Quite simply, when you prune pepper and tomato plants, great things happen for your crop!
For starters, pruning helps plants grow bigger, stronger and healthier. And it helps to keep disease and insects at bay as well.
Pruning even helps to ripen fruit faster and more evenly too.
But perhaps best of all, pruning pepper and tomato plants will help your plants produce larger fruit, and a larger harvest as well.
And what gardener doesn’t want that?
Why And How To Prune Pepper And Tomato Plants
So just exactly what does it mean to prune your plants? And why does it help them so much?
When we talk about pruning our tomato and peppers, we are referring to removing the foliage and stems at the bottom of the plants. In essence, pruning up.
By clearing out this bottom area, it allows for more more light to reach the inner portions of the plant.
Even more, it helps massively improve the air circulation throughout the plant.
And both light and air are extremely important to the health and growth of vegetable plants.
Better lighting results in the faster ripening of fruit. It also improves the process of photosynthesis, helping to convert the sun’s valuable energy to power the plants growth.
Better air circulation not only helps with improved pollination, but provides much-needed oxygen to the plants as well.
But most importantly, the improved air flow helps to keep disease, mold and mildew from taking hold.
More Reasons To Prune
Removing the bottom foliage also allows the plant to spend it’s energy on growing new branches and more blooms, and not on maintaining the unproductive bottom stems and leaves.
It also keeps pests and insects from easily climbing up from the soil level foliage and on to plants.
And speaking of the soil, by removing the bottom leaves, you also help to curb dangerous diseases such as tomato blight.
Tomato blight is a soil borne disease. And plants can easily become infected when spores are splashed up onto the foliage. See : How To Avoid Tomato Blight
By removing the foliage in this lower area, it makes it hard for the spores splash up and reach plants.
And last, but certainly not least, pruning off the bottom area of foliage allows water to more easily reach the crucial root zone areas of plants.
When a plant is covered in foliage, unfortunately, it sheds water away from the roots when it rains or you water.
How And How Much To Prune
How much you remove when you prune pepper and tomato plants is determined by the size and variety of the plant.
To prune, we use our small pair of Fiskars hand pruners to quickly remove foliage. Small pruners work best among the tight areas of growth at the bottom.
Always be sure when pruning to cut back to the stem, but without cutting into or nicking the main stem.
For the majority of pepper plants, we usually remove a total of 6″ to 8″ of growth from the bottom of plants. But not all at once.
A few weeks after transplanting in the ground, we will first remove the bottom 3 to 4″ of stems.
As shown in the video below, the plant is not quite large enough at this point to remove the total 6″ to 8″. (If you have any problem viewing the video below, you can also see it on our YouTube Channel here : OWG Pruning Video)
As it continues to grow in the following weeks, we will come back and snip off underneath the plant to clear out the area to around 6 to 8″
For tomato plants, it all depends on the variety you will be pruning.
For smaller, determinate plants, we remove 6 to 8 inches in the same method as our pepper plants. A little at first, and then coming back as they grow to remove the rest.
But for our large, indeterminate tomato plants, we remove as much as 12″ to 18″ once the plant is fully grown.
In addition, once they mature, we will even prune the tops of of our plants to keep them at a reasonable height.
For these large heirlooms, it also helps to keep the plants energy focused on producing more blooms, not foliage.
Here’s to pruning your pepper and tomato plants – and a banner crop! Happy Gardening, Jim and Mary.
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