Whether you’ve already got some plants growing in a greenhouse, or have yet to plant tomatoes, it is worth knowing when and how to pinch out the side shoots to concentrate the plants’ energy on producing flowers and fruit. It also helps to prevent the plant from becoming unmanageable. If you are new to growing tomatoes, don’t panic, it’s really very simple.
Firstly, if you are growing a shrub variety, like our Tiny Tim tomatoes, then you do NOT need to pinch them out. However, if you are growing a tall, upright tomato variety (all of our other varieties are upright) then it is best to pinch them out regularly. You can start doing this fairly soon after planting, once the plants reach, say, 30cm tall.
Look for the sideshoots:
As your tomato plants grow, look for the small shoots that appear (growing at a 45 degree angle as pictured here) in between the main stem and main branches. These are the sideshoots. Left to their own devices they will get very big and produce a whole new structure of main stem/leaves.
Pinch out sideshoots regularly:
Check your plants quite often as new shoots appear quickly and it is best to pinch them off before they get too big – this will avoid stressing the plant and thus will keep plants healthier, and less prone to leaf curl.
Use your finger and thumb to pinch them off. You can add the foliage to the compost pile. Doing this prevents them from growing and keeps the plant’s energy focussed on the main stem and producing tomatoes that will ripen before the end of the season.
Once the plant reaches head height pinch off the growing tip:
We would recommend pinching off the very top tip once it reaches head height (or the top of its support) – this probably won’t be until mid/late summer but we thought we’d mention it now!! This just stops it from growing too tall, and again focuses the plants energy into producing tomatoes.