Thursday, 11 June 2015

Pinching-out and tying-in

Now that the weather has improved a bit (not a lot!), the tomatoes are beginning to grow (rather reluctantly, I feel.) They had reached the stage where they needed pinching-out and tying-in. Let me explain...

Most of my tomato plants are being grown as Cordons, in other words tall and slim. For this method it is traditional to support the plants with a vertical stake or cane, and to remove the plant's side-shoots in order to stop it going too bushy. Like this:-

Well, that photo was taken in August (2103), so my plants are nowhere as big just yet, but they were still beginning to flop away from the canes, like this one in the next photo.

So they all got tied-in, using 2 or 3 turns of soft string to secure them to the bamboo canes. I always tie them fairly loosely, to allow for the expansion of the main stem as it grows.

The plants were also in need of side-shooting. In the so-called "axil" between the stem and each leaf a new shoot forms.

Before removing the side-shoots

Left to its own devices therefore, a tomato plant will become very bushy, but for the cordon method this is not desirable, so they are removed. This ensures that the plant's energy is put into the main stem and the flower/ fruit trusses that grow directly from it.

After removing the side-shoots

End result - a tidy, slim plant, well secured to its support:

Most of my plants are forming their first truss of flowers now, so things are going according to plan so far. No sign of the weedkiller contamination that ruined my crop last year (fingers crossed!).

Here are the plants, lined up against the wall of our house. Hopefully I will be able to re-distribute them into one single rank in a week or two, when some others things are ready to move elsewhere.

On a slightly different note, here is a tip I picked up from Jo at The Good Life. Although many of my tomato containers are now purpose-made ones complete with their own "saucers", not all of them are, so if you haven't got saucers you can use seed-trays, (not the ones with drainage holes in, of course!), like this:

Doing this makes it a lot easier to see when the pots need watering - if the tray is dry, add water; if not, don't! Pouring the water into the tray is also better than pouring it on the top of the compost. If you pour it on top, some of the water will evaporate before it reaches the plant's roots.


  1. A few years ago I found out if when you are pinching out side shoot you pop the shoots into a pot of compost they root and you have another plant, it will fruit a bit later, I often did this my first pinching out's.
    I have tomatoes set now on most of my plants they are doing well this year.

  2. Thanks for the mention. My dad always told me to water tomatoes from the bottom and feed them from the top. Apparently, tomatoes have two root systems, the deep set roots absorb water whereas the feeding roots are set more shallow. This is the idea behind ring culture pots where you're able to put the feed in the central chamber and water in the outer moat which enables each to reach each particular root system more efficiently. Your plants are looking good, nice and sturdy. We both had problems with them last year so it's good to see that they're all doing much better this time round.

  3. I have never grown my tomatoes as Cordons. Can't wait to do that now. Your plants look wonderful in the first shot.

  4. Your tomatoes look fabulous - I'm so glad that you seem to be weed killer free this year! I'm a huge fan of bottom watering & do that almost exclusively when growing seedlings indoors.

  5. Thank goodness things seem to be going well this year. I was always a cage person myself. Not that I thought one was better than the other. They have different strengths and weaknesses. But for me not having to keep up with the pruning was nice.

  6. Your crop of tomatoes for 2 years ago looks huge! We have never succeed in growing many tomatoes outside. We are hoping to have more success with growing them in our greenhouse. I like the tip about the saucers. I get distracted after reading this post and noticed old posts about the Sciliy isles which i enjoyed it's some where I would love to visit. That plane looks so small. Sarah x

  7. My only comment is ... amazing!!!

  8. this year I will not remove side shorts in order to keep the plant more healty against fungi problems. This is a method suggested by the sinergic agricolture. We will see if it works or not! ;)

  9. How much direct sun are they having and also do you protect them somehow when it rains?
    I keep imagining you and Mrs. Jane running with those pots, trying to save them from rain ;)
    This is my first tomato season, sorry to bother you...Bravely I put last week 1! ! cherry type tomato
    in the cold ground, planted together with 1 red basil, and he will get apprx. 7 hours of direct sun, from 12.30 till 19.30- 20.00....the other one - Tiny Tim will stay in windowsill like... forever: that's until he decide to die :)or I kill him with overwatering, which I intend to do with majority of my plants...warm regards, Elza

    1. Hi Elza; The tomato plants get about 6 hours of direct light each day, which seems to be enough. I grow them in the same place every year, and they usually do well enough. They certainly do not need protecting from the rain once they are this big.


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