Problems from pruning tomatoes

by Adele
(Longlac, Ontario, Canada)

I planted tomatoes for the first time this year. I was told I had to prune my tomatoes. I Googled it and decided to give it a try. Well..I took off all the branches that did not have any flowers or tomatoes on them.


Now all I have are tomatoes and flowers on sticks...at least that is what it looks like to me. Did I over prune my tomatoes? Will they die from not having any of the leaves for shade?

I have two cherry tomatoes and two beefsteak tomato plants. They look really stupid now...did I kill them?

I have them on my deck in full sun but when it is very hot I put them in the shade as it does get very hot on the deck. Help....

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Hi Adele,

The first consideration when deciding if or how much to prune tomatoes is to know whether the plants are indeterminate or determinate varieties.

Determinate varieties are more bushy in their growth characteristics, and indeterminates are more vining. Pruning is a must with indeterminates, but it's optional with determinates.

I'm going to guess that your tomatoes are determinate varieties. But whichever type they are, I would just watch them at this point and see what they do.

Yes, it sounds as though you did over prune. But I doubt that you've killed them, and no, they won't die just from lack of leaves to provide shade.

My guess is that you'll soon start to see growth coming from the junctions of stems and leaves. These are called suckers, and if left to grow, they'll grow into additional stems with their own leaves and fruit clusters.

As the suckers grow, the plants will fill back out to a degree, and you'll probably still get a crop from these plants.

One thing to keep in mind is that you may need to prune off some of the fruit clusters. If enough food-generating leaf area has been pruned away, it could be that the plants cannot photosynthesize enough food to feed all of the developing fruit clusters they have set.

Just watch, and if the fruit clusters don't seem to be developing properly, you can prune some of them off - but I doubt you'd need to remove all of them.

Don't be discouraged; just consider this a lesson learned. Next time you'll know exactly what to do!

When you're growing tomatoes, though, it really is important to know whether you're growing determinates or indeterminates when deciding how you're going to prune. Just remember that for indeterminates, pruning is usually necessary, but for determinates it's optional.

Good luck, and I hope you end up with a nice crop of tomatoes in spite of the setback!

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