Looking for information on exactly how to trim leaves on tomatoes to get the...

Asked March 27, 2013, 12:01 PM EDT

Looking for information on exactly how to trim leaves on tomatoes to get the best yields

Stark County Ohio

1 Response

Thank you for contacting As an Expert.
Tomato suckers are also called laterals or side shoots.
Suckers are the new growth that appears in the leaf axile
between the stem and a leaf. If left to grow, a sucker can
become another strong stem with flowers and fruit.
Tomato suckers can directly compete with the main stem
for nutrients, water, and sunlight, thus weakening the
main stem. Refer to Figure 7 for an illustration of a sucker.
Pruning is the removal of plant parts, and is quite
important in staked tomatoes. In tomatoes, pruning
mainly involves the removal of suckers or laterals. With
the staking method, one main stem is selected and kept
while all of the suckers or lateral branches are removed.
There are two common ways to remove suckers (Figure
7). One is called simple pruning, which is accomplished
by gently breaking off the entire young sucker at the base
Figure 6a. Staking is a good way to support tomato plants if
gardeners desire fewer, but bigger tomatoes. Shown here are
staked young tomato plants using bamboo poles. Photo by Gary Gao,
OSU Extension.
Figure 6b. Staked tomato plants in summer in a vegetable garden.
Photo courtesy of National Gardening Bureau (http://www.ngb.org/
index.cfm).Copyright © 2010, The Ohio State University
Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden—page 8
near the leaf axile. A second method of sucker removal is
called Missouri pruning, which is done by pinching off the
growing tip of the sucker just beyond the first two leaflets
of a sucker. The advantage of this method is that there is
more foliage left for photosynthesis (food production)
and better leaf cover to help protect the developing fruits
from sun-scald. It will be necessary to check your plants
weekly for sucker development.
Pruning is more critical in indeterminate tomatoes than
determinate ones. With determinate tomato cultivars,
gardeners only need to keep tomato plants free of suckers
below the first fruit cluster. With indeterminate tomato
cultivars, gardeners need to remove all of the suckers
either completely or the growing tips of suckers just
beyond the two leaves of each sucker. About one month
before the first frost in autumn, gardeners can also top
the indeterminate tomatoes by removing the top 4 inches
of the main stem. Topping helps slow down the growth,
thus channeling more of the sugar into ripening fruits.
I hope this answers your question. Feel free to contact us again with any questions or comments. http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/pdf/1624.pdf