Tomato side shoots and trusses can be confusing if you are growing tomatoes for the first time.
Which bits to remove and to keep when the plants are growing, is not always obvious, so below I have included a few examples which may help.
Tomato Side Shoots – Sometimes Called Suckers
Side shoots are removed from tall varieties – also called indeterminate or cordon.
Side shoots are not removed from bush varieties – also called determinate.
In the photo are two side shoots growing out between a leaf stem and the vertical stem.
It is best to remove side shoots from tall (cordon) varieties such as Moneymaker & Alicante, and leave the side shoots on bush varieties such as Tumbler & Red Alert.
I usually remove side shoots when they are about an inch long – as in the photo.
Pull them off rather than cut them off because blades and scissors can transfer diseases from one plant to another.
How To Remove Side Shoots & Suckers
Later in the Season – Bush Varieties
However, if in August your bush varieties are still producing lots of side shoots or flower clusters, you may decide to remove some so that the plants can direct their energy into the flowers and fruit already maturing, rather than creating new branches so late in the season.
A bush variety that produces large tomatoes will need some of its new side shoots/flower clusters removed late in the season because there is no way that these flowers can become ripe tomatoes before the weather turns cold and the season ends.
Tomato Trusses – What is a tomato truss?
Trusses Grow out from the Main Stem of Tall Varieties
Trusses grow out of the main vertical stem and not out of the elbows of the vertical and leaf stems.
The flowers pollinate and become tomatoes so you will want to keep these on the plant.
In the center of the pic there are flowers developing – this is a tomato truss on a tall variety.
This photo shows a good example of a tomato truss that is bearing tomatoes.
Helping Trusses to Set
One problem that can affect trusses and their flowers is Blossom Drop. This is when flowers fail to pollinate (set fruit) and the flowers drop off their stems.
To help avoid this problem, gently tap plants and mist with water. An electric toothbrush or battery shaver may be held against the flowers to create a similar vibration to a bumble bee. Bees are used in greenhouses or glasshouses to help pollinate tomatoes and other fruit.
If you have problems each season with pollination and fruit set, a spray is available. I would use this as a last resort as I believe there is an issue with the seeds (or lack of them) that are produced in the tomatoes of flowers that have been pollinated in this way.
More Information: https://www.ishs.org/ishs-article/288_28