Tomatoes - A Quick Anatomy Lesson

To understand why we prune tomatoes it’s important to understand a little bit about their anatomy. Technically speaking, indeterminate tomatoes (the most popular in home gardens) are vining plants. The main stem grows taller and longer while producing leaves, branching stems and fruit off of the main stem.  Side shoots can grow at the intersection where leaves meet the main stem; this intersection  is called the node. These branching stems are called suckers because they can compete with your main stem, sucking energy and nutrients.

How to Prune Tomatoes

  • Start pruning your tomatoes by removing any leaves and suckers on the lower six to ten inches on your tomato plant. These leaves often touch the ground, which can cause fungal issues, and quickly become shaded out, so its best to remove them.
  • Identify the main stem of your tomato and follow along vertically, identifying leaves, flower branches, and suckers along the way.
  • After identifying suckers, prune and remove suckers by cutting as close to the stem as possible. Smaller suckers can be removed with your fingers but larger stems will require sharp, clean scissors or shears.
  • Removing the suckers is a process that can be done regularly. We recommend removing at least all suckers below your first flower branch, but often space limitations lead to heavier pruning and more regular removal of suckers.

Why Prune Tomatoes?

Pruning tomatoes is particularly important in high density gardens (like in your Avalow bed *wink wink*).

  • It allows you to grow multiple varieties of tomatoes in a smaller space. 
  • Encourages vertical growth as opposed to sprawling horizontal tomato plants. Vertical plants have better airflow and less disease problems.
  • Can also make harvesting easier allowing you better visibility and access to your ripening fruits.
  • Pruning helps direct energy to ripen fruits which is useful for Avalow beds transitional successional planting, or French intensive gardening. This helps ensure more fruits on your tomato plant ripen before it is time to make space for Fall/Winter planting.

Have any lingering questions about tomato pruning and your garden? Shoot us an email at or follow us @avalow on Instagram!