Fresh tomatoes are one of the joys of vegetable gardening, and, in my plant zone 3-4 garden, I am very aware that my gardening days are numbered. It’s important to prune your tomato plants in a way that will bring the best harvest as early as possible. Let me tell you why & how I prune my tomatoes during the last half of August so they will ripen before the frost comes.
The ‘Why’ About Pruning Tomatoes
The reason I cut back my tomatoes is all about the ‘Tomato Math’.
At best, tomatoes need a minimum of 30-42 days to ripen from the time of pollination, many varieties need up to 60 or 70 days.
The reality in my garden is that fall is coming sooner than I’d like, and if frost nips my tomatoes before they are ripe, it will wipe them out.
I don’t know how many frost free days I have left, but the number gets smaller each day.
If I don’t prune my tomato plants now, in August, they will be full of lush green growth and SCADS of immature tomatoes.
How to Prune Tomatoes
Prune tomatoes to get them into a ripening mode.
What I want to do this time of year is move my tomatoes away from rapid production, and I want turn on the switch that will ripen my green tomatoes into a deep, beautiful red.
To make this happen, I go through my plants and prune out all the terminal ends, these are the ends that keep growing at the tips of the vines, as well as the suckers, and any unpollinated flowers.
And I leave all the tomatoes that have already formed, even if they’re small, because I’m an optimist.
Only remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the tomato branches so that there are still leaves to continue photosynthesis to feed and develop the immature tomatoes.
What to Do if Frost Comes too Quickly to a Tomato Patch
Hopefully I will beat out Jack Frost and I will get nice, big, fat, and red ones in the next few weeks.
Keep an eye on the forecast overnight lows. If the frost comes too soon, you can still pick your tomatoes green and they’ll ripen indoors.
Looking for More Information About Growing Tomatoes?
Check out these related tomato blogs to grow the best tomatoes in town:
- How to Grow the Best Tomatoes in Alberta
- Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes: A Guide to Pruning
- 3 Strategies to Deal with Tomato Blossom End Rot
- What to do with Tomato Suckers
Here’s to great tomatoes!
©Sharon Wallish Murphy ©Gardening with Sharon