Grooming Your Tomato Plants

How to train your tomato plants to grow and produce bigger fruit faster

All tomatoes are either Bushes (determinate) or Vines (indeterminate). Determinate tomatoes stop growing on their own, and produce all of their fruit at once. Your heirloom tomatoes are vines, or "indeterminate." This means they will produce fruit all season. If left alone, they will grow into an unruly tangle of stems. If you're short on space and if you want earlier and larger fruit, then prune!
Types of Growth Mother Stem: The main vine. Everything else will come off it. It wants to split into many branches, but you won't let it.
Leaf Stems: Growing off at right angles, these little fellows break the vine up into sections. They get leaves and help with photosynthesis.
Flower cluster: These grow in the middle of sections, coming directly off the vine. These flowers become fruit—we love them!
Suckers: These grow out of the crotches of the right angle leaf stems. They must be removed—pinch them off with your fingers.
Pruning • For a well-behaved vine, prune to a single stem, or a y-shaped vine with a short mother stem and two long main stems. In areas with intense sun, such as the southwest, more leaves are welcome—a single stem can result in sun-scalded fruit. Make sure to pinch off dead leaves.
• Pruning is easy—snap out the suckers (or “suckas” in our neighborhood) that grow out of the crotch made by the leaf stem joining the main stem. The best snapping-time is when suckers are 3 to 4 inches long.
• For a double stem, or Y-shaped vine, allow a sucker near the lowest flower cluster to grow.
A Happy Vine You want to train your tomato to grow into a single vine, or a “Y” where the two main stems are really long. This means you will be pinching off side growth all season long.
Support Go vertical—it increases fruit production and decreases the chance of diseases and pests. For the highest yield, plant 18” apart, grow in single or “Y” shaped vines, and tie them straight up. Support your tomato! Cages, trellises, garden net, or stakes are easy to find. Or plant your tomato against a fence, or knot garden twine on a 6-foot frame and suspend stems by twining them around the string. If you are using cages, prune your suckers so you get 3 or 4 main stems (instead of a long “Y”), then start pinching off their growing tips once they start spilling out and blocking the light of the tomato the next cage over. If you’re tying, tie loosely—the stems will expand with time. Use garden twine, cotton twine, nylon twine…some recommend old pantyhose, which have the advantage of stretching to let the stems expand. When you get heavy fruit cluster, tie them so your tie bears weight, otherwise the weight of your fruit may damage your vine.
Shaking the Tree
If you live in a windless area, you may want to stroke your vines every few visits, plus gently shake or touch flower clusters to encourage the fertilization that results in fruit.