How to Prune Big Boy Tomato Plants : Lawn Fly

Team McFly Sep 02, 2023
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Table of Contents
  1. Understanding the Basics: Pruning Techniques for Optimal Tomato Growth
    1. "Growing Bigger with Pruning: Strategies for Big Boy Tomato Plants"

Understanding the Basics: Pruning Techniques for Optimal Tomato Growth

Big boy tomatoes are one of the most popular varieties for home gardeners to grow due to their large, beefsteak-type fruits that can weigh over 1 pound each. However, without proper pruning, these vigorous plants can easily become overgrown and tangled messes that produce smaller yields.

Proper pruning encourages air circulation, allows more sunlight to reach fruits, and helps concentrate the plant's energy into growing big, robust tomatoes.

When and How Often to Prune It's best to wait until tomato plants are at least 1 foot tall before doing any major pruning. Big boy tomato plants have rapid growth rates, so resist the urge to heavily prune young seedlings. Once established, big-boy tomatoes should be pruned 1-2 times per month during the growing season. Frequent light pruning is better than hard, heavy pruning all at once.

tomato plant

"Growing Bigger with Pruning: Strategies for Big Boy Tomato Plants"

Remove Suckers

Suckers are small shoots that form in the junction between the main stem and branches. Since they sap energy away from fruit production, it's essential to prune these out. Check plants at least once a week for new suckers. Use clean pruners to cut them off as close to the main stem as possible. Any large suckers that are thicker than a pencil should be pruned with care to avoid damaging the main stem.

Cut Off Lower Branches

Branches located below the first set of flowers generally won't produce fruit. Removing them allows the plant to concentrate its energy on the branches and trusses above. Use shears to prune branches close to the main stem up to the first flower cluster. Resist over-pruning by leaving some foliage in place for photosynthesis.

Remove Excess Foliage

Lightly pruning back top growth and leaves can promote air circulation and sun exposure for fruits. But take care not to remove more than 20% of total foliage, as this can stress plants. Only prune leaves around fruits and those that are excessively shaded or crowded.

Maintain 1-2

Main Stems Left unpruned, big boy tomato plants can grow 5-6 towering stems. Such plants tend to produce smaller yields. Ideally, big boy tomatoes should be pruned to 1-2 strong, robust stems. This helps concentrate the plant's resources into growing bigger fruits. Prune side shoots and suckers so all growth radiates from just the main 1-2 stems.

Stop Pruning Before Frost

It's important to cease pruning big-boy tomato plants 2-3 weeks prior to the first expected frost. This allows time for existing flowers and fruits to fully develop before the season ends. Pruning too late can result in unripe green tomatoes still on the vine when cold weather arrives.

Signs of Over Pruning

Taking too much foliage and branches can stress tomato plants and cause issues like sunscald on fruits or failure to ripen. Signs of over-pruning include wilting, leaf curling, and lesions on fruits. If this occurs, refrain from pruning until the plant recovers. Then resume conservative, minimal pruning.

Pruning Supports Plant Health In addition to pruning for shape and yield, pruning away diseased or pest-damaged foliage can promote plant health. Regular pruning also allows closer monitoring for common tomato problems like leaf blights and hornworms. Simply discard any removed branches with signs of disease or insects.

Proper Tool Sterilization: To prevent transmitting diseases between plants, properly sterilize pruning tools before each use. Dip shears or pruners in a 10% bleach solution, then rinse and wipe down with alcohol. Alternatively, a propane torch can be used to heat metal tool blades and kill bacteria.

Ideal Pruning Frequency: Pruning big boy tomato plants every 7-14 days during peak growing season is ideal. Start light pruning after plants exceed 12 inches tall. Increase pruning frequency through summer as plants become more established and vigorous. Ease off pruning 2-3 weeks before the first expected fall frost.

tomato plants

Here are some tips for pruning big-boy tomato plants:

  • Wait until the plants are at least 1 foot tall before pruning. Big-boy tomatoes tend to grow very quickly, so don't prune too early.

  • Remove any suckers that form in the junction between the main stem and branches. Suckers sap energy from the plant, so getting rid of them helps the plant focus its energy on producing fruit.

  • Prune off branches below the first set of flowers. Since the tomatoes will grow above the first flowers, branches below them won't produce fruit.

  • Prune off leaves up to the first set of flowers to allow more sunlight and air circulation. Be careful not to over-prune leaves.

  • Use clean, sterilized shears or pruners when cutting to avoid transferring diseases. Make cuts at an angle to allow water to run off.

  • Prune plants to 1-2 main stems. Having too many stems can lead to smaller tomatoes.

  • Prune regularly, removing new suckers and branches as the plant continues to grow. Frequent light pruning is better than hard pruning all at once.

  • Stop pruning 2-3 weeks before the expected first frost to allow the plant time to mature existing fruit.

The key is not to over-prune big boy tomatoes. Monitor the plants and prune only what is necessary to encourage fruit production and plant health.

In Summary:

pruning big-boy tomato plants encourages greater yields of large, robust fruits. Focus on removing suckers, lower branches, and excess foliage, and maintaining 1-2 main stems. Prune frequently but lightly throughout the summer season. Follow proper sanitation practices when pruning multiple plants. With a thoughtful, moderate approach to pruning, your big-boy tomato plants will thrive and reward you with a bountiful harvest.

Recent Related Articles:

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Growing Better Boy Tomatoes: The Ultimate Guide


Table of Contents
  1. Understanding the Basics: Pruning Techniques for Optimal Tomato Growth
    1. "Growing Bigger with Pruning: Strategies for Big Boy Tomato Plants"