By: Anita House
As the summer temperatures rise and the humidity soars in Hall County, tomato gardeners face unique challenges in maintaining the health and productivity of their plants…and changing clothes two and three times a day. Pruning tomatoes in July is an essential task that can help promote better air circulation, prevent disease, and optimize fruit production. In this article, we will explore effective pruning techniques while considering the common diseases and heat/humidity issues specific to this time of year.
Understanding the Importance of Pruning: Pruning is a practice that involves selectively removing certain parts of a plant to enhance its growth and productivity. When it comes to tomatoes, pruning offers several benefits, including:
Improved Air Circulation
Proper pruning allows for better air movement around the plant, reducing humidity levels and the risk of diseases caused by fungal issues. Given the humidity, you like better air flow, so does your tomatoes.
Pruning helps remove infected or diseased foliage, minimizing the spread of common tomato diseases, such as early blight, late blight, and powdery mildew.
Enhanced Fruit Quality
By removing excess foliage and suckers, pruning enables the plant to direct more energy towards fruit production, resulting in larger and tastier tomatoes.
Pruning Techniques for Tomato Plants
To prune tomatoes effectively, follow these guidelines:
Remove Suckers: Suckers are the small shoots that emerge in the leaf axils (the area between the main stem and branches, sometimes call the armpit). These suckers often grow into additional stems and foliage, diverting energy from fruit production. Pinch or prune them off when they are small to maintain one or two main stems.
Maintain A Single Or Double Stem: For determinate varieties, which grow to a specific height, it is recommended to maintain a single main stem. However, indeterminate varieties, which continue growing and producing fruit throughout the season, benefit from having two main stems. Stake to support the plants. Honestly, tomato cages are better suited for peppers than big indeterminate tomato plants.
Remove Lower Foliage: Trim the lower leaves close to the ground to minimize the risk of soil-borne diseases splashing onto the foliage during watering or rain. Consider removing leaves/branches on the bottom 25% of the plant.
Prune Diseased Foliage: If you spot any signs of disease, such as yellowing, spotting, or wilting, remove the affected leaves immediately. Disinfect your pruning tools between cuts to prevent disease transmission. Do not put the diseased leaves in your compost pile. Burn or throw them in the trash.
Considerations For Common Diseases
Tomatoes are prone to several tomato diseases that can be exacerbated by the region's heat and humidity. It is crucial to be aware of these diseases and take preventive measures:
Early Blight: Caused by the fungus Alternaria solani, early blight affects the leaves, causing dark concentric rings with yellowing and wilting. Remove infected leaves and provide adequate spacing between plants for air circulation.
Late Blight: A devastating disease caused by Phytophthora infestans, late blight can destroy an entire crop within days. Remove and destroy infected plants, and consider applying copper-based fungicides preventively.
Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves. Prune affected foliage and apply fungicides labeled for powdery mildew control.
Heat and Humidity Considerations
The hot and humid climate of Hall County can affect tomato plants' overall health and vigor. Consider these tips:
Water Properly: Provide deep, regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist. Avoid overhead watering to prevent the spread of fungal diseases. Use mulch to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
Provide Shade: In extreme heat, consider providing temporary shade for tomato plants to protect them from scorching sun rays. This can be done using shade cloth or by planting taller companion plants nearby to offer some relief. And if you are really dedicated, a picnic umbrella does wonders.
Choose Disease-Resistant Varieties: When selecting tomato varieties for your garden, opt for those that are resistant to common diseases prevalent in your area. This can help minimize the risk of infection and ensure healthier plants.
Monitor For Pests
Keep an eye out for common tomato pests like aphids, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms. Regularly inspect your plants and take appropriate measures, such as handpicking or using organic insecticides, to control infestations. For hornworms, use a black light at night. They will glow, really, they will, even when very small.
Pruning tomatoes in July is a crucial task that can improve air circulation, prevent disease, and promote optimal fruit production.
By following the proper pruning techniques and considering the common diseases and heat/humidity challenges specific to this area, tomato gardeners can ensure healthier, more productive plants. Remember to stay vigilant, monitor for signs of disease, and take preventive measures to protect your tomato plants throughout the summer season.
And, if you want to learn more about tomatoes or other gardening tips and tricks, make sure to check out our free classes that are open to the public.
Happy pruning and enjoy the bountiful harvest!