When it comes to creating a healthier garden and a better harvest – thinning, trimming and pruning vegetable plants is a must!

pruning vegetable plants
Pruning Vegetable Plants – Prune lower branches of tomatoes and peppers early on to allow light and air to the plant

An overgrown garden is an open invitation to disease and pests. Not to mention, it makes it difficult for plants to perform to their maximum potential.

Thinning and pruning vegetable plants is one of the more difficult tasks for gardeners to perform. A lot of gardeners are nervous to remove healthy stems, shoots and leaves.

And when it comes to thinning, there are even more gardeners that have a hard time “killing” a young seedling.

But the reality is by pruning excess foliage, and removing cluttered seedlings, you give more life to a garden. A lot more life!

The Basics Of Trimming, Thinning And Pruning Vegetable Plants

Pruning

Once established, vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers will grow wild in the first month. Plants grow new shoots and stems on a daily basis. Although this is a great sign that plants are off to a great start, it can also spell long-term trouble.

Plants need to have availability to light and air. When they become overgrown with foliage, it becomes hard for them to synthesize sunlight, obtain water, and ripen fruit. Trimming both the bottom of plants and a few middle branches can make all the difference.

pruning vegetable plants
Pruning leads to a healthy garden

How To Prune: Tomato and pepper plants can be pruned in much the same fashion. First prune the bottom of plants to allow for air at the base, and to keep leaves off the ground. As the plants grows, you can trim more off the bottom, and begin to trim out overcrowded middle branches. The amount of pruning you will need to do is based on the size and variety of plants. Always use sharp pruners, and be sure to wipe down the blades with a little bleach after each use. It is very easy to transmit disease from plants, and disinfecting the pruners is a must.  Product Link : Fiskars Power Pruners  –  Pro Bypass Garden Pruning Shears

This allows for increased air circulation to the plants – and for rain water to more easily reach the root zone areas. It also makes it hard for ground pests to have easy access to the plants. The openness also helps to cut down on the possibility of mildew and mold for the plant.  For more, see our article : How To Prune Tomatoes and Peppers

What About Removing Suckers? Quite often, we are asked about pruning or removing suckers. Suckers are small shoots that grow out of the joints of branches, We remove all suckers on the lower portions of plants. As the top canopy grows, we only prune back suckers that are growing too dense. As a general rule of thumb, you should always be able to see a little light through your vegetable plants.

Thinning Seedlings

When it comes to seed crops planted in the ground, thinning is a must as well.

When you plant seeds for carrots, corn, lettuce, green beans and other ground crops, you always want to plant a little more seed than you need for your rows.

pruning vegetable plants
Thinning small seedlings is a must to let others grow strong.

Over-seeding is a great way to ensure that enough of your seeds germinate to have a good crop.

But once seedlings sprout, they need to be thinned to allow enough room for mature growth.

Its always tempting to let all of the sprouts all have a chance. After all, they found a way to sprout too! But in reality, it is much more important to thin to allow the remaining plants the space to grow to full maturity. If not, you will be left with smaller plants that are competing with each other for limited resources.

Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary. To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up below for our free email list. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. This article may contain affiliate links.

5 thoughts on “Pruning Vegetable Plants – Why Trimming and Thinning Is A Must!

  • June 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm
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    Do you prune the tops of your tomatoe plants to keep them compact size ? If so Where an d when to you prune them? Thanks

  • May 28, 2018 at 9:43 pm
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    With regards to a cover crop, I used winter wheat this last fall..I have mowed it down several times and it is still out growing many of my early garden varieties and going to seed…I dont recall having this same problem last year. any thoughts. .sorry for this comment not pertaining to recent post

    • May 30, 2018 at 11:10 am
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      Hi Wayne. Unfortunately some winter seed crops get labeled as annual when in certain areas they are a 2 year perennial. Not sure if this is the case with your winter wheat or not but that could possibly be the cause. We use an annual rye seed but we have seen annual rye labeled as a rye grass seed before. Can be confusing to all of us.

  • May 27, 2018 at 2:38 pm
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    just replant the extra seedlings that made it in a larger spot. if they have roots they will grow

  • May 27, 2018 at 1:53 pm
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    I had an aversion to thinning — until I learned most of my “sprouts” could be used as microgreens in salads, smoothies, or sautees!

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