Monday, February 6, 2012
How to pinch off the laterals (side shoots) on tomato plants
I really did not get this "remove the laterals" (side-shoots) thing until almost too late. Luckily, I had an arborist friend who had luckily also worked at a tomato greenhouse in the past explain the principle behind it.
It seems that tomato plants would grow off in many directions, starting a new main division at each branch. (It's that little one that grows in the wedge above the side branch). If you leave that innocent little shoot in growing out of that plant's armpit there, it will grow huge in the branch and take the plant in that direction as well. When you pinch them off (easy to break off), then you have a plant that grows up and is easier to stake and control. The tomatoes you do have will be larger - although they will be fewer.
Check out this lateral (side-shoot) which has been left to grow!
By the way, I planted about 15 tomato plants of various varieties, then left to go camping for a week or two. When I returned, it was too late! My veggie garden was a jungle of rambling plants. Maybe that would have been fine for some - but I needed to impose some control, so I did. (And I wanted to learn how to do it the right way for next time.) After removing laterals was explained to me, I had to remove half the plants, learning the hard way, and keep only those young enough to prune. Better luck next year... I guess some people (like me) have to just learn by experiencing the burn.
Note: it's now the next year after this, and I am experimenting with not pruning them. But they have enough space. I plan to stake and support all the branches. It's a hot summer, so I hope they will still produce well. Updates here.