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A Beginner’s Guide To Pinching Out Tomato Plants

28th April 2015

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These popular plants are a great addition to the plot for gardeners of all skill levels. With a little bit of training they can become heavy croppers that will provide juicy red fruits for the summer. If you’re unsure about when and how to start pinching them out, here’s what to do.


1. Check the variety of your crops Looking at the back of your seed packet will help to tell you whether your tomatoes are indeterminate (also called vine or cordon) or determinate – this is very important to recognise early on as it decides whether your plant will need cutting back. Determinate crops such as 'Tornado' and 'Tumbler', grow to become naturally compact and bushy – any pinching out done to this type will result in lower yields, so it's vital to maintain the foliage as much as possible. Indeterminate plants such as 'Gardener's Delight' and Ferline', grow taller, resulting in the need for support from canes and training of the leaves. Another sub type that needs the same care but will grow shorter is semi-determinate, which includes varieties such as 'Roma' and 'Rutgers'.

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2. Pinch out sideshoots Once the plant has developed at least six pairs of true leaves, it's important to pinch out sideshoots of indeterminate and semi-determinate types for successful yields. These tiny shoots grow between the main stem and the leaves, and can be removed by gently picking them off the plant with your fingers. If left untrained, these crops will produce a large number of flowers, which puts pressure on energy reserves and results in poor quality pickings. This method of pruning will stagger the production of buds throughout the season, resulting in multiple, high-quality harvests. To encourage more stems to grow, allow the sideshoots closest to the ground to continue developing, as they will be easier to train than ones higher up.

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3. Pinch out the tops If you're worried that your tomato plant is growing too tall, you can also pinch off the tip of the main stem, below the highest blossom to control this. Do this once seven trusses have set on indoor plants and four on outdoor varieties. This job must be done gently to avoid any damage and towards the end of the season to keep the crop focused on producing fruit.

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