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Jul 15, 2009 08:21 PM

Pinching off tomato growth

Heard you should do this to tomato plants.
What do you pinch off? (Sucker shoots, and how do you know which?)
When do you pinch them off?

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  1. So if there are little branches sprouting out of the intersection of a main branch and the trunk, these are the suckers and basically what they do is put energy into the growth of the plant rather than the growth of fruit. If you pinch them off you will get more fruit production. Pinch them off before they start growing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sally599

      Not so. If you let the suckers grow they will behave just like a main branch and will grow leaves and set fruit. The main reason for pruning suckers is to control the shape of the plant. If you prune/pinch them all, the plant will grow very, very tall and rather thin (I did that one year and the plants ended up 7 feet high and looked ridiculous). If you prune not at all, the plant will be shorter and more dense. If you live in an area where airborne diseases are a concern, this can be a bad thing, as good air circulation is generally regarded as beneficial.

      Some gardeners prune not at all, and some prune the bottom 18 inches or so, since any fruit on these branches will probably drag on the ground and get eaten or go bad. That's what I do. Otherwise, I only pinch or cut back branches (sucker or otherwise) when the growth gets so thick that new leaves can't unfurl properly.

    2. I prune up to the second cluster. The forgetaboutit!!!

      1. Sally and Zeldog -These are the two conflicting stories I keep getting. The year I pinched them off, my plants were sparse, second year, it was like a jungle and better fruit quality and quantity.
        Still under debate.

        1. There are 2 reasons I pinch off my tomato plants, as well as pepper plants. One is to control the growth as I have a small patio with very limited gardening space, I keep them tall and skinny (a couple of them are 7 1/2 feet tall. The other reason is to promote growth; when I see a group of flowers bloom I pinch off all but 2 or 3. This helps the plant to put all it's energy into those flowers and promote beatiful tomatoes faster. When I don't do this, I sometimes don't get any tomatoes. Hope this helps. Happy gardening.

          1 Reply
          1. re: randyhusted

            Exactly. Tomatoes are perennials in their native habitat, so its natural inclination is to simply keep growing, both foliage and fruit. But if you live in a short summer climate, you may want to force the plant to focus attention on the first clusters of tomatoes, rather than continuing to put energy into new growth and new blossoms.

            However, if you prune off too much foliage, you have the potential of sunburnt fruit. Plus, of course, the plant needs some of that foliage to provide food to the fruits it does have.

            At the very least, unless you're a big fan of green tomatoes, don't let it set any new fruits more than a month or two before you expect the plants to die in the fall.