Don’t go crazy.
That’s about the only real tomato pruning advice you should take from me.
The more you look into it, the more you realize there are two types of tomato growers: Those who prune and those who don’t. That’s until you start looking into whether to stake, cage or trellis your tomatoes, then you realize tomato growers fall into cults.
Last year I grew two Jet Star and one Early Girl, sticking with the most consistent advice gleaned informally by polling friends: Wait until the first blossoms then cut any branches below those. I left all the suckers that grew above the first blossoming branches.
Those three plants bore delicious fruit until October. The fruit was a bit small but plentiful. This year I’ll have twice as many plants in only slightly more space. I plan on pruning more suckers to promote air flow and ease crowding between the heirlooms.
I have one tomato way ahead of the game here in DC (Zone 7a). My Floridian mother-in-law sent us home with an extra Celebrity tomato in early March. This is a determinate hybrid so I will not be pruning suckers, but I clipped the lowest branches when I first transplanted. This let me plant it deep in the pot and bury the stem (both to grow more roots and allow the plant to fit within the cold frame for another month).
The upper branches carried blooms when I transplanted the Celebrity into its final pot a month later. I pruned the lowest branches once again to bury the stem a few more inches. That will be it for this plant, all the suckers will stay.
The photos, while for a determinate tomato that you shouldn’t prune, illustrate how to prune the lowest branches of any tomato if you plan to do so.
You know what’s awesome? I didn’t realize that gift Celebrity tomato was a determinate until looking it up for this post.
It’s a bonus plant. I have four other varieties started from seed and am giving away extras to friends. The pictures look good.
Thankfully I didn’t go crazy pruning suckers.