QUESTION: Should I pinch off tomato flowers?
ANSWER: Many gardeners recommend pinching off the first set of flowers a tomato plant produces in late spring, before the plant has been transplanted into the garden. If you wish to do this, it’s important to understand why the technique works, as you don’t want to just start removing flowers from your plant at random (since the flowers are where tomatoes will grow from).
Removing only this first set of flowers before transplanting your tomato plants will help the plants to spend just a little more time focusing on developing their root systems before they turn their energy and resources toward producing flowers and fruit.
When a plant has more well-developed roots, it will be better able to access moisture and nutrients in the soil as well as being more sturdy when conditions get windy. You can continue to encourage the development of a strong root system by burying tomato plants so that only the top three sets of leaves are above the surface of the soil when you move them into the garden. (Don’t try this trick with other plants, though, as it only works with tomatoes.)
Once your plants are in the garden, don’t remove flowers as there is no further benefit, and you’ll just be robbing yourself of delicious tomatoes. The only exception is when you are growing indeterminate tomatoes and have decided to use a pruning technique that leaves only four or five fruiting branches on the plant, which some gardeners do to trade number of fruit for larger size of fruit.