"...Please explain a little more about cutting back tomato plants?... Just clip those plants back by 1/3 to 1/2..."
July 22, 2009
Welcome to Texas Gardener’s Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners.
"Please explain a little more about cutting back tomato plants," writes Susan Crane. "I have 4-5 in a side yard and they are as tall as I am! They are still bearing fruit and I would think that they will continue to do so since they have so far survived mostly 100+ degree days (a few high 90s sprinkled in there) and are still doing OK. Their bottoms are getting leggy; the leaves at the bottom have turned yellow and dropped off, but the tops and fruit are still very much green. Tell me how to prune them back. I heard about pinching them back, but I tried that last year and they just grew around and kept growing taller. Am I doing something wrong? How do I prune them back so they will produce into the fall?"
It sounds like your plants are relatively healthy and should respond well to being pruned back. Plants that have been wiped out by early blight or spider mites should be removed and new transplants set out to replace them. We like to use long handled pruning shears when we do ours. Just clip those plants back by 1/3 to 1/2. That may sound severe but the plants will have time to rejuvenate and produce fruit before the first frost in the fall. It also makes them more manageable in the limited space of a home garden. When temperatures turn relatively cooler in late August and early September, the vines will start setting fruit again. Once you see tomatoes about the size of marbles it is time to start top dressing the plants with a good quality organic fertilizer every week or so. Be sure to keep them well mulched and evenly watered to avoid problems with blossom end rot and cracking. — Chris S. Corby, Publisher
(my photo from back in May)