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Pruning helps to maintain a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth. If you don't prune or prune very little, your tomato plants will produce excessive vegetative growth with reduced fruit size. Moderate pruning will leave your plants with shorter vines and larger fruit that will mature earlier.
Pruning combined with staking keeps vines and fruit off the ground, helping to control diseases. Although pruning requires some effort, the benefits of doing so are more marketable fruit, and easier harvesting.
The most common method of pruning is to prune to a two-stemmed plant by pinching off lateral branches (suckers) as they develop in the axils of each leaf. To achieve this balance, remove all the suckers up to the one immediately below the first flower cluster. A single pruning will usually be adequate, although a later pruning may be needed to remove suckers growing from the base of the plant.
Suckers should be removed when small, no more than 2 to 4 inches in length, because letting them get large wastes plant energy and provides an entry point for plant pathogens. Prune early in the morning after plants have dried.
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