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Removing tomato leaves?

I found a website tonight that says that removing most of a tomato plant's leaves is the key to growing lots of sweet tomatoes and keeping plants healthy. Does anyone have any information about this? I live in Houston, TX, and have never had luck with tomatoes, but I don't have $20 to spare to get this guy's e-book.



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
I've done that when planting. You pick off all the leaves except for the top 3 or 4 and then you plant it deeply so that only the leaves are showing. The idea is to promote lots of healthy root growth.

The only leave removal I've done after the tomato is grown up is to remove the suckers, those little odd shoots that come out at the junction of the branches. Maybe that's what he refering to.
Feb. 16th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)
Nah, he specifically says that a tomato plant needs only three leaves to make lots of fruit. I've done the burying thing too, but that's not what he means.

So far I've found a few mentions of it elsewhere on the web, but I am skeptical.
Feb. 16th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
I know you know this, but photosynthesis is what this whole game is about. Remove all but three leaves and your not getting any tomatoes. The big secret in the book might turn out to be some nonsense around only needing three leaves per fruit, or remove the suckers and train to a single pole etc.
Feb. 16th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
No, he really says that each plant needs only three leaves, period. I know, it's crazy and counterintuitive!
Feb. 16th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
Those would be awfully funny looking tomato plants!!
Jun. 14th, 2013 06:56 am (UTC)
I have the book and he did say after it is growing and has flowers to remove the branches under the flowerd branches and all leaves except the top three or four.
Jun. 14th, 2013 07:00 am (UTC)
Feb. 16th, 2008 01:14 pm (UTC)
Well, I had a 3 yr old do a frightful amount of damage to a tomato plant in a deck planter - removing most of its leaves. Granted it was not done with care and precision but that plant didn't produce much. I think I got four tomatoes after that, which were tasty but not very big. So I wouldn't try this experiment myself.
Feb. 16th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
I read on a blog once, that the blogger in question, removed a lot of the single leaves, leaving only the triplet leaves. This allowed a lot more energy to go into the fruiting junctions. I think the reasoning was, that the plant would grow to produce more fruiting junctions. It was inconclusive whether she got more useable tomatoes or not.
Feb. 16th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
I think there's definitely merit in that idea, although only three leaves is taking it a bit far! You want the plant to put its energy into fruit production rather than foliage.

I pretty much leave the plant alone until the blossoms show up, only removing suckers (shoots that appear in the "crotch" between the main stem and a branch). Then once the blossoms in, I remove all the branches up to the one with the lowest blossom cluster. I do prune back other leaves if the plant is getting really unruly, cutting off the branch at the main stem - I try not to remove branches with flower clusters.

With indeterminate plants, it's especially important that you remove suckers and do a bit of pruning, because it can just keep growing and growing in a warm climate like yours - and I mean, it can become like an eight foot high tangle. Determinate varieties don't need to be pruned much unless they're growing in a direction you don't want, or whatever.

This page has a pretty good explanation. Good luck!
Feb. 16th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
Planting wisdom passed down through my family is that you prune the small leaves that come up in the junctions. That sends the growth to the established leaves and flowers giving more tomato's.

I have also heard for sweeter tomato's you should put sugar into the water you feed them. I haven't tried this myself but it is something I have heard.
Feb. 16th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Oooo...I've tried that here in the South. Not a good idea. You end up with a large mound of fire ants around the plant within a few days.
But it could work well in other places depending on soil type.
Feb. 16th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
Fire ants bad!

I live in zone 6 and we don't have fire ants ... we do have sugar ants though. When I get a garden spot again I am planning on looking for heirloom tomato's that are less acidic for the hubby. So I will remember the ant thing.
Feb. 16th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
I prune the sucker vines and allow all of the leaves to remain. I have had good luck getting a lot of fruit by limiting the number of extra vines allowed to grow.
Feb. 16th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
It would be impossible to get lots of sweet tomatoes off a plant with only 3 leaves. Photosynthesis is how the plant produces its sugars/carbs. Without a sufficient source of the sugar how do you suppose those tomatoes get sweet, and without the other carbs, how does it make more fruit?

The only thing that I can think of that it might do is speed up the ripening of the fruit that is already set, but they won't be as sweet as fruit ripened on a plant where they are allowed to ripen naturally with a full set of leaves.

To get the most, sweetest tomatoes per plant, grow them in a large cage and don't trim suckers or anything else. There is no way that his 3 leaf plants outproduce my 10 foot monsters.
Feb. 16th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
You know, I was wondering about trimming because I had a veritable tomato jungle last year, after the hailstorm, with 5+ foot tall plants that were just *crazy* everywhere. We didn't have any cages, just poles and cotton string trying to keep them mostly upright and from becoming too much of a tangle. I had a good number of tomatoes, only they were very small, and they shouldn't have been (except for the romas.) We thought about trimming because it just seemed like some of the tomatoes were under the "canopy" of all the plant leaf mass...but I suppose the leaves are what need the light, not the fruits themselves?

We think it was a combination of the June 27th restart after the hail, and not enough good soil. We're taking extra pains to protect plants from hail this year and amending the soil more and more...so perhaps I'll skip trimming once it gets nuts again (hopefully) this year...

Feb. 16th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
The reason to trim is for control and access to the tomatoes. When they do a single stem in greenhouse production it is so they are easy to pick and so they can space them close together. I make my cages out of remesh (concrete reinforcing mesh with 6 inch openings) about 2 feet in diameter. When a branch pokes out, I just weave it back in.

Other than genetics, I've found that the size of the tomatoes depends the most on the soil fertility. In first year beds, they don't do as well as in older beds. Healthy plants make big healthy fruit. Weather affects fruit set and how fast they ripen.
Feb. 17th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
I think I know what they´re talking about. :-) I don´t know if you can see it in the picture - sorry, I haven´t got any better right now. You should cut the leaves, starting at the bottom of the plant. You have to do it after the tomatoes under the leaf are big enough and you have to do it gradually. You can´t cut off all at once. This way the tomatoes get enough sun and it also helps temporarily with potato blight. At the end of August you have plants with only a few or even none leaves - they don´t need them to ripen.

Feb. 18th, 2008 06:00 am (UTC)
Wow, your garden looks awesome! And that's a ton of tomatoes :)

Thank you for your explanation!
Apr. 27th, 2010 11:30 am (UTC)
Removing Tomato plant leaves
I read this last year on an american site and was VERY sceptical, but.............I tried it on half of my ten tomato plants and Guess what !! Yes they produced 50% more fruit than the other half.
Once the first truss of fruit has set, remove ALL leaves from below it. Then as the leaf stems become mature remove all but the top three leaves as they do (It looks as though you might have over done it and killed the plant, you haven't)
Three leave must be adequate surface area for photosynthesis so what you are doing in effect is reducing the ammount of plant that the roots need to nourish, therefor making more nourishment available for the fruit.
I promise you...........IT WORKS !!!
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