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Gardening tip: Tomatoes – To pinch out or not

August 6, 2012

Pinching out suckers on a tomato plant.

Vine or cordon tomatoes [Indeterminate]

As these plants develop they will often sprout suckers from between the leaf axils as seen in the image on the left. There is debate amongst keen gardeners as to the benefits of pinching these suckers out. So, you ask, what should I do with my tomato plants?

Pinching out suckers will have the effect of reducing the the load on the plant by preventing it becoming top heavy with fruit. The plant will essentially grow fewer but larger fruits that will more readily mature before the fall.

If the suckers are left in then conversely there will be more but smaller fruits. However some of these will not mature in time for the fall. These fruits simply fall from the plant in their green and unripened state. Great for chutney but not too wonderful in your salad.

Additionally pinching out the main stem will stop the plant producing unnecessary foliage and direct the plant to put this energy into fruit.

Bush tomatoes [Determinate]

With these plants there is no need to remove side shoots as this will simply reduce cropping.

Fully ripened and ready to harvest tomatoes

Did you know: Scientifically tomatoes are fruits because they grow from the ovary in the base of the flower and contain seeds of the plant.

However in cookery they are treated as vegetables because they are used in savoury rather than sweet dishes.

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