Optimizing Tomato Size, Health, & Yield by Pruning, Spraying, & Fertilization

I would like to hear from those of you that have more experience growing tomatoes than I do what you have done to produce your most successful harvests. In past years I’ve had very poor success growing tomatoes and I attribute it to poor soil prep, poor site selection, and lack of proper fertilization. This year I made a concerted effort to create a more hospitable growing environment for my tomatoes and so far it’s paying off. My plants look wonderful and are all flowering and beginning to set fruit.

What I’m looking for now is some help or advise moving forward to have a successful season and optimize the amount of fruit I get with correct sizing and ideally maintain the plants health as much as possible. I want to grow as many tomatoes as possible while ensuring they reach their ideal size. I’ve learned that tomatoes do not need much nitrogen and that most synthetic fertilizers like Miracle grow provide way too much. I’m using organic fertilizers that are in the 5-5-5 range and specifically geared toward tomatoes. I hear about worm castings, compost tea, trace minerals, and micro-nutrients. I’ve used the Foxfarm Grow-Big liquid fertilizer that is 6-4-4 and has additional minerals. I also amended my planting holes with a tablespoon or two of gypsum to provide calcium and magnesium. It all seems to be working. But the proof will be in the harvest.

From a pruning standpoint I’ve removed suckers and have removed some of the bottom foliage near the soil to help prevent diseases but not much else. Are there any additional pruning practices I can do to provide the right balance of fruit to foliage?

Lastly, I’ve not sprayed my tomatoes with any type of herbicide or pesticide. Obviously they can suffer from disease but how susceptible are they to pests? Over the past 3 years I’ve had problems with Japanese Beetles, Stink Bugs, and this year PC on my fruit trees. I have a wide variety of herbicides and pesticides available but I’d like to hear comments on what and when to spray in addition to what the key pests are I need to look for.

The only insect that has bothered my tomatoes are white fly. Septoria leaf spot, and the blights are the worst. Copper or Chlorothalonil can be used as preventative, once you have these issues, they only slow it down. Pruning decreases production. Nothing wrong with removing suckers, but it does decrease production. It keeps plant open and easy to manage, but experts like Don Shorr state it decreases production. Keeping foliage off the ground and keeping soil mulched is a good idea. Weather is the biggest factor wet plants get these diseases almost no matter what you do.
Having said all that the healthiest plants I grow are the ones in ground where I do nothing at all to them. Often sprawl on the ground and seem fine.


I prune my tomatoes to keep air flowing and haven’t seen any negative side effects. My tomatoes are loaded this year and have been pruned several times so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned growing tomatoes is planting varieties that do well in your area. We have tons Of blight pressure here so I grow varieties that are able to fight through it and still produce. The black krims in the attached picture have proven to be a winner for taste and blight hardiness.


One note on pruning. If you decide to do it make sure you have several days of sun in your forecast. Each time I’ve pruned when my plants were wet disease came shortly after. Haven’t had issues when I pruned during a dry spell.

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All good tips I appreciate it.

Good point. I do not want best production if it is at the expense of health and disease.

Sometimes that seems to be how it works in all parts of life. :slight_smile:

Thats good to hear because its one of the varieties I planted.

Good call. I will keep that in mind.

I mentioned it because so many think it will increase production. No evidence it makes existing tomatoes bigger or better tasting either. So many factors influence results. like the last few days it’s been over 90F. The plants love it, but the pollen melts, usually no fruit will set when temps are in the 90’s. Any open flowers are wasted.

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As with fruit trees, reduced watering improves flavor. I water my tomatoes once every week to two weeks, I use a moisture meter to check the soil (my soil is clay, so it retains water for long time).

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I plant marigolds in between my tomatoes to keep down the hornworms. I have seen a significant difference both with and without marigolds.


Mickster, we have had terrible blight the last few years too. What varieties have you found, besides Black Krim, that are hardier in terms of blight resistance?

i dont see much blight on my chocollate cherry tomatoes, my super marzanos or amish paste. Cherokee purple and most of the brandywine varieties i tried were blight magnets here. This year i went conservative and planted black krins, chocolatte cherry tomatoes and a mix of hardy paste tomatoes.

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Thanks Mickster! Of those you mentioned, I am growing Amish Paste and Black Krim. I haven’t grown the chocolate cherry or super Marzano. I will put them on my list for next year. I grew San Marzano last year and it had the worst blossom end rot on practically every stinking tomato. None of the other tomatoes got it at all. I read than SM does tend to be prone to blossom end rot though.

Tim’s Black Ruffles is blight resistant. It will get the blight, if others do, it just takes a few more weeks before it shows. It will fruit all season before it gives in. TBR’s are the pleated tomatoes.


Those look rad! Thanks for sharing. Will try one next year.

That’s good news. I’m growing that variety too. Unfortunately I’m growing a few varieties you say are blight magnets.

For those of you that spray to prevent blight have you had better success with copper or with serenade? I’m always paranoid to spray copper on leaves. Won’t it burn them?

I’ve had good luck with the Miracle-Gro that is formulated for tomatoes. It’s N-P-K ratio is 18-18-21 vs 24-8-16 for regular Miracle-Gro. I’ve also had good luck with foliar calcium sprays to combat End Blossom Rot, especially on heirlooms.

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Those are gorgeous toms! I haven’t heard of TBR before, never have seen it for sale. Do you order the seed?

At first, then i save seed.I got it here

I like the dark tomatoes, and this one is good, but I like others better. None of those have resistance though, so this is one you can count on, and it is prolific. I still grow Pink Berkeley tie-dye, Girl Girl’s Weird Thing, and Indian Stripe, potato leaf version. Those are my favorites.
Girl Girl’s Weird Thing,


In places where nighttime lows dip below 50° while the plant is blooming ( mostly desert regions) use blossom set spray at the beginning of the blossom season

Oh I like the looks of those tomatoes!! Thanks for the tips. I have not ordered from dianeseeds before, I will check them out. The recommended hybrid ‘disease resistant’ varieties for our area have not performed well for me, year after year. So I started ordering seed to try a variety of heirlooms, in search of disease resistant varieties that are not available in the mainstream markets. I am still searching. :slightly_smiling_face:
We have grown fond of yellow and orange toms, but really like striped, dark, etc. too, Last year I started Kellogg’s Breakfast, Aunt Gerties Gold, Dagmas Perfection and several other varieties. They were looking beautiful, growing great, no signs of disease… until I brought home 4 Lemon Boy from the local garden center. One of them started showing some signs of disease (early blight maybe) within a week or two and it spread to the other 3. I had been removing leaves, trying to salvage the plants, but I probably made it worse. I yanked them out, but it was too late and it spread through the rest of my heirloom tomatoes. Frustrating. Tomatoes used to be so easy for me to grow. Not at this place though.

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