Here’s a method of growing that is frequently used in greenhouses to grow more tomatoes without the plants growing through the roof – they will if you let them!

Double Stem Technique
Double-stemming is when a side shoot is allowed to grow (on a tall variety) and become a second main stem. This has the advantage of growing more trusses at a lower height.

Hybrids and plants that have been grafted are usually more vigorous and ideal for this method of growing tomatoes.

Allowing more than one stem to grow on a tall variety is also most successful on cherry varieties where plants find it easier to bring tomatoes to maturity.

It’s possible to grow more than two main stems …

Pruning Tomato Side Shoots

This photo shows a Sungold (tall variety) that had an accident and lost its main stem – I dropped a sheet of plastic on it!

I’ve allowed three side shoots to grow – one either side (as marked) and one behind. From each new side shoot stem, you then grow one or two trusses.

For example, if I have one main stem and allow two side shoots to develop, I will end up with three stems.

I then grow one truss from each stem making a total of three trusses and hopefully end up with the same amount of tomatoes as if I had grown one stem with three trusses!

You may ask why only three trusses – why not six?

If you live in an area where the growing season is short, and summers are often disappointing, then the fewer trusses you grow, the more chance there is of success. I usually grow more than three though!

It is best to do this in the first part of the season (during June) as side shoots can take a while to grow and produce trusses.

6 Responses

  1. Nick
    | Reply

    The main stem is left to grow as normal – the side shoot or shoots are allowed to grow from above the first or second leaf joint. Pinch out the main stem before the end of the season to encourage the other stem or stems to catch up.

  2. David pro
    | Reply

    Which sucker should I keep to create a two stem tomato

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Keep the lowest or next lowest sucker if it’s healthy.

  3. c
    | Reply

    why is it that we don’t normally allow side shoots to grow?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Side shoots are usually removed from tall varieties to encourage the plant’s energy into the trusses which grow out of the main stem. The more side shoots you have, the slower the trusses will grow.
      However, if you have a long growing season (unlike the UK) it won’t matter if it takes longer for the toms to mature because the growing conditions will still be good when they do.

  4. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    My Alicante is a bit like this. I’ve just kept growing what I bought from the garden centre and now have 10 trusses on a plant which is only about 70cm high. I already have about 25 tomatoes set and growing and hopes for quite a lot more.

    Can verify that this is a very good tip!

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