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I have been removing the leafy branches from my tomato plants. Is that wrong?

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  • Two questions: Why did you do it and why do you think it might be wrong? – Stephie Nov 7 '15 at 12:38
  • Oh, and a third one: How far apart did you plant them? – Stephie Nov 7 '15 at 12:38
  • Hmm they look naked now! I did the brussell sprouts and thought I might do the tomatoes as well, making it easier ti thread through the mesh instead of tying them. They are planted side by side some of them, self sown from last year. – Tom Donald Nov 10 '15 at 6:58
  • They appear to be fruiting ok, many flower buds appearing. How can I add a photo here? hmm – Tom Donald Nov 12 '15 at 4:49
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There are branches and then there are suckers. Most people remove suckers (the growth occurring in the angle between the main trunk and stem) so that this maximizes fruit production at the top of the plant. If the lower suckers are left untouched, then fruit can form on these low suckers and bend the branches so that the fruit and branch ends up on the ground, and can rot.

Suckers are also removed differently depending upon whether you have a determinate or indeterminate tomato plant.

To properly prune a determinate tomato, pinch all suckers from the ground level to the first flower cluster.

determinate pruning

To properly prune an indeterminate tomato, prune all suckers from the ground level up to the second flower cluster.

indeterminate pruning

The effect of removing the lower suckers is to increase the air flow through the plant and discourage insects and disease. If other branches are not looking healthy, you can also remove these. Removing healthy branches for no other reasons can reduce the size of your fruit.

LSU Agricultural Center

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    Suckers? You surely mean shoots, don't you - sucker is a specific term applied to growth from a rootstock, so unless the tomato plant has been grafted onto different roots (which isn't impossible, but not usual), it can't produce suckers. – Bamboo Feb 28 '16 at 13:36
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    @Bamboo The word sucker seems to have a special meaning when applied to tomato plants. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 28 '16 at 17:09
  • encyclopedia.com/topic/sucker.aspx a side shoot from an axillary bud, as in tomato plants. – Graham Chiu Feb 28 '16 at 18:15
  • @Bamboo Seems some people think grafted tomatoes have larger yields. growingformarket.com/articles/grafted-tomatoes – Graham Chiu Feb 29 '16 at 4:41
  • Only in America!! It appears, confusingly, you do all use the term 'suckers' for what we call 'side shoots' or 'laterals'. 'Sucker' used in this way is only listed on worldwide/American general dictionary or tomato growing sites - everywhere else, including my horticultural bible/dictionary of terms, they're side shoots. As for grafted toms, never grown 'em - have enough trouble using up the crop from 4 plants, given they all come in a short space of time... – Bamboo Feb 29 '16 at 13:58

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