Gardening Tips & Tidbits: Pruning Tomato Plants

Tomato Plant & Garden Maintenance

My tomato plants have exploded in the last week, and I got to share the first of two pear tomatoes off the vine with my mom last night when she came over to look at my garden. While we were out looking at all of the new additions to the boxes I realized how full and bushy the tomato plants were. So, I decided that today is the day I would spend some time on tomato plant care and trim them up!

There is a lot of debate on whether or not tomato plants need to be thinned or pruned. It can really go either way on certain types of tomatoes, but here’s a few reasons why I have chosen to trim them up:

  • To keep the leaves and stems off of the ground and out of the dirt, away from the reach of ground pests, and to prevent disease.
  • To keep the plant size/girth under control…walking between the plants to get to the back plants is needed in my garden because I planted against a fence line.
  • To get a larger yielding tomato plant and tomatoes because the nutrients aren’t being spent on leaves and branches that do not produce fruit.

Another thing to keep in mind when trying to decide if you want to trim your tomatoes is what kind of tomatoes you are growing: determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. The main difference is whether or not your tomatoes are “bush” tomatoes or “vine” tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes will stop growing around 3 feet and need less support throughout the growth process, while indeterminate tomatoes will continue growing upwards of +/- 10 feet and need significant support while growing. *Some people say to not trim determinate tomatoes, but I have experienced a better harvest when I kept them pruned throughout the early growth stages.

Here is a list of Determinate and Indeterminate tomato varieties

There are three things that I look for when I trim up my tomatoes:

  1. Leaves and stems that are laying on or low to the ground
  2. Stems below the first set of blooms
  3. Sucker stems: This is a small stem that grows out of the joint where a branch meets a stem

How to Prune stems and branches:

I was told for pruning tomatoes that using a knife or scissors could lead to infection, so using a pinching technique is the best way to prune them up. This is very simple to do…just pinch the stems you are wanting to get rid of and pull it away from the branch. If it is stubborn wiggle it back and forth a few times to get it off, and you’re done! Check the plant on a weekly basis to look for more sucker stems or branches that are needing to be tied up or supported. **Make sure to never remove more than 1/3 of the total plant during pruning so the plant does not go in to shock.**

One of the last steps to pruning and tomato care is to tie up branches that need a little extra support. I used garden twine from last week’s project and pre-cut several pieces and then looked for any branches that were hanging loose. Here’s a few before and final pictures of my pear tomato plant. This is the plant that I was able to try out two of the tomatoes last night and they were delicious!!

 The last step I used was to add some plant food. I’ll use this occasionally throughout the growth season,and since I was already out there I decided to go ahead and use my homemade garden tool to shake out food alongside the plants.


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More Gardening Tips and Tricks

I am eager to be able to make all sorts of different things with these tomatoes, and will share my recipes with you later in the season! So make sure to check back in with us to see salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and more!

Credit: Bonnie Plants, Determinate Tomatoes; Bonnie Plants, Indeterminate Tomatoes



  • I read Fabulously Frugal almost daily and use so many ideas. My husband just built the climbing trellis from pvc pipe for beans and peas as described in this gardening section and it worked beautifully. However, I have to strongly disagree with the advise above regarding the recommendation for fertilizer. Yes, your tomatoes will grow big and plump, but they will be toxic and unhealthy. Your tomatoes will probably grow even bigger and absolutely more healthy if you place that Prime order for fish emulsion instead. If you are going to take the time to grow a beautiful garden, why grow a toxic garden? it’s less expensive, and healthier to grow a garden the natural way. Fertilize with coffee grounds, make your own compost from trash you throw away anyway and garden clippings, and use fish emulsion. My garden looks as great as yours, but its all organic and safe to eat from and safe to walk through. Just a thought.

    • Thanks so much for your advice and thoughts on the organic gardening tips Lela! I will try out the coffee grounds idea as I have heard about that!

  • I always enjoy your frugal blog and I wanted to share a tip on the tomatoes suckers. Did you know you can put the suckers in a jar of water and they will root. Then you will have some late tomato plants and later tomatoes by the end of August and maybe till frost. We always root some suckers for the late tomatoes that seem to have the very best flavor. Thanks for your blog, hope this tip is helpful. Betty

    • Thanks Betty! Great idea for rooting the tomato suckers!! I didn’t realize that they do root, but I should have guessed since so many plants do! 🙂

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