A way of training tomatoes for best fruit production - an adaption of the system used in commercial greenhouses.
I figured that the commercial growers would have worked out the best way to get maximum benefit from their investment so their system bore looking at and adapting.
What they do is instal inside the roof of the greenhouse, a suspension system to enable the Tomato plant to continue to grow, to be supported and the crop to be easily picked. There is a string from a reel in the roof tied to the plant when it is very small and it is wound around the growing stem. The first crop is picked and by then the plant is almost to roof height so (amazingly!) the stem is then coiled on the ground and the string let down from the reel in the roof.
Not having access to any overhead devices, I used what I had which are 6ft stakes which when belted into the ground yield 5ft of useable height. Anyway, I’m only 5ft 3in tall so having fruit much higher than I can reach is not much use to me. Those taller folk who have access to taller stakes or frames can have their plants a lot higher and work closer to the ideal and won't need multiple stems.
Start off with the single stem the plant comes with - oh and you can plant Tomatoes in the soil up to their first pair of leaves, giving them a bigger root ball for stability and taking up nutrients.
Remove the laterals regularly - at least weekly -
and tie the plant onto the stake with a long string right up to the top of the stake. Or tie it to a trellis. It’s useful to drill a hole in the top of the stake to thread the string through. [The above 3 photos show different types of laterals - see the Album 'Tomato Taming' for more description]
As the plant grows, just twiddle it around the stem with the string.
The fruit will start to form and by this time the plant is up to the top of the stake, then remove the growing tip. This will stop its upward march but encourage the development of even more laterals. Not an ideal situation but you get that! So allow one stem to grow from the base of the plant - Tomatoes are enthusiastic growers and new stems will not be hard to find! Tie this stem up like the first one, remove the laterals as before. And unless you need an extra stem, remove the stems which arise from near the roots.
[This is ONE plant!]
With indeterminate Tomatoes - and that is the majority of varieties we grow this system works particularly well.
With determinate Tomatoes - the dwarf ones - it is not so necessary and probably a waste of time. Determinate Tomatoes usually produce one or two flushes of fruit then the plant goes into decline and that’s it finished. By the time a determinate Tomato starts to make extra stems it is in decline anyway so no need to do anything except harvest your crop.
The small-fruited Tomatoes can support up to 3 stems before they start to decline, the full-sized varieties run to 2 stems.
I’ve heard that Capsicums, Zucchini (with difficulty), Cucumbers and Aubergine (Egg Plant) can grow using this system. I have tried it with Capsies but they produce branchlets in a different way to Tomatoes and I have not persevered with it. Cukes can be tamed in this way more easily than I imagine Aubergine can.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Tomatoes trained in this way produce superior quantities of larger-sized fruit - especially the small-fruited varieties which tend to have myriads of tiny almost-unuseable fruit. It’s worth the effort!