Tomato strategy: to pinch out or not to pinch out...

16 December, 2014

Given others have been talking in blogland about their tomato growing strategies I thought I would share how I am growing my tomatoes this year.

I have decided this year to test pinching out vs. not pinching out, to see if I have any discernable difference in crop quantity, time to ripening and disease issues.

I have tomatoes in two areas. Both areas have the same varieties growing, which were planted out at roughly the same time. The first area gets less afternoon sun, so I will have to take that into account in assessing the results.

The first area is a raised bed, where I am growing tomatoes that will be having the laterals pinched out.

These tomatoes are grown in a straight line against the fence. They are being tied to the stakes and eventually to the wire mesh over the bed.

These tomatoes are being grown as a single stem and any laterals promptly removed. There are flowers, but no fruit yet. (You may also be able to see the climbing beans I have interplanted between the toms. There are also eggplants, capsicums, mexican sour gherkin cucumbers and self sown watermelons in these beds.)

The second area is in the front yard. This is a wild tomato haphazardly growing heaven, where I am roughly guiding the tomatoes up the structures I've set up.

The tomatoes in this area are growing quite variably, with some taking off and others looking a bit stunted.

The most quickly growing are these lot, which shows a little of what I'm expecting to happen. With no pinching out, these are becoming a tomato forrest. I'm planning to guide them up the supports, while also letting some sprawl over the garden bed.

Excitingly, in this area I have some formed tomatoes.

Green Zebra

Potiron Ecaplate

Hopefully ripe tomatoes will shortly be on the menu!

Do you pinch out? Or not? I'd be intrigued to hear your thoughts on this contraversial area of tomato growing.


  1. I always thought that you had to prune tomatoes to one or two stems. But then I read that pruning out the suckers may produce larger tomatoes, but the overall yield would go down. Given a choice between having a few large tomatoes are many medium sized ones, I would always choose having more overall.

    So this year, I decided not to pinch out any suckers until mid-summer (as those shoots would not have enough time to produce mature fruit) and had a record breaking tomato year. I made several other changes this year, so many factors could have contributed to this, but I would bet that not pinching out the suckers was high on the list.

    I'll be watching your results with interest - I love these types of experiments!

    1. Same here, more overall would be my preference! I have always pinched out the side shoots (another piece of gardening lore I read) and have had so-so harvests. I have always wondered if this info came from climates where sunlight is scarce and you want to pinch out to ensure all areas of the plants get sun to aid ripening. I also wonder if in our climate having bushier plants makes for more shade and less evaporative water loss. We shall see.

  2. I do not prune tomatoes in any way, and rather than fastening them to supports, I use large, sturdy cages (18 inch diameter by 6 feet high).

    1. I've been thinking about cages, but the only ones I've seen to buy are really short (1.5m or less). May have to make me some of those! Thanks for the input.

  3. Hi, I did this a couple of seasons ago and came to the conclusion there are fors and againsts for both. Because of the way I train my plants pruning laterals works best. Also as the plants get big they are awkward to manage. I didn't notice mush difference in yield and tried to make sure the fruit was protected from sunburn. This what I posted back then.
    I'll be interested to see your results. :)

    1. Yes, I am thinking the one's I'm letting run riot may actually run too riot and I will need to tame them. Just a little. Thanks for your post, it is very interesting to see others' experiences. Will be sure to post and let everyone know how it goes.

  4. I've never pinched. No reason really. Just let them do their stuff, I guess. Will be interested in your results all the same.

    1. Hmmm, I've always pinched out. Learned if from a book. Maybe I was misled though. I like the idea of just letting them do their stuff. Surely the tomatoes know best how to grow.