Pruning tomatoes grown vertically in a Mittleider garden
Pruning tomatoes in a Mittlieder garden is an absolute necessity. Tomatoes are grown vertically with the plants just a mere nine inches apart. If they aren’t pruned they can quickly become a tangled mess. But with proper pruning and keeping them trained up the proper bailing twine you can have a LOT of tomatoes in just a little space.
I’ve made a YouTube video on pruning tomatoes in your Mittleider garden when you’re growing vertically. You will find the video at the bottom of this blog entry.
Where to begin with pruning
First, anything touching the soil or hanging below your automated watering system, if you’ve got it, needs to be removed from the plant. Leaves that touch the soil provide cover for insects and an easy access onto the plant. Leaves that are kept moist by touching the soil are also prone to disease such as blight.
Prune any leaves below the fruit
As the tomato sets fruit you can prune any leaves that are below them. Pruning those leaves which are below the fruit sets on your tomato helps to open up the area at the soil level for applying weekly feed. Pruning the older growth also helps stimulate the plant to grow up and continue to set more fruit.
My favorite pruners for tomatoes
We have tried several different methods and tools for pruning tomatoes. Hands down the best tool I’ve found for pruning properly is the Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snip. The short blades on this snip make pruning suckers easy and keep you from accidentally removing extra inadvertently. The thin point on the end makes pruning suckers close to the stem very easy.
Watch how to prune tomatoes
For the visual learner I’ve made a video on how to prune tomatoes grown vertically in a Mittleider garden. You get to see some pruning done shortly after transplanting and up through various stages of growth.
Pruning zucchini isn’t one of those topics I’ve seen discussed often. Neglect to prune your zucchini and they can become overgrown. This makes it difficult to see or harvest those squash and apply your weekly feed.
A zucchini that becomes overgrown has leaves that touch the ground. This makes a great hiding and breeding ground for insects. Leaves that touch the ground also make the plant more prone to getting powdery mildew. A good pruning allows proper airflow and makes it easier for the gardener to quickly identify and correct deficiencies and insect problems,
What to prune
Start with the leaves that touch the soil. Those leaves make the plant easily accessible to insects while providing them safety. As previously mentioned leaves that are in constant contact with the soil hold moisture on the leaf and encourages powder mildew.
Old leaves that are damaged are also a good candidate for removal. Removing these leaves that are generally located closest to the ground open up the plant and allow light and airflow to reach the plant. Remember the 6 laws of plant growth?
When to prune
To reduce the stress on the plant it is best to prune while its cool. During the spring or fall I prune in the morning or in the evening. During our brutal hot summers I try and prune in the evenings.
How much do I prune
When I’ve neglected to prune as I should I try to remove less that 50 percent of the total leaves. It is NOT ideal as this causes more stress to the plant. Ideally I want to remove no more than a quarter of the leaves at any one time.
The pruning will stimulate the plant to grow and replace the leaves you just removed. Keep it fed and watered in conjunction with routine pruning and you will have lots of zucchini.
What tool do I need for pruning?
For this particular job a good pair of ordinary kitchen scissors will work quite well. But for pruning a Mittleider garden in general I love my Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snips. If you don’t have a pair watch for them on clearance at Walmart this fall.
Our average last day of frost has passed for the spring and we are full on in garden mode. Today we pruned up a mess of the tomatoes we started from seeds under grow lights and have begun transplanting them into the garden. The next week is going to be busy for us
They get pruned fairly heavily before transplanting, here are some pictures before and after pruning. When transplanting they go as deep as possible, each of those root hairs on the stem will become a new root to feed the plant and fruit.
Why should you prune a tomato before transplanting?
Pruning of tomato seedlings is done for a couple of reasons. Firstly, by pruning off all the lower leaves the gardener can transplant the tomato deeper into the soil. All the root hairs on the stem that are below the soil can then become a root to provide water and nutrients to your plant.
As a result of that tomato seedling having fewer leaves to support it will come out of the shock of transplant sooner. A plant that is in shock is not growing.
A look at tomato seedlings before and after pruning
Here are two series of photos that show a before and after picture of our tomato seedlings.
Here is another plant before and after pruning.
All these were started in sand and sawdust and will be grown in the same custom soil mix. We will be putting more tomatoes in our native soil later.
Our favorite tool for pruning tomato seedlings
We have used our fingers, scissors and even a kitchen knife to prune seedlings. After many different tools being used the tool I found most noteworthy is the . The blades are short and help to keep you from accidentally removing more of the plant than intended. (Normal scissors worked great, but I always ended up cutting off something I didn’t want removed.) The Fiskars have a handy spring in it that opens the blades after you make a cut and loosen your grip on the handle. We liked this set so well we bought an extra just in case.
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden