Should leaves be taken off tomato plants?

anewgardenJune 7, 2007

This is my first summer attempting to grow tomatoes. I have several kinds, planted in several ways.

I read on a how-to site that if the leaves are not pulled off, or cut off tomato plants then all that is really growing well are leaves, few fruits will arrive because too much energy is going put into leaf production, instead of fruit production.


Please tell me what all you experts think about this!

Thank you so much!


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anney(Georgia 8)

Did you read that in Organic Tomato Magic? See the link at the bottom for a GardenWeb discussion of this method of tomato plant pruning.

Many people remove the bottom limbs under the first tomato blossoms to keep them from disease and contamination that can occur when the leaves are splashed with soil and water.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Tomato Magic discussion

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 10:31AM
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Oh, Thank -you SO much Anney! I have now read the postings and feel much more informed!

Yes, I had read the OTM site.

I went out this morning and almost de-leafed one set of plants in a large container. Perhaps I will be the one to experiment this summer and let you all see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 10:48AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I read on a how-to site that if the leaves are not pulled off, or cut off tomato plants then all that is really growing well are leaves, few fruits will arrive because too much energy is going put into leaf production, instead of fruit production.


Absolutely not true. ( smile)

The process that a plant uses to make energy compounds for growth and fruit set and maturation comes from photosynthesis.

And photosyunthesis as I'm sure you know occurs within the leaves of the foliage.

No foliage, or less foliage, less energy compounds made for all the things that the plant needs to do.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 11:22AM
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I always prune off any leaves and branches that are touching the ground or within a few inches of the ground. I find that this greatly cuts down on pest and disease problems.

Callie Works-Leary

Florida Pink heirloom tomato

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 12:08PM
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tomstrees(z6 NJ)

I've been reading that a lot of individuals are removing the bottom leaves of the plant that would be near soil or mulch to avoid the splash up of water/dirt as a way to prevent disease.

I'll report back to see if the method works ~
In the past my foliar problems happen after June ... we'll see ~


    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 2:43PM
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How does one upload photos here?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 3:08PM
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crabjoe(z7 MD)


People arn't really uploading photos to their posts. They're uploading to another server then using the html image take to show them within their post.
<img src="">;

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 4:45PM
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oh dear dear crabjoe
thanks for the info

couldn't figure it out
trying not to pout

hopefullysometime soon,
before the end of june

i'll run into someone clever
then i'll know how forever

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 6:27PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I try to avoid splash-up fungal problems. I use a red plactic mulch. I trim the bottom few leaves (especially ones that seem shaded by higher leaves). I gently move growing stems in and out of the cage to maximize sunlight exposure.

I don't get as much direct sunlight as I want for the tomatoes. I do everything I can to maximize that and reduce useless vegetative growth.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 7:20PM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

I NEVER remove ANY leaves from healthy tomato plants.

But, I live in a desert and don't have to worry about air circulation or ventilation around the bottom of the tomato plant, that might promote disease.

My results, in my area (without removing leaves) are that I produce an incredible number of healthy, tasty, beautiful tomatoes. Therefore, it must NOT be really necessary (at least in my area) to remove leaves.

I DO try hard to keep down weeds, and especially to remove any weeds that grow around the base of the plant.

In addition, I ONLY fertilize (lightly) up until about the time that I start seeing the first blossoms appear on the plant. THEN I STOP AND DON'T FERTILIZE AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. I do it in this way, since I feel that too much fertilizer will DEFINITELY promote EXCESS foliage growth, at the expense of tomato production. But I have to admit that I've never tested it out rigorously. It just seemed that in past years, when I did continue to fertilize occasionally, during the Summer, that I got very very large, very very healthy plants, but many fewer tomatoes than I would have expected.

I DO believe that there is some evidence, that if you stress your tomato plants JUST SLIGHTLY, and briefly, that you will be more likely to TRIGGER them into producing tomatoes, instead of just growing. If tomato plants have it too good, they just want to keep growing! This stress might come from excess heat, or an interruption in watering, or a slight lack of (or change in) fertilizer, or it might come from REMOVING SOME OF THE LEAVES.

I have no hard evidence for this, it is just a feeling, but it MIGHT help explain why removing SOME of the leaves, SOMETIMES, might be a good idea.

I would feel like an idiot, if I decided to write a book, and tell everyone that they had to do it MY way, because it is the BEST way.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 7:46PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I would feel like an idiot, if I decided to write a book, and tell everyone that they had to do it MY way, because it is the BEST way.


Aha, but you wouldn't do that. LOL

I wrote a book about tomatoes and all I could do was to say this is what I think of this or that variety, this is how I do fermentations, and on and on.

But at no time did I ever suggest that there was ONE best way to do anything, for there isn't. ( smile)


    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 8:13PM
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Carolyn I would just like to take this opportunity to tell you how impressed I am with your knowledge, patience and sense of humor. Sometimes as I lurk in the background on this forum, I'm sadly disappointed at the number of "jabs" you take all in the name of tomato gardening. Please know that I am sure I am one of many who appreciate your vast knowledge. Keep up the good work. Hope you have a speedy recovery from your surgery and will soon be up and about.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 8:28PM
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timmy1(6a ri)

On indeterminates, you should remove the lower leafs once you have over 20 branches. This is if you sucker to one main stem.

Only remove 3 branches at one time otherwise the plant could dehydrate due to too many open wounds.

The lowest leafs on indeterminates suckered to one main stem and grown up a string do not provide much of any photosynthesis as they are shaded out by the rest of the plant.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:28PM
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I have a hard time picturing bottom leaves being "shaded out by the rest of the plant". In the morning and evening, the sun is off to the sides, so unless your tomato is shaped like a very wide umbrella, how would this be possible?
Of course, I've also never gotten the theory that taking away a plant's leaves will make it bear more and bigger tomatoes. Cutting off the other TOMATOES, yes, but pruning out "suckers", aka leaves which make food, I've never understood.
Of course, maybe I should try the pruning method myself in a scientific manner before I say it can't work! :)
Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 12:40PM
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First of all I want to thank you experienced growers for taking time to respond to questions like this. This is my first year gardening and I owe much of my knowledge to you. Reading about the topics posted introduces me to the subject matter in the first place. I do further research on Gweb and the internet on some topics.
With this question, I've decided definitely to keep the trimming to a minimum. I do remove leaves if they look unhealthy or sometimes if they are just laying on the ground. I do agree that it makes sense to let the leaves remain since they produce the nutrients. One thing I could see doing is trimming off extra branches if cold weather or extremely hot whether was nearing and I wanted to get fruit finished quickly and wasn't conerned about future production. With all the extensive root system and nutrient uptake pattern in place for supporting a large plant suddenly going to one smaller area, wouldn't that help fruit finish faster?
I overplanted some Juliets and I think this would be a cool experiment. Being new to gardening, I have a lot of stuff to learn through trial and error. This process is one of the things I like about gardening.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 1:16PM
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windclimber(z5 KS,close to KCMO)

I concur with cbadcali.
There is much to learn here as I was just as you are a few years ago. My knowledge and experience has increased tenfold from reading and learning here.
I did an experiment last season............ Removed all suckers as soon as they appeared........ pruned all leaves up to the first set of blossom cluster.......
In reading that this would strengthen the main stem and increase fruit......... NOT
First I have to say that the variables in soil, weather, etc. etc. surely factored in, I lanquished the whole season watching the few tomatoes that did make it.
My garden resembled what Dr. Suess's might look like.
This year no pruning. I took some yellowed leaves off the very bottom touching the straw and wanted to slap my fingers for that.
They are the most prolific Prues, Love Apples and BC's ever with only watering once from the hose and once fed w/ emulsion. Since April 20th (Money Maker, Brown Berry, Vladimier Volstov,Uncle Steves Roma and Orange Globe all strong also)
I am going out soon and sacrifice one to experience, and prune as a control then compare to the unpruned other control and record in journal.

Thanks to the pro's for the advice and knowledge


    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 2:03PM
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I am kinda new to this. I have planted 25 plants this year, in hoping to get at least a couple of dozen :). I love planting and seeing the results. I to have a question about pruning. I was told by many of people that I should pull/pick off the "sucker stems". I wish I had a picture of what I am talking about. From the main stem of the tomato---gosh I can't describe it. But I know someone here will know what I mean. You all are so very intelligent growers in my opinion. My tomatoes are looking very healthy. I have a set of 12 and my husband has a set. I want to out do his :). I have many many blossoms and small tomatoes growing. I am just so scared that what I am doing (picking the sucker leaves off) is doing more harm than good. Here is what I was told about the sucker stems -- "They are taking all the nutrients away from the fruit". To sum this all up---IS THIS TRUE? Thank you for listening to me ramble.
Bless everyones garden :)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:23PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Hi solo - With the possible exception of any lower leaves that might come into ground contact, it is not required for any reason. Removing suckers is purely optional. Many do it, just as many don't. ;) It works either way.

There is a FAQ here (just click on FAQ at the top of the page) about pruning tomatoes you should read. It covers all the basic info. And if you need more info just do a search here on "pruning tomatoes". You'll get 100's of discussions on it to read and then you can decide for yourself.

However, keep in mind tho that pruning (removing suckers) is only advised for indeterminate variety plants - not determinate varieties. Enjoy your garden. ;)


    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:46PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

bump for a related question

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 7:51PM
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I've learned a lot by reading through this thread, so thanks to everyone who has contributed! I'm wondering, though, if there is a list of tomato strains that provide information on each strain (indeterminate/determinate, maturation time, etc)?

I'd love a link to something like that!



    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 4:06PM
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Just to add a quick note.

I grow all my own tomatoes during the traditional season but I buy my early and late season tomatoes from a hydroponic garden (13000 plants) just outside town. They are legendary in this area. After reading your many interesting points of view I asked if I could take a peek at their system. They hesitantly let me have just a peek and no more. To my surprise their plants were just stalks with very few leaves. Plants (and talk) are cheap, I've (thanks to you all) got the experimental bug. Tnx to all.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 1:49PM
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This is my first time growing tomato plants and I bought them from GRO_ECO, they used a copper based fungicide for fungus and bacteria control. On my leaves I see bleached color like spots, not all circles or dots. Some leaves have a yellow hallow and some with these tanish color or bleached like spots. I gave no idea what this is. My tomato plants get lots of sun and I thought it was maybe scorched from the sum. Can anyone help?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 9:36AM
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    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 2:52AM
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I leave the leaves on the tomato plant. I only remove the tomatoes from the plant...;-)

OK, Seriously, I may take a few lower leaves off if they get yellow/browned but that's it. Otherwise I never prune and grow huge monster plants and I have no complaints after 20 years of doing it this way...;-)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 10:03AM
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My first time growing tomatoes/gardening, I didn't understand/know what pruning meant and removed a good part of the branches. My plants looked really strange but did OK. :-)

The next year I learned that they meant that you should remove any and all suckers and spend a goodly amount of time doing that. I did and didn't have very many tomatoes. :-(

Now, I remove suckers only if things get out of hand, the very bottom leaves to prevent foliage disease and any foliage that requires removal.

The harvest is great with the latter method and I have few problems with the plants. ;-) ;-)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 11:18AM
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madferret(UK 8b-9a)

I've got 3 plants in all, 2 of which are hanging, but I've only removed the bad looking parts of the plant (of which the hanging type have none). This has resulted in a 'messy' looking plant but I've got clusters of fruit all over.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 1:18PM
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