Pinching Out Tomatoes

Training your tomato plants will depend on the varieties and types of tomatoes grown and pinching out is a part of the process with some varieties. You may see varieties referred to as ‘cordon’, ‘indeterminate’ or ‘determinate’. Don’t be put off by these terms!

Indeterminate-these varieties of tomatoes are the most common and are grown as cordons (single stemmed plants with side shoots removed). They will grow very tall – sometimes taller than 2.5m in very warm conditions.

Bush/Determinate – these varieties stop growing sooner than indeterminate varieties with the stem ending in a fruit truss. They are referred to as ‘bush’ and ‘dwarf’ types (suitable as hanging basket tomatoes) and don’t require any pruning.

Semi-determinate – these are similar to indeterminate varieties (grown as cordons) only they produce shorter plants.

With indeterminate and semi-determinate varieties (cordons), tie the plants to a support as they grow. You will notice side-shoots appearing above where the leaf stems joins the main stem (the leaf axil). You should literally pinch these out – bring your nails of your thumb and finger together to cut through the side shoot. Regularly pinching out of tomato side shoots will concentrate the plant’s energy into producing fruit. When the cordon has reached the top of its support, cut out the tip of the main stem 2 leaves above the top flower truss. For the best quality fruit it’s best to let no more than 6 fruit trusses form on the plant. If the tomato plant hasn’t reached the top of its support by late summer, cut out the main tip anyway to allow the remaining fruits time to ripen.

Determinate varieties (bush/dwarf types) don’t require any pruning or training and will happily sprawl along the ground or pot they’re growing in. Determinate varieties may stop flower production after several trusses, but upward growth can be carried on by training up the topmost side shoot.