How to Prune Tomato Plants for the Fall


Vine-ripened tomatoes offer a fullness of flavor not available in grocery store tomatoes. As gardening season winds to a close in fall, the promise of vine-ripened tomatoes fades. Fall pruning encourages the remaining green tomatoes to finish ripening and means no more bags and boxes of ripening green tomatoes. Pruning does limit the amount of end-of-season fruit, but the remaining fruit is larger and has the full taste expected from garden tomatoes.

Step 1

Prune any branches without blossoms or fruit eight weeks before the first expected frost. Using sharp pruning shears, remove the branches where they emerge from the main stem.

Step 2

Pinch off or snip off any remaining blossoms five weeks before the first expected frost, as they won't have time to develop fruit before freezing weather arrives.

Step 3

Prune off the leaves around each green tomato to allow sunlight to the ripening fruit. Heat from the sun is necessary for tomatoes to fully ripen.

Step 4

Prune off entire vines as the fruit ripens and is picked. Removing vines and stems allows the plant to focus on the still-ripening fruit.

Step 5

Cover the plants with a heavy blanket if a light frost is expected. This will protect the remaining fruit. Pick any remaining green tomatoes if a hard frost threatens, and allow them to ripen indoors.

Tips and Warnings

  • If fall lasts longer than expected, your tomato crop will not be as large after pruning. Do not cut through the main stems of the plant; these are the larger ones that emerge from the soil or near the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • Colorado State Extension
Keywords: pruning tomatoes, ripening fall tomatoes, vegetable harvest

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.