How to Train a Tomato Plant

Before you can harvest hot midsummer tomatoes, then you need to nurse the crops through the various perils spring and early summer clasp. From insect and animal pests to bacterial diseases, disease and adverse weather, numerous problems can stop your tomato plants from producing an adequate crop. Plants left to sprawl unpruned around the floor or in cages are more likely to be affected by disease and insects. Train your tomato plants to grow up a stake for healthier, larger fruit.

Push or hammer 6- to 8-foot steel or wood stakes at least 18 inches to the prepared soil every 14 to 20 inches down your full-sun garden row. Untrained indeterminate tomato plants — plants which do not have any set height — require 24 to 36 inches between plants.

Plant a tomato seedling three inches in front of each wager. Let the plants grow till they are 12 to 18 inches tall.

Loosely tie the main stem of each plant to the stake with a short length of twine.

Pinch off suckers — shoots that form from the joint between the primary stem and the leaf — from the bottom around the first truss of flowers or developing fruit. Pinch tiny shoots between your index finger and thumbnail. Snap off larger ones by pulling back to the shoot. Suckers can produce fruit, but growth at the base of the plant gets a lot of shade to generate large fruit and the crowded growth is open to infection from poor air circulation and humidity that splashes onto lower leaves when you water the plants.

Pick the strongest sucker that developed just below the first truss of flowers on each plant to train to an additional principal stem. Pinch out or snap off all additional suckers.

Insert another stake to support the second stem of each plant.

Tie vines to their stakes every time they put on an additional foot of growth.

Inspect the plants at least one time every week and pinch off creating suckers to stop additional stems from forming. Tomato vines with lots of stems put their energy into creating foliage to encourage the plant’s growth rather than into forming fruit.

Pinch off the growing tip of each major stem when the vines hit the top of the stake or as nighttime temperatures begin to cool to avoid additional fruit from forming that won’t have the time to mature.

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