Last updated on June 1st, 2021
Why go to the trouble of pruning indeterminate tomato plants? Well, if you grow tomatoes in the same environment that I do, meaning in a hot and humid climate and in the tight confines of a raised bed, you will find that disease is minimized and fruit production is maximized on well-pruned plants! Left unchecked, tomato vines make numerous suckers. As these side shoots grow, they draw precious energy away from the parent stem. Consequently fruit overall is small, and fungal problems are inevitable because air circulation is compromised. Join me in the Kitchen Garden, and I’ll show you how to prune and tie tomatoes for a big, healthy harvest:
Was this video helpful to you in some small way? You can let me know by posting a comment below. xKevin
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This was super helpful. Although my SO has plucked of “suckers “ that contain flowers!
Would you recommend pruning cherry or grape tomatoes to a single stem as well?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Katherine – With cherry/grape tomatoes, you can keep to one stem or let 2 or 3 suckers grow. Depends on how much room you have for the plant!
Thank you very much; now I know much more. Lots of greetings from Austria, Europe
Susan Iseman says
Thanks, Kevin from Westport, CT. I am doing this to my tomato plants. (I don’t have black fishnets, but next summer I’ll think about it) You are always helpful with a fun sense of humor!
Thank you for your video on single stem tomatoes. I have been growing tomatoes for a long time with little to no success and will try your approach. Thank you for all your videos, I enjoy each and every one of them!
Thank you Kevin for the helpful info on tomato pruning!
Hi Kevin! Northern New Jersey here! Thanks for your great videos! Can you provide a little more detail on your straw mulch? The only kind I’ve seen is for putting down over grass seed and includes some kind of binding agent so it won’t blow away. Worried that might mean it will mat down over the soil? Thanks for any help you can give!
Jeanette Liberty-Duns says
Thank you so much Kevin for the video about tomatoes. We moved to Ontario last year so this is my first summer here. I always remove the suckers from my tomatoes but did not know to remove leaves that touch the soil so I will go do that immediately. I so look forward to your weekly blogs. Happy Gardening.
Many thanks for the reminder! Off to snip those suckers now…! Hope you’re well!
Irene Clum says
Good video. I always have “plucked the suckers” and bottom branches. Between that & spacing my plants, I have very little disease. Also have found Burpee Big Beef hybrid very disease resistant.
Thank you for this lesson in tomato plant pruning, Kevin! Headed outside with the snips right now to implement what you’ve just taught me. Really appreciate all your videos!
Leslie O'Flaherty says
I finally have my raised beds, and now 10 tomato plants! And I shamelessly copied your watering system. Love visiting with you every week!
Can tomato plants be topped. Had a late hail storm and a few were chopped. Will they recover or should I replant??? I’m in GA, north of Hotlanta. Hot and humid is normal here.
Thanks for the reminders Kevin. I’ve enjoyed your videos for years!
Dana Hutchinson says
I just love you! You are so very helpful to all of us, I’m truly grateful for your tutorials. I knew about the suckers but not about the branches touching the ground. We planted 14 tomato plants (Sun sugars, the little orangish cherry ones) are 1 of my favorites! Along with roma (makes for a great salsa) & big boy & better boy, i think is the name. We also have eggplant, mustard & collard greens, big Bertha peppers, jalapeños, hot Hungarians, cukes, yellow, zucchini & acorn squash, watermelon and cantelope. I missed the okra this year, had a late start due to covid, ugh, which is really sad, we love okra any which way! Again Kevin, thank you oh so much! (((Hugs)))
Yes! Extremely helpful! Thank you!
I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Zone 5b.
Great video to reinforce what I’m already trying to do! Maybe I’ll try the same medium for mulching next year. I’m outside of Philadelphia so hot and humid is the climate too.
Do you pick suckers above the flowers too? I think I heard that above the flowers you don’t pick suckers so wondering what your method is and if it’s brought you success!
Frederique Jennette says
Yes, I have been doing that to my cherry tomato plant too and over the few years did not have any of the usual tomato problems; I live in Arlington, VA, a humid and rather hot area. Thank you for your videos.
Hi Kevin, I also use rags, to tie up tomatoes, tearing them in strips, they are soft. Then tossing them out at the end of the season. Just in case blight or any other fungals get on them.
Also I read once in an organic gardening magazine, that if something is chewing on your tomatoes, you can pinch off a little of the plant anywhere. The plant then emits a growth hormone to heal itself causing severe indigestion to the insect, that is feasting on your plant. Isn’t nature wonderful!
Love your website and you informative videos. Thank you,
Thanks, Kevin! As always, your video was very helpful. I will check out the Velcro tape.
Twenty years ago, I could successfully grow tomatoes in my little suburban backyard, but now the trees are giving off too much shade.
So, I have planted one plant each in two very large pots and placed the pots on my grown son’s Little Red Wagon. I just pull the wagon to sunny spots in the driveway. I need to do this just twice a day. I think it will be worth the effort!
Fran Ewing says
Love your informative videos. I just cut off the leaves that were touching the ground on my tomatoes. I think I will also try the straw. I know it does disintegrate and improve your soil. I look forward to more videos from Louisville Kentucky.
This has been super helpful, Kevin. It’s my first year with a vegetable garden and about 15 tomato plants, almost all of them heirlooms. It’s good to see you let yours
grow to the height they will. Somebody told me you have two cap them off at a certain height. I like your approach better. My dad who used to grow a lot of tomatoes told me to never grow them in the same space two years in a row because of potential disease in the soil. He’s unfortunately not around anymore to ask – do you think you can go to the same space in the second year? I only have 2 garden beds and can’t do more rotating than that. Thank you for everything, Kevin – love your sense of humour. I am in South Western Ontario in the triangle of 3 Great Lakes. Lots of heat and humidity here!
Diane C says
Thanks for great advice! Growing my first vegetable garden in 30 years in western Maine!(Moved to FL, now a snowbird). So far so good. Tomato plants were nipped by frost but seem to be recovering nicely.
I have been pruning my tomatoes and they have just started to flower. Am in the Pacific Nw on the border of WA and OR. My husband doesn’t want his tomato plants pruned so it will be an experiment to see whose do best.. I used some softly spun handspun sheep wool yarn for my ties.
Thanks for another great video and I really like your bright silver hair.
Pantyhose?! Does anyone still wear ’em? Now black fishnets……. Thank you for your tomato tips!
Love your videos and sense of humor! Interesting that you are using straw in your beds – no problems with weeds? always thought salt hay was the preferred mulch to avoid weeds.
Northern part of the Jersey Shore for me – 7b!!
Kevin thanks for tip on suckers.
I’m new to gardening. I left my tomatoes in the pots they came in, but did put sticks & tape to straighten them. Is it ok to leave them in the pots?
I’m from Carmel NY
I do tie stems, but being European extract I use yarn. I have five tomato plants and six red pepper plants. I grow them in a four ft. High box. Reason being I’m old and have difficulty getting up off my knees.
Love your articles. Read them all the time.
Joan DiCoio says
Hi Kevin, I’m in zone 9B in San Jose, CA. Thanks for advice and visual on pruning tomatoes to one stem. For some reason I thought this would be so difficult. Next up I’m going to check out your lovely cross bar trellis and see how you made that work as I, too, have a 4’x 8′ raised bed so this is very encouraging. We really don’t have humidity problems in Northern CA but this one stem pruning seems to allow for a lot of variety in a small space. Thanks, again! I enjoy your vlog, and you as host:-)
Responding to Elsa: we use straw mulch also, but also include the shredded paper from the office. I wet the mulch after I put it down and the wet paper helps keep the straw from blowing away. I kind of forms a mat that won’t blow away. Even on beds planted with seed, the seedlings have no problem growing thru the straw/paper mulch.
W/r/t growing tomatoes, we tie string to clips around the main stem and tie the other end of the string to a cross pole supported by two crossed bamboo poles. The string gets wound (very loosely) around the main stem thru the summer as the plant grows.
Hi Kevin, Every year I start snipping the tomato suckers and then get distracted and our plants grow huge and full and then I can’t even find the tomatoes until the end of summer. I am going to stay with it and get my plants under control this year! Also, I did not know about cutting off the bottom leaves and have already done that. Some of the rabbits in our area also helped me with that and they also have helped themselves to a few tomatoes and swiss chard, and kale, corn and….. So I am now putting down bone meal and also blood meal and it seems to be working. I have read to rotate the two so the bunnies don’t get used to the smell. Oh, the joys of gardening. I am in Upper New York fairly near Saratoga. We are 4B to 5 here. Your garden is way ahead of ours. We need rain very badly! Thanks for all your advice and help.
Debbie K says
Hi Kevin! Debbie from Mentor, Ohio, about 3 miles inland from Lake Erie. Thanks so much for the tips about the branches hitting the ground, and how to remove the suckers. Look forward to your emails and videos!
Thank you Kevin. This is my first time around growing tomatoes (covid job layoff has given me time!). I’m in Virginia and am going to start pruning my tomatoes tomorrow. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge!
Clark Shyaughnessy says
Thank you Kevin for your tomato plant pruning video.
Clark and Shelley
Yes this was helpful, thank you Kevin! I am in Northern Vermont. Our ‘safe’ planting date is Memorial Day. And last Saturday it never got to over 50 degrees that day. However we are now having a heat wave, 3 days of 90 degrees!
I did not know about removing the ground-touching leaves nor getting rid of suckers. I will go out (when it’s cooler) and do that today!
I watched your video of constructing your tomato trellis and wished I could do the same, every year I rely on the wimpy cages and they never fail to fail, lol!
Leslie AH says
Thank you Kevin! Very helpful and informative. Going out on this hot muggy Michigan day to give my tomatoes some love!
I live in western Oregon and we had a very wet June. I’m going to prune my tomato plants as you showed this year because my plants get so gangly and take over my beds. Its also very hard to pick my tomatoes because I can barely get my hand between the vines to pick them. I think this will help and I very much appreciate your video!
Mongo helpful!! I learned a lot. Thanks so much, Kevin.
Thank you, Kevin! This is the first time I have grown tomatoes. We live in Delaware…super humid and hot summers. The tomatoes are growing wildly, but I need to heed your advice. I enjoy reading everything you write.
John from the NC Mountains here, zone 6b/7a; really enjoyed the pruning lesson! I am committed to learning something new every day. My favorite part was when you said,”and if you have a sucker that is 5″-6″ long stick it in some moist soil and you’ll have another plant!” Why didn’t I think of that? FREE heirloom tomato plant ‘starts’ are about the best thing you can say to a gardener.
Alas, you lost me at the Fishnet Stocking moment. I started thinking about ( not that!), about the recent TV commercial where some guys are sticking up an armored truck and the last guy shows with a fishnet stocking over his head (the others have regular nylons). His partner says,”What are you doing with that on your head?” He says, ” you said wear a lady’s stocking.”
They proceed to have a long discussion about the problem in the midst of their armed robbery till you hear a woman’s voice in the background say, “Is that you Pete? Pete Petan?” I laughed the first time I saw it and am still giggling now….Damn, where was I…Oh yeah, tomato sucker pruning. Now I am going to have to watch the video again to see what I missed! Not necessarily a bad thing.
As a famous ancient Zen master used to say, out loud, all day, everywhere,”Roshi, Pay attention! Pay attention!” So my practice for today is clear….’John, pay attention! Pay attention!’
Hi Kevin! Thanks for the tip about pruning the lower leaves. I’ve thought about doing that, but wasn’t sure whether it would be good for the plant. I’ll trim them all this afternoon!
I’m a city gardener and my garden is in the front yard, so I try to keep it attractive for the neighbors. This year I put up two inexpensive wrought-iron looking arbors for my tomatoes to climb. They look very elegant. I also found (on Amazon) some green clips that look like rounded clothespins and hold the vines to the arbor neatly and discretely. I can easily move them around as the tomatoes grow and I’ll be able to reuse them for many years.
I look forward every week to your good advice and great recipes. Thank you!
bev miller says
Thank you again for a very informative video!!!
Carol Tracy says
Good morning Kevin
This is a great picture of you!
Katharine Gallotta says
Thanks Kevin. I enjoy your humor. Glad to know what tomato fertilizer you use.
This spring I gave away 20 English boxwoods I started four years ago after watching your propagation video. My friends were pleased to receive them!
Mariska L says
Hi Kevin. Thanks for the tip on Velcro tape. I’m going to give my pantyhose a rest and give the tape a try.
I had a problem with straw as a mulch for my garlic this year , it sprouted and started growing. I am going to give rice hulls a try as mulch instead. I live in zone 7b.
I made your tomato pie last year and can’t wait to make it again, yum!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Mariska L – Tomato Pie — YESSS!
Mary Jouver says
Great info as usual Kevin…thanks you. I am heading outside here in Lake Tapps WA to prune my tomato plants. XO
Barbara Robinson says
Thanks for helping with tomato info. I needed to understand the suckers better — have heard to pinch them out but couldn’t really identify? Great video
maralee thompson says
Dealing with a lot of rain here in Kansas City. My tomatoes are oin but oh the remps are too low. I pulled my radishes out as they were too mealy from all the rain. Maybe my tomatoes will make it. Crazy weather patterns
Learned a lot as to which arr sucker and which are branches.
This year I did everything the way you taught and my tomatoes are exploding with buds and already picking fruit. thanks from central Texas
Velcro tie excellent idea. I always grow tomatoes in greenhouse. Although in the SE of England our climate not really hot enough to ripen tomatoes.
Pat Kephart says
Thanks, Kevin. I’ve always removed suckers, but never removed bottom leaves. I always had planted in black plastic in central Penna. Now I’m in Maryland near Washington D C. I don’t have black plastic anymore, so I will cut off the bottom leaves.
Thanks for the tips.
maralee thompson says
Great info. Thank you so much
Kevin you are so right about Tomato Tone! It’s super!