Q: Do I remove the side shoots from my tomato plant?
A: Well that depends because there are two basic types of tomato.
The first are called ‘Determinate’ or Bush types. These include varieties like ‘Tumbler’, ‘Totem’, ‘Minibelle’, ‘Garden Pearl’ and cascade varieties. You DO NOT remove (pinch) the side shoots. These tomato plants know what they are doing, hence the name Determinate. They will grow outwards forming a mound, stay small and bushy, or cascade down. These determinate or bush types are great to grow in pots, tubs or even hanging baskets. They may not need supports as they can be sturdy stemmed plants.
The second type are called ‘Indeterminate’ commonly called Cordon or Vine tomatoes. This group include varieties like ‘Moneymaker’, ‘Alicante‘, ‘Sungold‘, ‘Gardeners Delight‘ and ‘Black Krim‘. This group contains the largest number of varieties and you DO remove (pinch) the side shoots that grow out from the axis of the stem and leaf. This is done to leave one stem which will carry the leaves and the fruit trusses, and divert all the plants energy into the developing fruits instead of excess growth. Depending on the height of your support system (see below), the tomatoes are usually ‘stopped’ after about 7 trusses have set. This ‘stopping’ simply means cutting off the top growing point, after the maximum height has been achieved.
The varieties you bought from The Greenhouse are listed in a separate post and state whether they are Determinate (bush-don’t pinch) or Indeterminate (vine-pinch). But if you are in any doubt, just click here: ‘contact us’ and ask.
Types of support for vine tomatoes.
Vine varieties are floppy by nature and tall stems won’t stand upright. If left to grow unsupported a couple of things happen, 1) the stems are susceptible to strong winds and may bend and break, 2) the plants sprawling on the ground can become more prone to disease (see post on common problems) and the fruit quality can suffer.
There are endless ways to support your vine tomatoes. Choose a system that lifts the plants off the ground and allows for air circulation. Not only will it look tidier, but you’ll grow a bigger haul. Here are the four popular options.
Install wood or rebar stakes at least 6 feet-tall at planting time. As the plants grow, tie the stems loosely to the stakes with twine or strips of fabric. Interconnecting the stakes to form a linked system adds stability.
A Tuteur is just a structure fashioned from stakes into a basic tripod or square. The weight of the plant will generally anchor the trellis to the ground. Simply lash one end of 3 or 4, 8-foot sticks together, spread the untied ends about 3 feet apart and equidistant from each other over the tomato plant, then press the sticks 4 to 6 inches into the soil. You can also string a length of twine from the top and (loosely) tie it to the base of the plant as an added trellis.
This training technique supports tomatoes with twine woven between rows of stakes and has infinite variations. You can then just snip the string at the end of the season and compost the plants.
Commercially Bought Cages and Supports.
Cylindrical, tri-fold or square wire cages keep tomatoes upright without the need for tying the stems. A variety of functional and decorative canes, trellis and supports in various colors are readily available and a matter of personal choice.