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Training Tomatoes for Bigger Fruit

There’s nothing quite like a ripe, sun-warmed tomato right off its vine. There's no doubt it is an iconic part of summer! Did you know there are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes for you to try, which you can only ever experience by growing them yourself of course. They come in the entire rainbow of colours: red, pink, orange, yellow, purple, black, green, and white. Some are large and fleshy, while others remain small and bite sized. Some are grown best to eat fresh, while others are best for sauces and preserving, which means your tomato harvest can bless you all year round!

Training and pruning your tomato plants can help you grow larger, healthier tomatoes. By following a few simple guidelines, you can grow your most epic tomato harvest yet.

While pruning tomatoes is not mandatory, if you want to make the most of your harvest, training and pruning them will give you larger, healthier fruit, not to mention prevent pests and diseases.

There are multiple methods for training tomatoes, and different types of tomatoes need to be pruned and trained differently.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

Tomatoes fall into two main categories: determinate and indeterminate, and each type needs to be trained differently. Determinate tomatoes are known to be shorter, bushier plants that produce most of their fruit at the same time. Some of the most notable determinate varieties include Roma, Celebrity, Bella Rosa, Patio, and Better Bush. Determinate tomatoes usually grow between three to five feet tall and do well both in ground and in containers. But beware, pruning your determinate tomatoes too much, will most likely reduce your harvest. Rather than pruning these types, lightly thin them, this will improve air flow and allow more sunlight to reach your plant, which ultimately improves their overall health.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining and produce fruit throughout the season. They can grow up to 12 feet tall and tend to be prolific. Although you can let them sprawl on the ground, you’ll prevent disease issues by training them up off the ground and pruning them. Pruning excess vegetative growth will allow indeterminate tomatoes to focus their energy on growing fruit instead of leaves and nevertheless results in fewer, but larger, tomatoes. Some of the most loved indeterminate varieties include Big Boy, Early Girl, San Marzano, Supersweet 100, and Yellow Pear. Most heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate.

Training Tomato Plants Up

The biggest benefit of staking your tomato plants is preventing pests and disease. When tomatoes lie on the ground, they come into contact with harmful fungi and offer themselves up as a ready-to-eat buffet for harmful insects that live in the soil. Training also makes harvesting easier and makes better use of precious limited garden space.

There are many types of training techniques, including one stake, two stakes, Florida weave, and caging. Whichever method you choose, be sure your supplies are strong and durable enough to support your tomatoes until the end of the season. Tomatoes can become so large and heavy that one windstorm will knock them over if their support isn’t strong enough.

As your tomato grows, every 8 inches or so continue to tie the stem to the stake. If you want added support, implement a two-stake system by placing a stake on either side of the plant and securing the plant in the same way as you would in a one-stake system.

Pruning Tomato Plants

Determinate and indeterminate tomato plants need to be pruned differently. Determinate tomatoes only need to be thinned a little bit to allow for more air and sunlight to reach the plant. Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, benefit from pruning more of the suckers, which allows them to focus their energy better.

When pruning both types of tomatoes, the first thing you want to do is trim up the lower leaves so there aren't any leaves touching the soil. Sunlight won’t reach these leaves anyway, so they end up draining the plant’s energy. Removing these leaves will also reduces the risk of soil splashing up on your plant when it’s raining or you’re watering, which in time can lead to bacterial and fungal issues.

For indeterminate varieties, you’ll focus on removing some of the suckers from your plants. Suckers are a smaller stem that grows at a 45-degree angle between the main trunk and leaves on your plant. Be sure to remove them when they are small. If you remove them when they are larger, you’ll have wasted the plant’s energy and the open wounds are larger and more susceptible to disease. #organicgardening #sustainablegarden #happysoils

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