I remember excitedly showing my friend my gardening skills. Here is my tomato plant… The tomatoes were small bushes with hardly any tomatoes on. I remember him saying did you “pinch out tomato plants”. “Did I do what?” was my response!
The taste of homegrown tomatoes cannot be beaten. Tomatoes do however need a little knowledge. To get tomatoes to grow at their best means you need to know all the tips and tricks to avoid disappointment and get the biggest harvest! Pinching out is one of these tasks that is essential for the tomato gardener. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about how and why you need to pinch out tomato plants.
Do I Need To Pinch Out Tomato Plants?
I get this question a lot. It’s not always a straightforward Yes, Let me explain. There are two types of tomato plants determinate (bush) and indeterminate (cordon).
Bush Varieties don’t need pinching out at all. These are earlier fruiting but smaller. They are ideal to grow in containers and normally have smaller size and crops of fruit. I’m going to repeat this again. Don’t pinch out bush Varieties you will end up with a smaller plant with very little fruit.
Check your seed packet or plant label to determine if you have a bush type plant. Often also called container or patio tomatoes.
Otherwise known as vine tomatoes. These plants grow on a vine and are the type that needs pinching out. If your not sure what type of tomato plant you have please check your seed packet or plant label.
Varieties such as “gardeners delight” and “moneymaker” are cordon types.
What Happens If I Don’t Pinch Out Sideshoots?
So if you don’t pinch out the cordon Varieties of tomato the plant will put all its resources into trailing out new growth and it will climb and grow out. You won’t see anywhere near as many tomatoes and the size will be smaller. The aim of this is to concentrate growth in a single main step that can also be pinched out (more on this later) so the energy is put into producing fruit.
How To Pinch Out Sideshoots
Start looking for side shoots when the plant starts forming leaves.
The process of pinching out side shoots may need to happen a few times a week. I check every day during the height of the growing season.
How To Pinch Out Sideshoots
For indeterminate/cordon varieties you will need to routinely pinch out side shoots. Do do this follow the main stem up from the base of the plant. A side shoot grows out of the stem in a Y shape.
A side shoot starts to grow between this as pictured below.
These need to be removed. To do this simply pinch with your fingers and pull gently to remove them.
If you leave it for too long you will see a much larger Sideshoots. This also needs to be carefully removed with your fingers or garden scissors if tougher.
The number one takeaway you need to take care not to damage the plant. This will help prevent diseases.
How Often Do I Need To Pinch Out Tomato Plants?
Personally I do this every day. On some occasions, I have gone into my greenhouse to do this task after a few days off and I have been shocked at the growth and go on an instant pruning spree.
Pinching Out The Growing Tip
Like vines, the cordon Varieties will also carry on growing and growing. In order to get the plant’s energy to focus on producing tomatoes you need to pinch out the growing tip. In my greenhouse, I do this when the plant reaches the ceiling. And outside the height to around 4 ft.