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5 Steps to Train Tomatoes

Remove Tomato Laterals

How to Train Tomato Plants

Last year I grew tomatoes and they ended up as messy, huge bushes. They produced a great tasty crop but took over my garden. My mother-in-law has picture-perfect, trained tomatoes that elegantly climb a string and produce a mass of fruit. I have enlisted her advice on how to get some-what close to her amazing looking plants.

This is what she taught me:

*A lateral is a shoot that grows in the V shape between the main stem and a leaf.

  1. Tomato plants will produce well in a rich, fertile soil
  2. Provide support with a stake (or string). This will allow the plant to get optimum sunshine. As the plant grows attach it to the stake with ties. Make sure the ties are not too tight around the stem.
  3. Ensure that there is only one main stem for each plant.  
  4. Remove all laterals* as they grow. My plants have been in the ground for more than a month so I had a decent amount of laterals to remove. Some near the bottom of the main stem had roots so I have replanted those. Removing the laterals from the plant (See picture 1) will ensure that the plant is not using its energy to grow branches instead of tomatoes.
  5. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the plant as they start to wither and yellow.

Following these steps should result in tastier tomatoes, not necessarily more. Quality, not quantity.

Fresh Vegetables in season

For new readers, I set myself a project to collect food from the garden to use in my cooking three times a week.  We have had an endless stream of visitors over Christmas. The last of them left Monday. As a result I have been too busy to keep up with that style of post.  Be assured we continue to eat from our garden at least three times a week, even if it ends up being salad greens. The recipes I post are things we are eating and as much as possible include ingredients from the garden. There will be an abundance of zucchini, capsicum, eggplant and tomato recipes coming soon. I will also be starting some new projects. You can find all of my recipes on the Cook Fresh page, categorized by food type.

Home grown fresh tomatoes

Melbourne weather has changed from extremely hot to cold in the last two weeks. As a result I have had to do some repair work in my garden. My spinach all bolted and went to seed so I have removed a few plants and heavily cut back others to see if they are recoverable. I have been recording progress in my Garden Record Journal.  My poor snow peas were doing so well and tasted delicious. None of them actually made it inside the house as Punky (nearly 4) ate them all off the bush. The hot hot weather came and they fried. I have been busy this week feeding the tomato plants and giving all of the garden beds a good soak. Our Ornamental Pears are so confused by the cool weather that some of the leaves have started to change color. 

The beans are loving this crazy weather and are quickly growing.

I would love to hear about your garden, you can leave me a comment by clicking on Comments at the end of this post.

In the mean time I have now learned how to also train my tomato plants on string. You can read how to do so here.




A Fresh Legacy


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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Jessica @ Live Heathy Simply January 21, 2012, 9:46 am

    We moving to an apartment with a balcony and i’m really excited to have a balcony garden! What type of tomatoes would you recommend for a balcony?

    • Kyrstie January 22, 2012, 3:57 pm

      Hi Jessica, I love a balcony garden. I have seen a few amazing ones. Thank you for your question, I like to use Diggers Club Heirloom selection tomatoes in my garden. I can recommend their Principe Borghese Tomato. It is a dwarf variety suitable for pots. Keep it in a sunny position in very good soil and water often. Good luck!

  • The Food Sage January 22, 2012, 1:54 pm

    I have one huge tangle of tomatoes in my veggie patch this summer. Note to self: be better planned next year!

  • Gwyneth February 1, 2012, 8:15 pm

    i tie my tomatoes up a little differently which seems to work. I put a number of stakes amongst a patch of tomatoes and then tie branches to different stakes as they grow. So each plant is attached to 2 or 3 stakes. I think this lets more sun in and avoids squashing the plant. It looks more productive than neat! Gwyneth

    • Kyrstie February 3, 2012, 8:16 am

      HI Gwyneth, thanks for visiting. I have some additional stakes on some of my plants too as I started training them after the time my Mother In Law suggests. I have been removing all new laterals on those plants and that is also helping to keep them tidy and tall.

  • Joe cassar November 16, 2012, 9:26 am

    I have used a different approach this year for tomatoes in the garden, utilising the technique of removing leaves from the lower part of the stem even shortly after transplanting. This has given quicker growth. Watering which is a mixture of liquid manure, is applied directly to the soil on which the plant is growing, allowing liquid to seep deep down into the roots. I continue to cut all laterals giving stronger vine/branches and have each plant surrounded by stakes. Plants are looking extremely healthy and look forward to high yields this year.

  • Joe cassar November 16, 2012, 9:28 am

    I have a question about laterals on eggplants and capsicums and would imagine this applies similarly as it does to tomatoes. I would appreciate some feedback on this..

    • Kyrstie November 16, 2012, 12:13 pm

      Hi Joe, I have not tried removing the laterals with eggplants and capsicums. I will do some research and see what I can find out. I am relatively new to gardening, learning as I go along. I appreciate any tips I get from readers 🙂 I like your tip below on removing the leaves from the base. I may give this a go on one of my plants this year to see what results I get. Thanks.

  • Gary Cream January 30, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Hi Kyrstie,
    Great site!
    I have a large pond. What herbs can I growing in floating pots? Mint grows fantastically well. Will any of the normal vege patch herbs grow in same conditions?

    • Kyrstie January 30, 2013, 8:23 pm

      Hi Gary,
      thank you for your feedback. I apologise I have never tried to grow in floating pots so I am not sure what would work well in that growing environment. Have you heard of Swap Shuffle Share? (http://swapshuffleshare.com/) It is an online community of gardeners that encourages people to post questions. I am sure there will be someone in that community who will have experience with this and be able to answer your question. Good luck and I would also love to know the answer to your question. Kyrstie

  • Mike Lacoste May 4, 2014, 9:08 am

    Since I don’t have much room, I decided to grow a few things in containers. In 5 gallon buckets I have cherry tomatoes, one patio tomato, red, yellow, orange and purple bell pepper, gypsy, carmen, yummy petite, cucumbers and yellow squash, and green onions. Spotted my first two tomatoes today on the 25th day from transplant. So far so good.

    • Kyrstie Barcak May 4, 2014, 7:03 pm

      That sounds like a great collection Mike. Good luck. I hope that you get a bountiful harvest. Kyrstie

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