If left alone a tomato plant will form many branches and grow into a big sprawling sort of plant. It will take up a lot of space and many of its fruit-laden branches will snap off in windy weather. It’s not a good look and is hard to manage.
In the home garden, it’s better to grow plants on a single stem or with two stems at the most. Plants so trained are more compact and produce bigger, more evenly sized fruit.
Tomato plants begin to flower when quite small. In the leaf junction immediately below the first set of yellow flowers, a lateral or side shoot forms. If you want to grow the tomato on two stems, allow this first lateral branch to grow but remove all further laterals from both the original stem and the new lateral.
If you want to grow a single stem plant, remove that lateral and all further ones that develop as the plant grows taller. Each leaf junction will produce a lateral and all you have to do is snap it off when about 3cm long. Use washed hands rather than secateurs. Be careful not to mistake flower buds for laterals – you’ll soon learn what each looks like.
Whether you grow tomatoes on a single stem or two, each stem will have to be tied to a tall tomato stake at intervals as it grows. Buy 2.4m stakes. Use budding tape (from nurseries) or other soft pliable material.
Do not use twist ties. Space the stakes about 40cm apart with the tomato planted between the two. Take off lower leaves as they begin to yellow. When the stem reaches the top of the stake, pinch out the growing tip of the plant.
Apart from the regular tomato we all know, plants come in types which produce fruit in many other sizes, shapes and colours.
Cherries, grapes, pears Small fruit in red or yellow. Good in salads.
Plum Red, round, medium-sized fruit. Good for sandwiches or as fruit for one.
Roma Size and shape of an egg. Meaty and firm, they’re ideal for cooking or stuffing.
Beefsteak Big, meaty, slicing fruit.