Pinching tomato suckers: not on my garden to-do list
Step away from the tomato plant and no one gets hurt.
Garden myth: you should pinch tomatoes suckers (the growth between main stems and the leaf) for a better tomato crop.
I ‘ve been growing tomatoes since I could say spaghetti sauce, and I’ve found that pinching the suckers is something every garden resource seems to preach as the gospel–a dire must-do when growing tomatoes. But In my experience, it’s a big ol’ waste of time that diminishes your harvest. If you want just one big tomato at the end of the season, then I’d say go for it.
Healthy row of un-pinched heirloom tomatoes (one tomatillo in foreground)
A tomato plant is not a bonsai tree. You want it to grow and glean as much energy from the sun to produce sugars for the star feature of your next BLT or caprese salad. I liken it to removing sails from a sloop and wondering why it doesn’t move as fast. Leaves harness the sun’s power, sails the wind’s. Don’t short yourself on either.
One of the many suckers that became a robust tomato-producing branch
People who grow dahlias know to pinch the lead growth so as to produce more suckers and thus more flowers. I would not pinch the lead stem for a tomato plant, as the suckers automatically show up. Another thing I’ve observed is that if you leave the tomato plant’s side shoots alone, they mainly appear from the base of the plant, and not such much on new growth as the season continues. Why? Because they are concentrating their energy on producing fruit for your next Salad Nicoise.
I trellis my tomatoes; don’t get me started on cages.
Now that I’ve spared you one more thing to do on the chore list, take a break in shade (ice tea optional) before you get back to your weeding. (And as you can see from the photos, I surely need to attend to mine.)
Here are few links to other gardeners who agree with just leaving the poor little suckers–the tomato suckers–alone: