Pruning Back Tomato Vines

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In June, tomato plants in Houston wither, while beans and pepper plants continue to produce.

I am re-evaluating choices that I made. The okra was not placed in a great location, so the plants have not thrived. The eggplant has done well. I have found that they do alright with afternoon shade, or maybe I should say with partial shade, since I have a plant that is producing with afternoon sun. The squash has needed the full sun, as do the pepper plants. The bush beans have been consistent producers, but I am waiting for the yard long beans which I planted later in pipes. These beans have lush and dark green leaves, so they seem to be a good fit for that experiment.The cucumbers are chugging along, while the green onions look like they are quite happy. The one plant that cannot handle this season is the tomato.

    I have seen people do well with tomato plants further into the summer, but I know other gardeners who encounter the fading tomato vine. I often hear that Houston is not a great climate for these vines, but a garden fresh tomato is the desired result of many home growers. By June, the vine has worn itself out. There have been years where I tried holding onto the vine in hopes of future production, and other years where I take out the plants. I know that we will have another growing season for our tomato vines, so I decided to only prune the plants back. My daughters excitedly harvested any tomato, green or slightly red, as I came through clipping the plants down. We moved the cuttings to a compost pile. Whenever I found a good green foliage, I stopped my pruning on a plant. When cleared, the basil was seen to be doing quite well. I did not know that some plants had become so big.
    What lessons did I learn from this season’s tomato planting? The bird netting had mixed results. Sakura, my youngest, discovered that she could move the netting around to enter this bed. This left holes in my defense against birds, but the birds mainly did leave the tomato plants alone. The netting caused me to pay less attention to the plants, since the net was a deterrent to me as well. This left a bit of damage from other pests. Placing brown paper bags over the growing tomato helped prevent insect damage, which I did not always do, because of the net. I think these bags may be the better solution. They stop the insects, and they should stop the birds too. Planting the tomato vines deeper worked. My vines grew vigorously. They also seemed to have more tomatoes on them. The tomato cage that was more a trellis system made from branches worked. The grape vines are growing on them now. I also found that a well prepared soil allowed me to avoid using fertilizers. I had also been told never mulch these vines, but the mulch did not hinder the tomato production (I only mulched them for the last month). My last lesson is that I should grow more cherry tomato plants. These became such a great snack for the children that I found myself using these smaller fruits more than the larger tomatoes.
    Some beds are starting to look a little empty. The onions have been harvested. The tomato vines were pruned back. The lettuce has gone to seed, so I will pull that out soon. Since all of these beds had other plants in them, they are not bare. Strawberry plants are filling in the space where the onions were. Thyme is taking over one lettuce bed. The grapes are coming into their own in the tomato bed. What I am not looking forward to is the brown of August. Have you seen a satellite image of our area during different times of the year? August shows the green receding, and the brown controlling the landscape. At least some plants are doing well.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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