Q: Good day. I live in the Fraser Valley, just outside of Chilliwack. I have one-foot-tall tomato plants growing in 6-in. pots. I can’t plant them outside yet because the weather is still too cold. If I trim the plants back, will they become bushier with stronger stems?
You are absolutely not alone this year! Many gardeners have seeded too early, yet tomato plants can’t be put outside until the weather warms. That usually does not happen until around the third week of May. And with the weather this year, who knows??
Cutting them back is probably not a good idea. Instead, begin to “harden” them off (to get them used to being outdoors). Place the plants in a sheltered, shady spot during the day and bring them inside at night. It’s okay to plant them as soon as the outdoor temperature hovers around 10°C at night.
When you go to plant, lay the tomato plants sideways in the ground, rather than straight up. This will prevent the fragile plant from being hurt in inclement weather. Here is a great video demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_pqgvdk-3U
Be sure to pinch the “suckers” (small side shoots) regularly so the plant doesn’t grow a lot of foliage and few fruits. There are also some good videos online illustrating that. Next year, hold off seeding until early April. Later-sown seedlings grow faster, sturdier and require less effort on your part. They will catch up quickly with plants that are sown earlier.