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bate181

Does pruning stunt tomato growth?

bate181
14 years ago

I have a better boy that kinda grew out of control and is now sprawling to the left and right but i have still have its main stems suspended above the ground. well i decided to prune some of the stems because they were touching the ground and i ground see slug and snail tracks on the leaves. and now it seems like the 15 or so tomatoes that have set on this plant are slowing down in growth. theyre about 2-3 weeks away from being ripe

Comments (17)

  • carolyn137
    14 years ago

    The plant is dependent on energy to grow, set fruits and mature them.

    That energy, ATP, comes from photosynthesis.

    The less foliage cover the less energy is made and available for plant growth and fruit maturation.

    Pruning suckers or branches hard also makes the fruits more susceptible to sunscald and reduces the backup foliage that might be needed if and when foliage diseases appear.

    Other than removing a few branches at the base of the plant in order to help discourage splashback infection from fungal and bacterial foliage pathogens that were shed to the ground in a previous year, I see no reason at all to remove suckers , aka lateral branches.

    Going one step further, I actually call it plant abuse. LOL

    Carolyn

  • bate181
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    interesting carolyn. i really hope my fruit recover and reach full growth. lesson learned

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  • windclimber
    14 years ago

    I made the same mistake one year , bate 181, until Carolyn explained it to us, ...........what would we do without you dear?

    My garden looked like a Dr. Zuess forest that year as I was experimenting with Missouri pruning, sucker pruning , branches up to the first flowers , and on and on, I think we had a basket full of tomatoes at best.
    Now it as She says a few too clse to the ground and an occasional sucker, for some reason I have to pluck those things, it's like a bad habit to try and break:)

    Tom

  • solanaceae
    14 years ago

    I am going to disagree about any general statements about pruning. There are none because my opinion on tomatoes recognizes that they are flexible plants that will grow very well despite our abuse most of the time from the sub arctic to the tropics and grow from tiny dwarfs to small trees and the space that they are grown in varies from back yards to climate controlled green houses. In a green house it is no surprise that the yield is measured in square feet not per plant. When you do prune it should be pinching off tiny suckers with your fingers before they get started. If you are chopping away you are already doing it the wrong way.
    Letting a Tomato sprawl will probably allow bigger yields per plant but will likely yield less per square foot and this tends to be inversely related to maintenance however as yield per square foot will make for more work. Their are about a 100 different trade offs. Do I have space up? How much sun do I have where and when? Do I want Toms early, all at once or continuous? Do I have good soil? Disease? What about water and on and on. A lower sucker that will not be getting any sun light can probably be pruned . If you prune a branch that is getting lots of sun then it will limit the sugar manufacturing machine that tomato plant is..
    For a hypothetical situation. If I have space for 2 bushing tomato plants and I want early tomatoes, a good main crop slicer and some for sauce, I am best of pruning since I could possibly grow 3 or 4 plants and in that space aimed at a particular purpose.

    In my case I have a space about 8 feet on the south face on my house. There is a fence about 5 feet up. How will a nice big bush do for me in late August? It will be a failure because the low sprawling bush will be shaded by then. In this space all my plants are vines with no exceptions. Once I am up 3 feet the space is drenched with sunlight so I tend to grow vines from high containers and I do want to leave room to walk on the side walk. This is not theory as I planted an extra tom in ground and it was a 2 foot Roma that produced about 10-15 tomatoes. Bush types do not do well there especially in ground.
    Another similar scenario could be bush type Toms on a south row and pruned vines to the north. Its the same reason German Rieslings are planted on south facing hills because the angle of the sun makes all the difference in the northern wine regions. The further north you go the more important it is. If I were in the Dakotas I would probably angle raised beds to the south. I think that is what I may even do here. It really is common sense. If the sun is hitting it and there is room do not prune that IMHO.

  • Gardener972
    14 years ago

    We live in the Dallas area and by July/August the tomatoes are pooped out. One year we decided to hack them off to about three feet tall and they looked horrible... tall sticks in the ground with a little bit of mostly dried up foliage. Well, when the fall rains came, they put on new foliage and became new plants! They were like starting all over, producing a 2nd crop for us. Since, we've done it every year and have tomatoes for T'giving and C'mas.

  • solanaceae
    14 years ago

    By topping off plants perhaps you have just given more root per amount of foliage which is probably good in Texas.

    As stated here and has been posted a few times in this forum they top it off to aim the roots at the fruit. It also seems new growth does tend to make more fruit.
    http://www.taunton.com/finegardening/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx

    Great example that conventional wisdom in one climate or situation may not be good in another.

  • barrie2m_(6a, central PA)
    14 years ago

    Much as with growing anything, the greatest form of abuse is often the result of neglect. If suckering your plants twice a week creates a abused plant then more tomato growers should be abusing their plants and reap the rewards.

    Consider the alternative. A wrangled, tangled, sprawling mass of vegetative growth covering dozens of slimy, rotting overlooked tomatoes. And what happens when you try to retrieve the tomatoes from the tangled....mess? You most certainly bend and break branches so that when you come for the next picking the red tomatoes that you find are not a result of natural ripening but taste like the green harvested sorts which the stores offer.

    Healthy growing plants will have plenty of vegetative growth to prevent sunscald. The way to keep a plant actively growing and healthy is to observe it regularly and closely for problems and correct those problems before they get out of hand. Neglect is the enemy, not whether the plants are suckered or managed by some other means.

    I applaud those who don't care to consume slug eaten, rotting fruit or tomatoes contaminated by laying in muddy ditches beneath the plant where pathogens thrive. If you are the least bit concerned over all of the food borne illness scares in produce in the news then let the corrective actions begin in your own garden.

  • drtomato
    14 years ago

    Yes it does. Carolyn is as absolutly correct on this one.
    I've proven this. When you sucker it reduces plant growth which reduces fruit production. I'm a non suckerer.

  • wvtomatoman
    14 years ago

    Maybe I'm missing something, but if the fruit are really 2-3 weeks away from being ripe then they are at or approaching mature green which means they should slow down in growth.

    I've had deer prune my plants fairly severely and not very gently. The plants grew out of it and produced normal sized fruit.

    Good luck.

    Randy

  • carolyn137
    14 years ago

    I applaud those who don't care to consume slug eaten, rotting fruit or tomatoes contaminated by laying in muddy ditches beneath the plant where pathogens thrive. If you are the least bit concerned over all of the food borne illness scares in produce in the news then let the corrective actions begin in your own garden.

    *****

    Then I think you can applaud all of us home growers who as far as I know don't eat rotting, slug ridden fruits. ( smile)

    The pathogens that have been associated with tomato, spinach, lettuce, strawberries and those kinds of vegetables/fruits are not going to be found in ditches under growing plants b'c their origin is human excrement. I'll say little more about that but I think it's reasonable to say that that kind of situation is not going to occur in our backyard gardens.

    The folks who might have such pathogens in their gardens would be those who keep poultry that harbors Salmonella or Campylobacter and give free range to those poultry. And these days most folks insist on documentation that the poultry they buy is pathogen free.

    There are other animals that also can carry some of the pathogens that have been associated with foodborne illnesses but they wouldn't be ones that would have free access to home gardens. And here I'm thinking of cows, etc.

    And I want to think that most of us home gardeners don't willfully neglect our plants after all the time that has spent, for most folks I think, raising their plants from seed and having the expectations that they do for the harvest to come.

    Constant monitoring of the plants for possible problems, as you suggest, is always a good idea.

    I understand what you're saying but I felt that I wanted to say something about your contention that neglect could lead to pathogen contaminated home grown tomatoes.

    And yes, I do know something about pathogens and foodborne illnesses as a retired Microbiologist who specialized in human infectious disease and taught medical students for most of her professional career.

    Carolyn

  • carolyn137
    14 years ago

    Maybe I'm missing something, but if the fruit are really 2-3 weeks away from being ripe then they are at or approaching mature green which means they should slow down in growth.
    I've had deer prune my plants fairly severely and not very gently. The plants grew out of it and produced normal sized fruit.

    ****

    Randy, I think it's better to use the phrase slow down growth rather than stunting growth and I don't think anyone here is talking about the slow down that occurs wating for fruits to ripen. Rather I think the focus is on early pruning of young plants. At least that's the way I've interpreted the questions being asked.

    let's not discuss deer. LOL Yes, I've had them eat down plants in the worst way, and yes, those plants sometimes can recover, it just depends when they do the eating and for me it's been mainly when the ripe ones are on the vine so they have little time to recover b'c it's usually been late in the season.

    But they have nibbled on young plants, said Carolyn peering out at her young plants, LOL, but more often, at least for me, they wait until the eating is better. Sigh.

    I don't think I've ever seen them go after green immature tomatoes, but perhaps you and others have seen that.

    Carolyn

  • drtomato
    14 years ago

    YA BOY!! Carolyn got a smack down!

    bmoser- you think we all grow are plants next to a out-house? You ever drive by a comerical farm that grows toms for Hunt's or Hienze. They don't use cages. tom's are all over the ground. Best lookin toms you ever did see.

    Quite a impression you leave for us "slug eaten, rotting fruit or tomatoes contaminated by laying in muddy ditches beneath the plant where pathogens thrive"

  • digdirt2
    14 years ago

    Gee! My gardens must be a miracle then.

    I refuse to sucker my plants 2x a week and yet I have never neglected them, never had a "a wrangled, tangled, sprawling mass of vegetative growth covering dozens of slimy, rotting overlooked tomatoes", never had a problem picking them or with breaking branches in the process of harvesting, or with keeping them actively growing and healthy. Yep! Must be a miracle. ;)

    And I have never consumed a slug eaten, rotting fruit or tomatoes contaminated by laying in muddy ditches. Good garden hygiene does not require aggressive pruning because most aggressive pruning is done for the convenience of the grower, not for the good of the plant.

    I have had problems with sun scald however so I guess it's only a semi-miracle. ;)

    Dave

  • drtomato
    14 years ago

    bmoser- the only reason why you probably said what did is, I figure, you must of had a bad experience at some point in you gardening life.
    Just a thought- You ever check the area where your toilet drains from your trailer home to your septic tank and noticed a stink? Could of developed a leak over time and gotten into your garden. IJMO

  • wvtomatoman
    14 years ago

    Carolyn,

    My comments about the fruit growth were in response to the last lines of the original post:
    "and now it seems like the 15 or so tomatoes that have set on this plant are slowing down in growth. theyre about 2-3 weeks away from being ripe"

    And yes I have evidence that deer eat green tomatoes (I have never caught them in the act). Well, it is more like they sample green tomatoes. I call it sampling because they take a bite, decide they don't like it and leave the rest laying on the ground for me to find the next morning.

    Randy

  • carolyn137
    14 years ago

    My comments about the fruit growth were in response to the last lines of the original post:
    "and now it seems like the 15 or so tomatoes that have set on this plant are slowing down in growth. theyre about 2-3 weeks away from being ripe"

    ******

    Thanks for the clarification Randy.

    (And yes I have evidence that deer eat green tomatoes (I have never caught them in the act). Well, it is more like they sample green tomatoes. I call it sampling because they take a bite, decide they don't like it and leave the rest laying on the ground for me to find the next morning.)

    Well you keep your green tomato eating deer down there so they don't interbreed with my non green tomato eating deer that I have here. LOL

    Carolyn

  • barrie2m_(6a, central PA)
    14 years ago

    Appears that Ive raised a few eyebrows with the vivid discription of what I've witnessed in many gardens. And I will admit that I have had first hand experience at harvesting from a poorly managed tomato field. It is no fun.

    You don't need a nearby septic drain field to be the source of contamination. In California investigators found that wild boars were frequenting the fields at night and contaminating the crops. You mention deer- Deer intestinal samples have been shown to have high incidence of the dangerous coliform bacteria 0157:H7. Birds are as likely as chickens to carry salmonella and turtles are also likely carriers. If you swabed your shoes you could probably find Listeria sp.

    One in 7 of us will have a serious food borne illness this year. That is a statistic. I worked in quality control in the meat industry and right now the meat industry is rightfully pointing their finger at the fruit and vegetable industry. So why do you all think that you can defy the odds and eat tomatoes that were not just touching the soil but likely laying there for weeks undetected under a wrangled, tangled, sprawling mass of vegetative growth.