28. June 2021

How to: Pruning tomato plants

Pruning tomato plants is a great way to get a big harvest of ripe tomatoes in no time. This is how I do it.

Plants of tomatoe along a red house wall.

Tomatoes growing in my hugelkultur, summer of 2016.


At last, some really nice summer days! Warm and a lot of sun. I especially enjoy seeing the sun-soaked tomatoes and peppers in my no-dig raised beds (so called hügelkultur) along the southern gable. Here, I added mulch to the bed by the apple tree so that the roots of the plants stay moist and cool on hot summer days like these.

I'm growing ten tall tomato plants (among other things), in this bed. This is one of the best spots in my garden and you can really tell just by looking at the plants. They grow so quickly here, they have grown even larger than the few tall tomato plants I keep in my polytunnel!

The tomatoes grow side-shoots and lots of large leaves. It will start looking like a jungle out here if I don't start pruning the tomato plants. I remove all the suckers on these plants, so that the energy can be spent on producing larger tomatoes on the main stem instead.

I get a bit impatient when the tomatoes start showing up on the plants. I want my new tomatoes to ripen as quickly as possible! One way to help this process along is to remove the foliage that might cover the tomatoes. This will help the sun reach in which in turn will make the tomatoes ripen faster.


Tomatblad framför stora gröna tomater. Pruning tomato plants, leaves in front of large green tomatoes.

Don't let the leaves overshadow the tomatoes.


How much should I remove?

As a rule, I remove all the leaves that are below and right above the clusters of tomatoes that are almost fully grown. You can leave the leaves further above so that the plant can keep growing taller. The plant looks a bit gangly right after I’ve cut the leaves, but it's worth it. A lot more sunlight is able to reach the tomatoes now. All I can do now is wait!

I received a tip from a seasoned gardener that you might find helpful too: cutting the other large leaves down by two thirds. I sometimes do this on the varieties that I know grow very quickly. Some varieties also sprout new shoots right by the clusters. I remove these shoots too, so the plant doesn't grow too large.


Tomater på en klase. Pruning tomato plants, tomatoes in a cluster.

Pruning tomato plants means that the tomatoes can lap up the sun and get ripe faster.


Stora gröna tomater i en klase. Pruning tomato plants, large green tomatoes.

Lovely with large tomatoes in a cluster. I hope they will be ripe soon because I'm having serious cravings!


Pruning tomato plants: top them

When the tomato plants have grown as tall as the support pins, I top the plants. That is, if they get that far before summer turns to fall. The point of pruning tomato plants is to make sure that they spend more energy on ripening the fruits instead of rushing to grow taller.

Do you have any tips for ripening tomatoes on the vine?
/Sara Bäckmo

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