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Why You Need To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers - And How To Do It!

When you prune tomatoes and peppers, good things happen in your garden!

If there is one simple chore in the summer that can make a big difference to harvesting a healthy and faster-ripening crop, it’s pruning.

prune tomatoes
Clearing space for light and air is important to a plants health

Both tomatoes and peppers begin to grow wild in the first weeks of summer. The transplant shock is over, and the warm temperatures spur them to grow at a lightening-fast pace. They seem to shoot out new stems, leaves and flowers in a blink of an eye.

Plants quickly become so thick with foliage you can barely, if at all, see through them. And that is where the problems begin!

Although heavy growth in early spring and summer is a sign of good health, it can also lead to late season issues. Those issues can include everything from blight and disease, to insect infestation, and delayed or reduced harvest. 

Why It Makes Sense To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers

Plants that become overgrown, dense and tangled get limited exposure to three critical requirements for a healthy life. (1) Circulation, (2) Light and (3) Water

Plants need good circulation and light for everything from pollination, to disease control, ripening and more. When tomato and pepper plant growth becomes overcrowded, air and light are blocked from flowing through. That air flow is needed to help keep mold and disease in check. And without light, tomatoes and peppers can have a difficult time ripening. 

Crowded growth also makes it hard for rainwater or water from a garden hose to make it to the root zones. Instead, the heavy growth sheds off the water and keeps it away from where it is need most. And last, when that growth is heavy, pests have a much easier time finding a home.

But by pruning, all of those issues can be controlled, if not eliminated entirely.

So how much do you prune and where? Well, it’s actually quite easy and quick to do. Here are some great guidelines to keep your plants neat, tidy and healthy.

How To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers

You can prune both tomato and pepper plants in much the same fashion. The key is to prune the bottom up to get air flow through, and a few of the middle branches to allow a little light in as well. The amount of pruning you will need to do is based on the size and variety of plants.

Always be sure to use a sharp set of pruners. Dull pruners tear branches and stems, and can damage the plant. Product Link : Fiskers Ratchet Pruners

Smaller Pepper & Tomato Varieties

prune tomatoes and peppers
Prune the bottom branches back to allow light, air, and water to plants

For small to mid-sized pepper and tomato plants that grow 36″ or less at maturity, remove the bottom 6″ of branches and foliage at the base of the plant.

This would include peppers like Jalapeno, Cayenne and Hungarian Wax, and tomatoes like Roma, San Marzano, and most determinate tomato varieties

Pruning up 6″ on these plants leaves plenty of space for air flow, and allows water to easily find its way to root zones.

As for the middle and top sections, there is usually little need to remove more than the occasional wild branch on smaller varieties.

Larger Pepper & Tomato Varieties

Large heirloom and indeterminate tomatoes, as well as larger pepper plants like green, yellow, orange and red bell, you will need to prune a bit more. 

Bottoms of these large plants can be pruned 10″ to 12″ off the ground.

For the middle and top sections, start by pruning back any “wild branches” that cross over into paths. Next,  remove a few branches from the middle sections to let light and air to the tomatoes that have formed on the vines.

Try to select branches with a lot of foliage, but little to no flowers on them. Cut these back to the main stem so more productive branches can continue to develop.

With large plants, especially heirloom tomatoes, this space is critical for keeping plants healthy, and to aid in ripening.

Here’s to growing a great tomatoes and peppers – Jim and Mary! If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, sign up via email at the very bottom of the post You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to receive all of our latest tips and articles. This article may contain affiliate links.

Why You Need To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers – And How To Do It!