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Everybody has an opinion on pruning tomato plants. Here's my view of the subject.
First, I'll assume we are growing "Indeterminate" types of tomatoes, i.e. vine tomatoes as opposed to the tree-like ("determinate," aka "bush" tomatoes) ones often grown in pots. Left alone, vine tomatoes will grow 10+ feet along the ground, as you can often see in gardens in Bermuda, but we stake them.
Up here in New England (Yankeeland), we need to prune them because our short growing season doesn't allow much time for good fruit formation. We have to prune most of the suckers and plenty of their leaves, and we cut their tops off in July or August - all so they will put their energy into good fruit and not into further pointless growth.
Further south, diligent pruning is less important.
And even though I grow mine in fine soft soil, I fertilize them with liquid fertilizer whenever I think of it. I usually have lots of plants, but only ended up with 10-12 this year of around 5 varieties.
Here's the best site I have seen on indeterminate tomato vine gardening. For all of the effort, and despite our short season, it is well-worth it when you pick one on a hot day and eat it in the garden like an apple. A tomato should be hot, with little salt on it.
"Commercial Tomato Picking in North Carolina" Yeah, right. If my magnifying glass is correct that looks like you, Gwynnie, and the D-man tending to your cannibis plants. Just go, arrive safe, have a good time and come home safe, cuz I'm wicked jealous that I'm not going. Take better pictures than that fruitcake the D-man. My best to you sir.
A Jealous and envious Dago.
Best description yet on indeterminate (vines) versus determinate (bushes) I have read. Just not sure which kinds I have growing.
But, the plants I started from seed in my terrace garden in Jerusalem are humungous. I have tried to do some pruning, but we shall see.
Here in the Central Valley of California, I don't prune tomatoes much because they sunscald if I do. 107 degrees Saturday when they started bearing really heavily. Found a black widow in a hole in one of them.
I have most of my plants sandwiched between two parallel rows of field fencing, set a few inches off the ground and 18 inches apart. Nice big sqiares to stick your hand through to get a tomato. Concrete reinforcing wire also works if you don't care about the rust. You might try a couple of plants in "real" cages made of it next year. Just cut the plants back to induce earlier fruiting.
Next year, try Big Beef hybrid. Early for a beefsteak, disease resistant and the ones that don't ripen in fall can be fried green or made into mincemeat.
Good gardening is about matching plant to climate - nothing but trouble comes from trying to grow things outside their comfort zones.
Over a century of breeding has produced a wide choice of determinate varieties - everything from extra-cold-hardy plants that let gardeners like you get the most out of your short seasons, to richly-flavored heirloom beefsteak and paste tomatoes that can take summer's heat.
A packet of open-pollinated seed contains more than enough to succession-plant from late winter to midsummer.
Since you have rain during the summer, this is also a great way to avoid doctoring ailing tomato plants - at the first sign of virus or mold, yank 'em and plant a new seedling.
Aside from the first set of seedlings - which you'll have to nurse along indoors - the others are relatively easy using the various kits.