Pinching Out Tomatoes – Why & How To

When growing tomatoes, there is one thing that pops up often and can confuse new growers – pinching out. What is it? Why should you do it? And how do you do it? Let’s take a look and find out.

What is pinching out?

Pinching out is all about removing the side shoots]
Pinching out is all about removing the side shoots]

Pinching out Tomatoes is all about removing the side shoots or “suckers” as your plant grows.

These shoots appear on the main stem above the leaves.

This is something that is only done on vining tomatoes. If you are growing bush tomatoes, then you don’t need to pinch out side shoots.

Why pinch out?

The sideshoots can quickly get large
The side shoots can quickly get large

If you allow the side shoots to develop, they quickly turn into large branches rivaling the main stem in size.

While this may sound like a good thing at first, you will quickly learn that a tomato plant left to its own devices like this will develop a lot of foliage but not as much fruit.

So pruning the side shoots out and growing the plant as one or two leaders (leaders just means main stem or stems) actually increases the number of tomatoes you get per plant.

How to

Remove these suckers that appear above a leaf node on the main stem
Remove these suckers that appear above a leaf node on the main stem

Actually, doing the pinching out is simple. Look for these growths and remove them as soon as they appear.

They are easy enough to remove by hand, especially small ones, like in the photo above. Just grab the sucker and snip it off between your thumb and finger.

If they have gotten a little larger, then use some secateurs or snips.

Topping tomatoes

Topping is where you cut off the main growing stem
Topping is where you cut off the main growing stem

Topping is another tomato maintenance job, similar to pinching out but slightly different.

When you top a tomato plant, you remove the main growing stem of the plant. After this has been done, the plant will no longer grow vertically.

You do this at the end of the season as it helps speed up the ripening of the tomatoes on the plant.

It is not something I do, to be honest with you. I don’t do it because I let the plant grow and develop as many tomatoes as possible.

This does mean I end up with a lot of green tomatoes at the end of the year. But I either try and ripen them in the sun or turn them into green chutneys!

One Response

  1. This was very helpful. I have always practiced pruning shoots and using ground up egg shells but did not know about topping the plant. Makes complete sense! Thank you,

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