Exemplary cutting of tomato plants - tutorial for beginners

Exemplary cutting of tomato plants - tutorial for beginners

Stingy shoots impair harvest quality

Tomato plants, like grapevines and peppers, form side shoots in their leaf axils, which are called stingy shoots in horticulturists. Stingy shoots develop late, form plenty of leaf mass and hardly any flowers. On the other hand, the nasal side shoots demand valuable plant energy, which ultimately leads to small tomatoes.

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Tomato gardeners with a weakness for large fruits should regularly exhaust their plants. Those who delete this measure from the care plan are confronted with overly long, drooping side shoots that carry poor tomatoes. As if that weren't enough, the numerous leaves put ripening fruits in the shade, which also affects the quality of the harvest.

Tomatoes on the stalks regularly

Tomatoes that are grown on a single shoot benefit primarily from regular pruning. The care measure is not mandatory for bushy, branched varieties and balcony tomatoes. Stingy shoots can be identified by their position, because they sprout from a leaf axil. The fork of the main shoot and the lateral fruit shoot is called the leaf axil. How to properly skimp on tomato plants:

  • Twice a week from May to September
  • Put on thin gloves to protect against the sap
  • Hold tightness between the thumb and forefinger at the base
  • Bend to one side until the petiole breaks off

Remove stinging shoots as soon as possible . As long as an unwanted side shoot is still soft , two fingers are enough to break it out. If you missed the ideal appointment, it is better to cut off the shoots with a sharp, disinfected knife. Please take great care not to damage the plant tissue of the main shoot and fruit shoot.


First stinging shoots after 4 weeks

In the first three to four weeks, most tomato plants still refrain from growing stingy shoots. Under ideal conditions, shoots from the leaf axils can be expected earlier. From the fourth week after planting at the latest, check your tomatoes for stinging shoots every three to four days. Pruning is effortless as long as the shoots are still small with a height of five to eight centimeters.


Stripping redirects juice flow

The pruning of tomato plants makes use of the law of peak funding. As a result, plants pump a large part of their reserve substances in the direction of the tip buds. Where the apical dominance reigns, lower-lying buds regularly lose out. Even a stinginess instinct has a dominant bud that demands valuable nutrients. By removing the shoot, you redirect the flow of juice to the side fruit shoot, where gorgeous tomatoes form.

Main shoots cut if there is not enough space

Only a few home gardeners can offer their tomato plants unlimited space. Constantly smaller property areas and trendy urban gardening on the balcony call for strategic measures that regulate plant growth. Small varieties are not always an ideal option for tomato gardeners. The really juicy premium tomatoes thrive on spacious plants. Common gardening practice is targeted pruning to limit the growth of majestic stick and beefsteak tomatoes. How to do it right:

  • Tie the tomato plant to a support rod
  • Ride up to the desired height
  • Cut back the main shoot

When exactly a main shoot should be cut depends primarily on how tall the tomato plant is allowed to grow. The pruning measure makes sense when at least three to four lateral fruit shoots with flower approaches have formed.


From August new flowers will be removed promptly. So late in the season, there's no chance the flowers will turn into juicy tomatoes and ripen. So that a tomato plant does not invest valuable nutrients in late summer flowers, you should already break out the buds.

Cut off leaves close to the ground

According to a recognized study, the leaves in the top third of a tomato plant achieve around 80 percent of photosynthesis . To reduce energy consumption and promote the growth of voluminous tomatoes, the foliage in the lower area should be removed. Another argument in favor of the measure is that the risk of disease is significantly reduced. The tomato plant thrives more airily and when watering, no splash water with pathogens in the luggage reaches the foliage. How to properly cut leaves on tomato plants:

  • Remove all leaves near the ground on young plants up to a height of 25 to 35 cm
  • Clean up sick leaves with spots and white deposits as soon as possible
  • Preferably break off a sheet and not cut it off
  • Grasp the base of the leaf with your fingers
  • Bend slowly to one side until the petiole breaks

If you fear damage to the main shoot when you break off a large leaf with a strong stem, please use scissors. Before and after cutting a tomato plant, the blades should be carefully cleaned and disinfected with high percentage alcohol. Thanks to this precaution, you effectively prevent the transmission of pathogens.


Foliage fulfills important tasks

Apart from near-ground and diseased leaves, the foliage of a tomato plant should not be reduced. Every single leaf makes an important contribution to photosynthesis because it is permeated with valuable chlorophyll, the elixir of life of every plant in the natural kingdom. Furthermore, the leaves serve as a natural canopy for the fruits. Even though tomatoes want a sunny spot, the fruits can catch sunburn. Light gray spots form on the shell, which are ideal surfaces for pests and fungal spores to attack.

Do not cut bush and balcony tomatoes

So far, stick tomatoes have provided around 70 percent of the world's harvest. In the private kitchen garden, however, bush and cocktail tomatoes are on the rise. The shrubby growing tomato plants take up little space, do not need a climbing aid and are extremely easy to care for.

Home gardeners appreciate the fact that neither leaves nor stinging shoots need to be removed here. The bushy, richly branched growth also makes it unnecessary to shorten the main shoot. On the contrary, bush and balcony tomatoes should never be cut back. As the law of peak funding teaches us, the already small tomato varieties stop growing in height when a cut removes the dominant bud.

frequently asked Questions

Can I grow new tomato plants from stingy shoots?

In every stingy instinct there is the potential for a magnificent tomato plant. In view of the short vegetation period in our regions, stingy shoots are particularly suitable, which you break out by the end of June. Choose strong shoots with multiple leaves without flowers. In the dark glass with clean water, the rooting takes about a week. Then pot each cutting in the bed or in a bucket with tomato soil.

I planted wild tomatoes in my near-natural garden. Should I max these tomato plants or not?

Wild tomatoes, such as the popular 'Red Marble', branch out profusely. In the course of the summer, new inflorescences form continuously, which give you numerous, marble-sized tomatoes. If you were to max out these tomato plants, the harvest yield would be significantly lower. Our recommendation: just let wild tomatoes grow.

The leaves on our tomato plant are covered with brown spots. A whitish mushroom lawn can be seen on the underside. What to do?

The symptoms described indicate an early stage of late blight and brown rot. As an immediate measure, you should cut off all noticeably diseased leaves and dispose of them with household waste. To prevent other tomato plants from contracting the disease, please pay close attention to the cleanliness of the cutting tool. Clean the blades with hot water and disinfect them with spirit or sagrotan.

My beefsteak tomatoes should grow as freely and uncut as possible. Which climbing aids are recommended to reduce cutting and pruning to a minimum?

Tomato plants do not have organs of attachment and are dependent on a climbing aid. Galvanized steel spiral rods have proven themselves well in practice. The sinuous shape guarantees excellent stabilization of the tendrils and at the same time ensures growth that is flooded with light. Alternatively, tomato gardeners like to use bamboo tubes and wooden sticks with a diameter of 20 millimeters or more. In the greenhouse, thick ropes attached to the ceiling serve as space-saving climbing aids for mighty beefsteak tomatoes.

Our tomato plants are a victim of the sheep's cold and frozen to death. Are there any prospects for a rescue?

Sudden weather conditions let the thermometer drop below freezing point even in early June. Young tomato plants are helpless in the cold snap. The shoots hang limply, leaves change color and leaf margins roll up. Before disposing of a frozen tomato plant, give it the opportunity to regenerate. To do this, cut off all the affected parts of the plant and wait for a while. If fresh shoots appear, the tomato plant has taken the damage caused by the cold. Without renewed growth, the frozen plant is disposed of.

The 3 most common mistakes

Without a regulating cut, mighty tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes turn into a dense bush with sparse fruit hangings. However, if you cut back your bush and vine tomatoes, you will struggle with small plants. This overview summarizes common omissions in the pruning care of tomatoes and gives tips for informed prevention:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
Stake tomatoes never cutextensive growth, few and measly tomatoesmaxed out twice a week
Bush tomato main shoot shortenedno further height growth, low crop yieldDo not cut the bush tomatoes
dirty scissors usedSpread of tomato diseasesClean and disinfect blades meticulously


Tomato clippings are the ideal mulch material. Do not carelessly throw stripped shoots and cut leaves on the compost heap. Simply cut into manageable pieces and spread on the ground under a tomato plant. In the course of decomposition, the natural tomato mulch releases valuable nutrients to the roots.

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