It seems like there are as many ways to prune a tomato as there are varieties of tomatoes. The size of your tomato depends on a lot of things including the variety you plant, soil quality, and climate in a given year. But in addition to these characteristics that are incredibly important, we’ve also found that how we prune and stake up our plants can impact how big our tomatoes become. In this video I share how we prune and stake our indeterminate heirloom tomatoes.
I used to use tomato cages but our tomatoes grow 7 to 9 feet tall and none of the cages would hold them. So now we use cattle panel. First we measure the length of our tomato beds and then cut the panel to run the full length of the bed. We set two T-posts at each end of the row of tomatoes inline with the center so that the panel is situated right next to the main stem or stems. We attach the panel to the T-Post with wire. You can either put the panel at ground level or raise it up about a foot or two if you have varieties that grow taller than a typical cattle panel. We use little clips to keep the tomatoes tied on. I have tried a lot of different options, but this is–in my opinion–is the easiest to clean-up at the end of the season.
Staking our tomatoes like this allows us to prune more easily and we are aggressive pruners. Our neighbor, Mr. Jerry, is known for growing tomatoes as big as softballs. Once I pulled into his yard while he was out in the garden and asked him for tips. He told me about his pruning strategy. I can attest that our tomatoes grew notably larger after we implemented the technique at our place.
We look for suckers. We cut the sucker and then we also cut the downward growing stem right underneath the sucker. This means our tomatoes aren’t big and bushy, they have a lot of stem and a lot of fruit, but not so many leaves. We also prune any leaf that touches the ground.
Pruning like this allows the remaining leaves to have plenty of airflow and helps reduce disease since all of the leaves have plenty of access to the sun so moisture can’t gather. Not only does reducing the amount of leaves on the plant reduce likelihood of disease, it also drives more of the energy from the plant directly into the fruit instead of into an abundance of leaves. This keeps our plants healthy and focuses the energy on the fruit.
There’s a lot of different ways to stake and prune, but this is where we have landed because of the ease of implementation, the reduction of disease, and the big beautiful tomatoes we consistently get when we prune and stake this way.