Quarantine Haircut (for your Tomatoes)

We are so thrilled to see so many folks growing backyard tomatoes this year! Tomatoes are a wonderful and prolific crop to grow, especially for beginning gardeners, but they have a tendency to grow a little crazy. We found that regular (and rigorous) pruning, staking, and training make healthier and even more prolific plants. In this post, Ruby will show you how to give your tomatoes a quarantine haircut!

Here is an example of “before” and “after” the quarantine haircut. This is our friend Paula’s Talent tomato – and she allowed Ruby to give this beautiful but overgrown plant a bit of a trim.

Before!
After

Here’s a video that Ruby shot, explaining her philosophy of pruning tomatoes, which we like to call the “jarhead” haircut.

This was initially recorded as a personal message to our friend about Ruby’s plan for her lovely plant, and Ruby is speaking softly so as not to disturb Paula’s dogs.

KEY POINTS

  • remove dead and burnt/fried/sickly leaves,
  • remove “suckers” from the bottom of the plant,
  • remove leaves below the first fruit set,
  • remove branches & large leaf sets that are not fruitful (no flowers/fruit on those parts),
  • don’t remove leaves that are providing shade over your developing tomatoes – but do remove the lower leaves that don’t see the sun anyway.
Here’s a video showcasing what Paula’s tomato plant looks like post-haircut.

Here’s the next phase of staking and training tomato plants – Paula and her housemate are going to stake the branches to provide further support. To properly stake your tomatoes, you’ll need strong sturdy garden stakes and some twist ties or twine (zip-ties work in a pinch).

Ruby affixed the main branches left after pruning to garden stakes, using zip-ties. We recommend twine or twist ties if you have them, but we only had zip-ties and it works just fine. Make sure not to cinch the stakes so tightly that it constricts the plant, but not to loosely that the branch slips down. You’ll notice each branch is attached to the stake in multiple places, low, middle, and towards the top. As the plant grows, you can continue adding more ties to the top or supports at the bottom.
This is how the plant looks at the bottom – all of the leaves below those first small fruit sets have been removed. Any small sprouts or branches or “suckers” in the lower third of the plant are also removed.

Giving your tomatoes this rather drastic haircut makes watering easy because you can clearly see the main stem, maximizes ventilation to prevent mold/mildew/bugs, and allows the plant to focus on productive growth rather than “busywork” of creating more leaves and branches at the bottom.

Hope this helps you grow the best and most prolific tomatoes!!

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