Pruning back Mr. Stripey


Up until yesterday I had been giving my tomatoes minimal attention letting them grow and shape.  Looking at my garden yesterday allowed me to see exactly how unruly my Mr. Stripey tomato had became. When I still had my peas I’d only seen a glimpse of fruit on the plant once.  I decided to give the plant a good inspection yesterday and realized exactly how our of control it had became. It was time to clear that jungle of a tomato plant like a savage.

Unkempt Mr. Stripey Tomato

Unkempt Mr. Stripey Tomato

Armed with my titanium coated utility sheers and motivation it was time to declare war on this mess.  Starting from the ground and working my way up I cleared all of the leaves and suckers up to the first level of fruit.  At the first level if flowers were present on suckers they stayed, otherwise off with their head.  Continuing up the plants I removed foilage and non productive suckers until I neared the top of the cage around the tomatoes.  The plant had grown crazy over the top of the crown and had spread it’s self out over a four foot diameter.  You’ll hear me mention grow things up instead of out a lot here, and this is exactly one of those cases.

Tomato vines tied together

Pruning extra foliage and combining vines helps keep your tomato plants manageable.

Up above you can see the pruned tomato vines tied together with twist ties.  By tying your vines together in a routine matter you will encourage them to grow as one large cluster.  After a week or two of growth tie the vines together further up to keep them in a nice tight bundle.  When you tighten the twist ties be sure to leave a bit of room for growth, but don’t leave them so loose they flay apart. As a rule of thumb when I prune the tomatoes I try to leave at least two feet of foliage on the top of the plants.

As you are cleaning up your tomato vines keep track of how they run down to the base.  As you make clusters of vines keep ones that run to the same area of the base together.  This will help keep the stress on the vines minimal as well as giving you the option of training your single plant to run in two or more long vine clusters instead of one.  Taking the time to prune and train your plants will allow you to control exactly how they grow and by using smart techniques you can maximize the area that you have to garden in.  In the case of this Mr. Stripey I’m going to keep it as a single vine, so I’ll gently combine all the vine clusters into one cluster with a twist tie.

A now properly groomed Mr. Stripey Tomato.

You can see above how much smaller the plant is when it’s managed.  It still has more then enough foliage to flourish but now takes up 300% less room.  More importantly more afternoon light is able to hit my Solar Fire tomato in front of the Mr. Stripey.  Dedicating a bit of extra time to maintaining your tomato plant’s shape and growth will help your garden become more productive.  Taking the extra bit of time and work to maximize your space will pay off hugely by the end of the season.


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