There's nothing like juicy, tasty fresh tomatoes in the middle of summer. Do not allow the talk of bottom rot, disease or pests dissuade you from growing summer garden tomatoes. You can savor home-grown tomatoes throughout the growing season with little effort and proper pruning. Knowing when and how to prune is one key factor to a better harvest, improved plant structure and overall health of the tomato plant.
Allow tomato plants to grow while watching for the first blooms which indicate fruit is on its way. During this time, stake or cage tomato plants for support.
Remove newly emerged suckers or side shoots as they appear below the first flower cluster on each stem. Take hold of the sucker with your thumb and index finger and it should snap off relatively clean from the stem. If left to grow, suckers will grow into stems that form blooms and fruit. The more fruit that is produced, the smaller and less flavorful the fruit will be.
Continue to prune suckers as they appear. A tomato plant produces sugar for the energy of the plant and in the development of fruit. The higher concentrations of sugar are at the base of the plant with the least amount in the tips of the plant.
Avoid using scissors gardening shears to prune suckers from tomato plants, which can be an invitation for disease. In the event a sucker was overlooked and has grown where it cannot be snapped off, a retractable blade such as a box cutter makes a good second choice.
Provide one final pruning approximately four weeks prior to the first frost by removing all the tips growing on the plant. This will allow the plant's remaining sugar and energy to be directed to the final production of fruit.