Until very recently, I did not prune my tomato plants. I figured that the more leaf surface, the better. Up to a point, that is true. The problem is that if you have good fertile soil and plenty of water, the plant can quickly grow far to dense. Too many leaves and branches mean that:
- Plant energy is going into producing more plant – not more fruit.
- Fruit, unless it is growing on the outside edge of the plant, is difficult to see and to pick.
- Poor air circulation means that disease and insect infestation can quickly get out of hand.
- Leaves and branches tend to yellow and die for lack of sun. They then rot and become a magnet for insects and disease.
- If you can’t see all of your plant, you can’t care for it.
The first type of pruning is sucker removal. We’ll look at the other type of pruning in a future post. Suckers are what grow out of the top of the joint between the main trunk of the plant and a branch. In the following two photos, I’ve indicated the suckers. These are pinched off or cut off as soon as the appear. They grow quickly, so check your plants regularly.
An added benefit to removing suckers is that they sprout roots very easily by just sticking them in the ground.
This is what happens when plants are not pruned. These are too dense for a healthy plant and a good yield.
There are three basic garden tools that I consider to be necessities. These are the ones that I use constantly.
- Stainless steel garden trowel. I have several garden trowels around, but this is my favorite. It is solidly made and will not rust. I also have a larger one made of cast aluminum, and that is also a favorite when a larger size is called for.
- Pruning shears. I have several of them around, and the main reason that this one is still here is that I also got a clip-on holster for it. Far too many of them would get lost when using it for pruning jobs around the yard. I would set it down and forget where I put it until it had rusted beyond use. The main use for them though, is for harvesting from the garden.
- Garden knife. This is a Japanese knife made of stainless steel. It gets used for all sorts of things, like planting sweetpotato slips and rose cuttings, sawing through roots when running a water line for the chickens, and general poking around in the garden. I plan to make a Kydex sheath for it that I can attach to my belt. Someday maybe I’ll actually get it done.
We have all accumulated a wide variety of garden tools, but the rest of them tend to get buried at the bottom of my box of garden tools and they are never missed. These three tools are the necessities.
Several months ago, I decided to try an experiment. I pruned back several okra plants by cutting a few inches off the top. The idea was to see if, as happens with some plants, pruning makes it more productive. In addition, the plants were getting pretty tall. I am 6’6″ tall, and I now have to bend some of the plants down in order for me to pick the pods off the top (remember that this is in a raised bed, so they aren’t as tall as it may seem).
The results? The trimmed plants have produced absolutely nothing from that point on. Let your okra grow as it will and keep it picked – don’t cut anything but the pods.