Pruning Young Tomato Plants
Pruning young tomato plants starting with the first branches and again as soon as the first sucker appears will help concentrate the growth up the vine rather than from extending branches. This is particularly important in helping to prevent late blight. Late blight can start as early as June here when the conditions, humid and windy, are right. Late blight travels in the wind. Pruning helps air flow to keep the leaves and soil dry.
The new growth, called a sucker, at the base of the stem where the earliest branches are growing must come out. Eventually the bottom 18 to 24 inches of stem will be bare. This promotes air flow between the plants, helps keep the soil or mulch dry, and helps prevent splashing blight spores onto the plants. Start pruning the suckers as soon as they appear. Don’t prune off the branches until the plant has three sets of branches above them.
You can see where the branch was pruned in the photo below. The wound will dry and heal. Be sure to do this on a dry day so that the wound dries quickly. You’ll create a great spot for disease to land and grow if the wound stays wet too long. The sucker at the base of the stem should be pruned. Always check the base of the plant. Tomatoes are vines and they’re always trying to send out new growth. Concentrate the growth up to help keep the plant confined to its space.
Suckers grow between the base of the stem and the branch. Suckers never have flower blossoms. If you’re unsure of the difference between a sucker and a stem that will blossom, wait. Blossoms form quickly. Waiting until you’re sure won’t make a noticeable difference. If you cut them off they won’t regenerate in that space.
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