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Orchid Lady

My tomatoes are about 15" tall, in the GH but no signs of any flowers forming?  How big are they normally before flowers form?  I haven't removed any of the side shoots yet or put them in their grow pots / grow bags, but they are in quite big pots.

The reason I am concerned is that I think I may have made another mistake!!!  I know from info on here that you aren't meant to feed veg plants before flowers form and I haven't - intentionally. However, muppet me in my enthusiasm for big healthy plants bought the Miracle Gro Compost, when I planted them on the first time I used this (but not the second time) I am now worried that I have inadvertently fed the plants (and not only the tomatoes!) and I have ruined them 


Don't fret  - they'll be fine - the Miracle Gro does have added fertiliser, but so do all composts - I wouldn't expect flowers yet 

What varieties have you got?


Nip out any sideshoots you can see OL. They'll be fine - I grow mine in large pots as I find that easier, and they don't need as much feeding as people believe but you won't have done any harm. You'll probably find flowers forming quite soon -depends on the variety and all sorts of other factors like location and temperature etc. 

Orchid Lady

The ones in question are Alicante (I think!), I had written it down but can't find the list 

I'm also growing Tumbling Toms, red and yellow but they aren't affected as I'd run out of Miracle-Gro and didn't buy any more as I'd already read it wasn't worth the money!

Orchid Lady

I still don't understand the side shoot thing, it has been explained so many tomes but how do I know flowers won't form on the shoots I take's the one thing in gardening I can't get my dippy head round 



The flowers on the trusses are very evident from the start, long before the buds open, also the trusses form along the stem,the sideshoots form at the junction of every leaf.

If you are worried let the sideshoot get a couple of inches long before you remove them, that way you cant mistake them for flower trusses.

With the Tumbling Tom its a lot easier as you dont remove anything.

You're right in that flowers will form on the sideshoots but the reason for removing them is to put the energy into a set number of trusses, 4 or 5, and you get better crops that way.

Hope that helps



The Alicante are what's known as determinate (or in our house - the tall ones that need staking ).  Here's how I  understand it.....the side shoots, if left, will eventually produce flowers and fruit but it takes the plant a lots of extra energy to grow these side shoots and then the flowers and fruit. This means the first lot of fruit may take longer to grow and ripen, and given the shortness of our summer times you may end up with a lot of green tomatoes (I know this from experience and I have a lovely recipe for Mangoish chutney made from green toms if you ever need one!).  If you remove these side shoots, the plant can concentrate its energy on the flowers and fruit that grow from the main stem and you'll have tomatoes sooner and hopefully most of them will have the chance to turn red.   

With the tumbling ones, these are known as bush tomatoes and they wont have one main stem but lots of branches, so you don't pinch these out, jut let them get on with it.

Hope this helps - took me a while to get my head round it too, I don't know if I've got it right yet but it seems to work for me.  My main advice is don't worry about it - just go with the flow.  If it doesn't quite work out - call it an experiment and have another go next year!


Orchid Lady

Thanks Scroggin, so if I've understood right, I should take the very bottom shoots and also the ones above (sort of in the middle if the plant) off? Is that it then?  I leave the rest?  I think I'll just grow the determinate type next year so I don't have to worry 


OL there is a main stem and leaves growing from it, right and left, right & left all way up. Side shoots are the little bits growing between the main stem and the leaves. These are what you nip out. Don't do the very top ones until you are sure which is the main stem.


HI OL - I've circled the ones I would pinch out .....I can't really see what's happening at the top but if I was unsure I;d leave it til they got a bit bigger....


Orchid Lady

Thanks everyone....I'm going to give it a trim now and post the pic again to see if I've done it right 

I don't know if it's me getting muddled but I though determinate were the bush type and inter-determinate this type....I think I'll just call them bush and straight it's easier 

By the way, I'm not 100% sure they are Alicante, I just know they aren't. Moneymaker and are definitely the tall straight type, it's just Alicante is sticking in my mind for some reason!! 

Orchid Lady

Oops, i didn't see your picture post until after I'd chopped Potters, but this is what I've looks very bare 

 Ps ignore the label, the pot was recycled and I couldn't get the label off!

Green Magpie

Looking at that, I think I can see tiny side-shoots just appearing: if you look at the back edge of the pot and then just above it, you can see that there's a big leaf going our to the right, and then between it and the main stem, a tiny sprouting shoot, and the same at the next joint up. These are (unless the camera deceives me) new sideshoots and should be pinched out. That is where you find the side shoots, at a leaf joint between the leaf and the stem. They come back sometimes and you have to keep doing it.

Having said that ... my daughter has an allotment and grows Gardener's Delight, which is an upright and should have the sideshoots removed. She was too busy/careless to bother (and went on hol in August), and she still had a terrific crop of tomatoes. The old boys on the allotment were critical at first, and then quite envious of her success, as she had far more tomatoes than anyone else! So it's not that crucial.

Miracle Gro is a "balanced" fertiliser and won't do any harm - it will have fed the roots, leaves and shoots. At the worst it might leave the plants low in magnesium, which would discolour the leaves, and it may have made them a bit leggy.  But they'll be fine, I'm sure. Eventually you should get yourself some tomato feed, which will have the right balance of nutrients (high in potassium to help fruiting, and probably with magnesium too), and start administering that when the first tiny fruits start to form.


OL oops. Never mind you can plant it deeply when it goes into final pot. Leave it alone for now and when it starts to look like it did before follow what Potters showed you.

I'm reporting you to the Cruelty to Tomatoes society.



I have a friend who describes the pinching out of sideshoots as " shaving their armpits" Which describes it nicely.


It'll be fine OL.

And you're right, the long tall ones are indeterminate, my mistake!  Which is why we call them the tall ones and the bush ones too!  

Busy Bee2

Okay OL - don't panic, but my advice would be to plant out and bury some of that stem so that some of the hairs can become extra roots.  This will help the plant to re-group.  Don't feed until the first truss has set.  I have used Miracle Gro this year because I have found a cheap supply of it.  The fertilizer is slow release anyway, so it won't overload your plant - only reason for not fertilizing too early is so that the plant concentrates on reproduction.  Are you planting into the greenhouse soil or into a bigger pot?  If using a grow bag you might want to consider a bit of ring culture so you can get it in a bit deeper.


OL. - only two of my tomato plants have any flowers on them (and they're both called Dave) - the others (a mix of Dave and Roma) aren't even showing signs of even thinking about flowering yet.


I grow Roma, you dont pick out side shoots of those, they were fantastic last year, I still have some in the freezer.