Author Topic: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?  (Read 7315 times)

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Offline milo357

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Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« on: July 07, 2010, 07:16:48 PM »
My San Marzano tomato plants seem to be growing pretty well, especially the one I have hanging in the back yard.  Question though,  am I supposed to prune my San Marzano tomato plants?  They have not flowered yet.

Thanks!

Milo


Offline trosenberg

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2010, 08:54:03 PM »
Yes,tomato plants should be pruned.   See this video. http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/videos/pruning-tomatoes.aspx 
Trosenberg

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2010, 08:59:59 PM »
Milo, I've been told by a senior member, not to prune until after the first flowers.  As a test (and before I was told this), I did prune a few tomato plants and a few i left alone.  As it turns out, the unpruned ones grew a bit faster.   Once the plants start taking off and has bloomed then it's safe to prune.

I also had another tomatoe plant that I bought from lowes that was about 6" to start.  After it had it's first bloom and 3 little tomatoes, I started pruning it agressively.  Soon after it started dropping every new flower.  I think I didn't have fertilizer so It was conserving energy towards growing.  Since I've stop pruning it and starter fertilizing it, it has started growing rapidly and stopped dropping it's flowers.  I've since gone back to pruning it but very lightly.  Hope that helps.


JT

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2010, 12:02:33 AM »
My San Marzano tomato plants seem to be growing pretty well, especially the one I have hanging in the back yard.  Question though,  am I supposed to prune my San Marzano tomato plants?  They have not flowered yet.

Thanks!

Milo

I have been growing tomatoes for many years.  You do not have to prune tomatoes.  It is optional.  If you do not prune you will get plenty of tomatoes.  The plant will be sprawled all over the place however.  If you do prune and do not know what you are doing you could end up doing more harm than good.  Many people prune tomatoes, because they think they are supposed to do that.  What do you hope to accomplish, more tomatoes, better taste, reduce plant disease?  You will not get more tomatoes by pruning.  They might
be bigger and sweeter though.  Other than for the sake of doing it and some people say you should, why are you going to prune.  If you prune you can keep the the tomatoes that would be touching the ground off the ground.  If they are on the ground mice or other critters can get at them if that is a problem where you are.  If you live in a wet rainy humid place some might rot. Even so there will be plenty that do not touch the ground and do fine.  It probably looks better to have controlled growth, trellised, than sprawling all over if looks matter to you.   Also if you prune you can keep the plant from being a tangled up mess of vines that can't get air circulation and it can get diseased.  This also depends on your climate.  Where I live summers are dry and plants stay healthy.  Nights are chilly and lots of leaf is like a blanket that keeps cold breezes at bay.  Tomatoes like hot humid weather and warm nights.  I prune a little in the early season and get the plants headed upward instead of outward. This is after first flower.  Then I use strips of rags to keep main branches heading up tied to trellises.  I get rid of some suckers, but not all.  They bear fruit, but can create a mess.  If they look like they have room to grow and are strong I leave them.  If they come out late down low they get cut.  For tomato plants to ripen fruit the plant needs to produce sugar.  The leaves are necessary.  You can have better tasting tomatoes if you do not over prune as some people advocate.  If you prune and train plants you can have fruit several feet off the ground easy to get at.  If you have sprawled plants on the ground you will end up crawling around searching for tomatoes and mushing some under your feet and knees. 

Offline BrickStoneOven

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2010, 08:14:54 AM »
I'm looking more for quality than quantity, I have been pruning the suckers off when they get to a certain size. Cranky what do you suggest I do for more flavor rather than for more fruit.

Offline trosenberg

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2010, 12:29:15 PM »
IMHO, as a guy who plants 50 tomato plants a year for the past 30 years, reducing watering in the days before harvesting results in a more concentrated flavor. 
Trosenberg

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2010, 12:36:01 PM »
Trosenberg, thank you for that tip. I'm going to try that this year.

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2010, 04:51:47 PM »
I'm looking more for quality than quantity, I have been pruning the suckers off when they get to a certain size. Cranky what do you suggest I do for more flavor rather than for more fruit.

Reducing water helps, but if you have a plant that continues to produce fruit you do not want to dehydrate it.  Some people say that if you prune suckers and keep maybe three main branches, they will keep growing up and putting on more fruit on the main stems.  Tomato plants are sugar producing factories.  If there is less fruit, as it ripens, the flavor development is enhanced, is the theory.   It could be true, but I don't care, because my tomatoes taste great anyway.  Make sure your soil pH is right.  Add lime to sweeten it if you need it.  I fertilize before planting with a little cow manure, rotted compost and some bone meal, but sometimes substitutes.  I have heavy clay soil, so I add some sandy loam and till it in.  During the season I add a little fertilizer to the water that goes on the plant.  Too much nitrogen is not good, but I use a little, because it keeps the plant strong and healthy.  The bone meal will help prevent blossom end rot if that is a problem in your area and help fruit production.  There is no one right wy to grow tomatoes, but a lot of people swear by certain techniques or styles.  If you have decent soil and take reasonable care of the plants they will do well.         

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2010, 04:54:45 PM »
IMHO, as a guy who plants 50 tomato plants a year for the past 30 years, reducing watering in the days before harvesting results in a more concentrated flavor. 

Very commendable.  My family thinks I am crazy for having 25 or so. 

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2010, 06:13:23 PM »
I'm looking more for quality than quantity, I have been pruning the suckers off when they get to a certain size. Cranky what do you suggest I do for more flavor rather than for more fruit.

One other comment.  One of the things that causes a plant to go to seed, produce seeds, which is what a tomato plant does when it ripens fruit, is stress.   If the weather gets too hot certain plants will bolt.  I used to live in a very cold region with short season.  There, people used to crack tomato plant stems to try to force the fruit to ripen.  It worked, but the flavor never was any good.  Stopping watering puts stress on a plant.  I guess it does not hurt flavor and may help, and it may help more tomatoes to all ripen faster.  So near the end of the season when there are a lot of green tomatoes I want to ripen I stop water.  I think the best tasting tomatoes are in the beginning of the season, at least where I live, but I don't know why.




Offline sear

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2010, 09:36:41 AM »
if you have alot of plants i would prune them, dont have to get every sucker but as the season goes on and the plant is still producing new shoots and flowers the energy wont be focused on ripening the fruit. then the season ends and your stuck with green tomatoes.  from the time the flower turns into a small tomato till the time its ripe could be 1-2 months. it will depend on the type of tomato too

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2010, 10:57:54 AM »
if you have alot of plants i would prune them, dont have to get every sucker but as the season goes on and the plant is still producing new shoots and flowers the energy wont be focused on ripening the fruit. then the season ends and your stuck with green tomatoes.  from the time the flower turns into a small tomato till the time its ripe could be 1-2 months. it will depend on the type of tomato too

I am not sure, but maybe length of growing season is a factor.  In the big tomato producing areas they spray a tomato hormone on the fields, or used to, that causes green tomatoes to ripen.  They want all the fruit on the plant ripe at the same time for machine picking and plants are bred for this.  Part of why imported Italian DOP tomatoes are good is they are hand picked and bred for taste not uniform ripening or transporting in trucks all heaped up in deep piles.   

I think most gardeners would rather have an extended time to pick for fresh table use, unless they are big canners.   I have seen some people get to a point in the season and chop off all new growth to prevent more flowers and green tomatoes.   Then the existing fruit ripens nicely.  Others make green tomato relish and can it, and fried green tomatoes.   

My main reason for pruning moderately is keeping the entire patch from being a tangled mess I can barely get into.  I like keeping the vines and fruit off the ground in rows.  One year I did not prune at all and the tomatoes turned out fine, but weeding and harvesting is more of a chore and the mice, or ground squirrels  got the ones on the ground. 
 

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2010, 08:56:48 AM »
Here is a blog entry on pruning San Marzano tomatoes that I have found very helpful. This woman is from Calabria, and her father brought these seeds from Italy. They grow their tomatoes in the same tradition used in Italy for hundreds of years:

http://www.calabriafromscratch.com/?p=1295

John

Offline BrickStoneOven

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2010, 09:21:04 AM »
What should I do if I don't want then to go past a certain height.

Offline sear

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2010, 09:22:46 AM »
What should I do if I don't want then to go past a certain height.

pinch off the new growth at the top.

Offline BrickStoneOven

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2010, 09:27:01 AM »
Thanks

This might sound stupid but how do you know when to pick the tomatoes? I am growing an heirloom and I was reading that they grow to ripeness before full color, how do I determine this. Should they have a certain firmness to them?

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2010, 11:34:53 AM »
Thanks

This might sound stupid but how do you know when to pick the tomatoes? I am growing an heirloom and I was reading that they grow to ripeness before full color, how do I determine this. Should they have a certain firmness to them?

Tomtoes grown for market are picked when they start to show color.  Once there is some color the tomato will continue to ripen after it is picked, still pretty green, but it is still quite firm and can stand being knocked around in packing, shipping, etc.  It will again be handled in the store as it goes on the shelf for display and is picked over by customers.  It takes a few days at the least from the time it is on the vine to being bought in a retail market.  If growers waited until the tomatoes were fully ripe they would be bruised and rotting by the time they got to the end user.  Gardeners can wait longer.

You can pick tomatoes once there is some color and let them continue to ripen or wait until they are fully ripe.  In my opinion flavor development that takes place on the vine as it comes to ripeness makes for a better tomato in salads or cooking, but maybe others are used to different flavors.    In fact marinara sauce made from home grown vine ripened tomatoes may be the best tasting meal I have ever had.  There is no comparison to canned tomaotes no matter where they come from or brand.  The same is true of pizza sauce, no comparison.

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2010, 11:37:44 AM »
Here is a blog entry on pruning San Marzano tomatoes that I have found very helpful. This woman is from Calabria, and her father brought these seeds from Italy. They grow their tomatoes in the same tradition used in Italy for hundreds of years:

http://www.calabriafromscratch.com/?p=1295

John


This is the classic way to grow, prune and stake tomatoes.  It works well.  University studies show it gives less tomatoes, but slightly larger that have better taste (more sugar).

Offline cranky

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Re: Do I prune my San Marzano tomato plants?
« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2010, 11:44:11 AM »
pinch off the new growth at the top.

The trick is timing.  The plant will continue putting on new flowers and fruit that has no chance of ripening before the end of the season.  There is actually a small market for green tomatoes.  Home canners make relish or picallily.  But if you want only ripe tomatoes cutting off end growth will allow the plant to put energy into existing fruit.  As the season end gets closer, weather chillier, even the tomatoes that ripen are not as good or flavorful as in the peak of the season.  You need to know when to terminate new growth.  I was never any good at it, usually waiting too long.


 

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