(Updated for 2019.) WHY do I remove the side-shoots, or “suckers,” from my indeterminate tomato vines? Because they burden the plants with excess foliage. Too much lushness promotes the shady, wet conditions that can lead to fungal diseases. Furthermore, plants with too many stems produce small-size fruit. For healthy plants and large, high-quality tomatoes, those suckers ought to go:
You can always spot a sucker on a tomato vine, because it grows between the axil, or crotch, of a stem and a branch. In the photo up top, I’m pointing to a soon-to-be-severed sucker on one of my twelve plants. To remove a small growth like this one, I simply bend it from side-to-side until it breaks free.
I use pruning shears to remove large shoots.
Now, you don’t have to remove the suckers from your vines. But left to their own devices, I can tell you that tomato plants soon grow an enormous quantity of stems, require vast amounts of space and endless tying, are susceptible to disease, and produce low-quality fruit. However, a well-pruned vine, one whose leaves are all exposed to the sun, invites both health and jumbo-size produce. And such a vine can be easily maintained in small, 12-to-18-inch quarters.