Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Quick Lesson For Pruning And Tying Heirloom Tomatoes

New Beds Being Installed

As we begin planting the heirloom tomatoes this spring, we have found ourselves feeling way behind schedule even though March is not even over yet. It is mostly because of such mild winter temperatures this year that have the tomatoes already wanting to burst out of their pots.

So what has happened is that we are still working on putting in the new beds and planting as we go. It's amazing because I even started my tomato seeds a few weeks later than normal.

Many people have not seen our Top Bar Method for supporting tomatoes. I've just written a recent article for Natural Family Today explaining in detail how this system works. But now I need to show how I prune and tie them as well.

In this photo from the Aggie Horticulture and Extension Service you can see that you keep the suckers pinched out so they don't branch out into new long stems. The suckers are found in the Y of the branches or the crotch so to speak. I also prune the lower side shoots under each cluster of flowers or tomatoes, but leave a couple side shoots above the cluster to keep the tomatoes protected from being sun scalded. This keeps your plant concentrating on making fruit instead of so much foliage.

When I tie them I use a basic jute rope (not the nylon type) and make a figure 8 by looping under a side shoot just under each cluster of flowers and then around to the rope support.. This way when the tomato cluster get heavy they have plenty of support.

The thing I like most about using the ropes to tie the main stem to is that they have some give to them. As strong winds come blowing through the entire plant will sway with the rope a bit. This has kept the stem safe from snapping or breaking. It also has kept the plant safe from digging into wire or wooden stakes with no give to them that can damage the plant.

Last summer we experienced endless days of strong southern gulf coast winds. One of the varieties of heirlooms we grow is called Roman Stripped. After several days of non stop wind I noticed all of these particular plants begin to wrap the ends of their side shoot stems around the rope support. I've never seen this characteristic in any other variety. It was as though they had little hands hanging onto a swing much like a child would do.

Heirlooms show some amazing qualities to adapt to the environment in which they are grown. They acclimate to the soil in your very own garden as well to the weather conditions. Each new year that you save seed from heirlooms they improve with vigor and health. We should never loose the diversity within our food system. The only way to protect them is by growing them.

Many people prefer to go for quantity, but here we strive for quality. You might not get as many tomatoes using this method, but they will yield a whole lot more quality fruit. Your heirloom tomatoes will be gorgeous!

Happy Gardening!


  1. This is the clearest explanation of how to prune tomato plants that I have ever read. Thank you.

    1. Thank You Tracey!! I'm so glad, because it is really hard to explain without actually showing someone. xox

  2. Can heirloom tomatoes (in Texas) successfully be cut back during the summer heat and yield another harvest in the fall instead of planting new plants?

    1. It can be done Shannon...but between the insects, high temps and lack of rain is usually not a pretty picture..BUT cuttings can be done successfully as long as you have a protective place to start them. Seeds should be done now in July for a great fall harvest. Hope this helps ;)

  3. Merely a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style. survival seeds