Q: Do I really have to pinch off my tomato flowers at this point?

A: Although it can be hard to do (mentally, not physically), pinching off any flowers on your tomato plants is a good idea in August. At this point, the fruit that might develop from those flowers will never have enough time to grow and ripen before our average first frost (it’s coming sooner than you think! Usually it’s around Oct 10…). Using your thumb and index finger nails, you can pinch off the flowers right where they attach to the plant. This is also a good idea on any other nightshade plants you have in your garden, such as peppers and eggplants. Doing this encourages the plant to direct its energy into growing and ripening the fruit it already has.

Another technique to consider at this point for your tomato plants is trimming off the tops of the plants. Once again, this will encourage the plant to direct its energy and nutrients to the remaining plant and fruit. This is called “topping” and can be useful for bringing especially large tomato plants back under control.

If any of your tomato plants have mostly yellow leaves at this point and little-to-no fruit. Go ahead and pull them. Do not compost tomato plants but go ahead and put them in the garbage. The possibility of passing diseases along is to great to risk putting them in the compost bin.

Contributed by Carey Harrington, Colorado Master Gardener. Photo courtesy of Colorado State University Extension. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 520-7684 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture website http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/horticulture/.