Remove lower branches?

raymondo17(z9 Sacramento)May 13, 2011

I've heard that a good preventative measure when growing tomatoes is to remove the lower branches from the plant. My plants are about a foot and a half to two feet high. How much of the lower foliage should I remove?

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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Anything coming close to touching the ground IME. Wind and rain can cause them to touch ground where they come in contact with fungus and soil born pathogens.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:21PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Some trim up to just below the first bloom/fruit cluster. I remove any that will touch the ground as Taz said above. Sometimes that may be the same thing depending on the type of plant.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:49PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Can one just cut a branch halfway, just to get it off the soil? I have my tomatoes and peppers in containers and today, I pinched off any branches that were lying on the pine bark mulch to keep them out of the water when I water the plants and pinched a few branches that were higher up, back just so they were no longer touching the mulch. The rest of the branches are hanging over the rim of the pots. I was thinking that taking out the branches that were lying on the soil would also help with air circulation. Will it?

The tomatoes are Celebrities, which I'm told are bush tomatoes, so I haven't pinched out any suckers that are coming out.



    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 6:43PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

I'm not sure of this but I think when the leaf branch/stem gets damaged the plant cuts off circulation to that branch/stem. We'll see because I just pinched the end leaf off a couple myself that were touching the ground.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:04PM
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raymondo17(z9 Sacramento)

Thanks for the input here, everyone.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 1:59PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)


What taz describes is usually what has happened if I snip off part of a branch, though occasionally the rest of the branch yellows and dies.

But honestly, if you have healthy tomato plants in containers with store-bought pine bark mulch, I wouldn't worry about them touching the mulch. The chances of getting a fungus seems very small under those circumstances---the mulch is a layer between the branch and the soil, and your soil in a pot (unless you dug it up from an existing in-ground tomato bed) is less likely to have anything bad in it.

And, as you say, Celebrity is a bush variety so the size of the plant is limited---if you remove some of it you'll remove some potential tomato harvest for probably very little benefit, since the risk you'd be avoiding is very small.

The advice to remove lower branches makes more sense for indeterminate varieties (which keep on growing up and up, and producing, all season) that are planted in the ground (where you are more likely to get fungus and other pathogens from contact, or splashing, with the soil).

Though it's a risk/benefit equation in every case. My toms are sort of in between---they are in raised beds with good drainage, and surrounded by clean paper or straw mulch. I usually don't remove lower branches unless/until the bed is looking very crowded down there, making it harder for air to circulate and me to harvest, or I see any of the low branches on a plant starting to turn yellow/brown, in which case I remove them quickly.

Many of my plants stay healthy, even the lowest branches, and I harvest a lot of tomatoes from those branches I would have broken off.

But sometimes a branch gets infected, and infects several others around it, and I end up clearing quite a bit.

The good news is that tomatoes are pretty hearty, forgiving plants if they are grown in good conditions and you will probably get a good crop either way!


    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 10:20AM
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