Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Pruning Tomatoes

March 10th, 2013 by Lila Steinhoff

Yes, there really is such a thing.

The leaves of my tomatoes were dragging in the mud. They were so scraggly that they were covering the okra plants in the row next to them.  I needed to clean them up.

tomatoes need pruningTomato Plants in Need of Pruning

Suckers… not the Lollypop Kind

While doing so, I remembered a neighbor telling me I needed to pinch off the ‘suckers’, too. Since I had never done that, I retired to the Internet and Googled ‘removing tomato suckers’. I chose an article on the Wikihow website. Boy, was there a lot of information about something I had never done.

stem before pruningTomato Plant Stem

I found out that the little bunch of leaves above a big leaf is the ‘sucker’ that should be removed, and that all leaves below the first flower should be removed, as well. The Wikihow site also had an alternate way of pruning called ‘Missouri pruning’. “Missouri pruning entails pinching out just the tip of the sucker, leaving one or two leaves behind for photosynthesis and to protect developing fruit from sun scald.” Very interesting.

But why do this?

The object of growing your own tomatoes is to have lots of big, fresh, tasty fruit all summer. Removing the suckers and the excess leaves on the bottom of the plant is done to redirect nutrients. No fruit will set below the first flowers on the plants, so don’t waste plant energy and nutrients on unwanted foliage.

As the plant grows, the lower leaves will yellow and dry out. Remove those as well. Take all dead leaves and pruned material away from garden plants and away from the garden area. This will help prevent disease.

pruned tomato plantPruned Tomato Plant Stems

Looking Good

My plants had leaves dragging in the mud and most do not have flowers yet, so I did my own version of the process.

pruning tomatoes

I pruned the tomatoes with a pair of garden shears, in addition to my nails. The muddy leaves are gone and so are quite a few of the ‘suckers’.

pruned tomato plants

I think the stems are cleared of enough foliage to stay healthy, and they don’t look bad at all. The sun even hits the okra, now.

By the way…

If you work in the Florida sun, or any direct sun, use sunscreen and consider wearing a big hat. I had mine on today.

garden hat

I added the red hibiscus for a St. Louis Cardinals spring training game recently. I liked them so well, I’m keeping them.

Click on any picture to make it larger.





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3 responses so far ↓

  • Something else i did not know!….So when someone yells get those suckers out, this is what they are talking about!

  • Thank you Lila! I’m on my second round of tomato plants ….. first round didn’t go so well. I didn’t know anything about pruning/suckers. I’ll try this.

  • Since I was raised on a farm and was taught how to garden, I have always suckered my tomatoes. Doing so will give you bigger and more healthier tomatoes. I also cut off the bottom of my pepper plants. Same goes for them…….bigger and better peppers. But, don’t sucker your pepper plants. Just the bottoms. Good luck in your gardening endeavors……Jean