinate and indeterminate. If you don’t know what this means, in a nutshell, a determinate plant has been bred to grow a certain size and release most of its produce at once. Indeterminate plants grow until killed off by winter. Long story short, when you are growing a determinate tomato plant, you’re advised against pruning because the plant is only expected to get a certain size. I thought I had gotten determinate cherry tomato plant seedlings for my planter, and I had made that choice because I knew what size regular tomato plants could grow.
Looking over what I’ve got growing back there, the only words that can convey the state of my tomatoes would be awe and dismay. I had no idea cherry tomato plants could get this big.
There is a lot of heated debate about whether or not to prune. There’s also debate about whether or not to let it sprawl. There is an argument about whether it prevents disease and how much sun leaves and the tomato fruits themselves need. Like most everything in the world, the reality probably lies somewhere in between.
You do not have to prune, or even to stake, but there are good reasons to do so. As my planter can attest, the two best reasons to consider it are the space consumption of a tomato plant, and the impact pruning or not pruning has on the fruit production. Other factors to consider: removing parts that are ailing from disease or reduced sugar production because of overshading, keeping slugs out of the plant, and weight pulling the stake or cage over, which could damage your main stem.
My tomato plants are beginning to take up more than their fair share of space, overrunning my herbs and cucumbers. For that reason alone, it’s getting the shears, and I’ve spent a good 20 minutes out there already trying to reclaim some of the lower ground.
I could reiterate in excessive detail about how to prune a tomato, but a picture is worth 1000 words and a how-to video is even more so. Fine Gardening has a nice video on the process already.
So, after an hour of trimming, lesson learned: prune early, and prune often.