lereg15
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: Crossville, Tn

Heavy pruning of tomato plants

Hello All!! I have read and now doing an experiment (only on a few plants), in which I have taken all of the lower leaves off my romas, only leaving the very top leaves on the plant. Since most tomato plants grow a leaf and then the next limb would be the flowers, I decided to take a chance on a couple to see how much of a difference in product I will or will not yield.

Has anybody ever heard or tried this for themselves? It seems like they are doing pretty well, so far, but I would love to hear comments and thoughts about doing this.

Thank you for your input!!!

https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/62/001wyg.jpg/

CharlieBear
Green Thumb
Posts: 588
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 5:19 pm
Location: Pacific NW

The Oregon State Extension suggest that you remove all of the leaves that are on the ground or would be splashed by very careful watering. I am not sure what you mean by only top leaves. It is possible to take off too many leaves as they feed the plant. Generally, however, we wait until the first leaves at the very bottom start to turn yellow before removing the leaves at the bottom of the plant. Of course, we remove any suckers as we go.

lereg15
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: Crossville, Tn

CharlieBear....

In this experiment of mine, and the site that I saw, they said that a tomato plant only needs three leaves to survive. That being said, the picture that I posted, of the one roma plant has over 100 tomatoes and flowers on it. Like I said, I'm still iffy on the whole thing, but I can say that my pruned plants are doing better than the ones with leaves on them. I will look for the site and try to post it at a later time. :). Also I will post the results of the progress as they come!!

TZ -OH6
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

It sounds like the info given in "Organic Tomato Magic". :(

lereg15
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: Crossville, Tn

Actually, I just found it, and that's it. Does the frown mean something bad? I have plenty more plants to cultivate from if I need to.

TZ -OH6
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

I have read the whole thing (OTM) and found it quite disturbing. I don't think that the author grows tomatoes. He seems to live in Canada and doesn't understand conditions further south. I am sure that he doesn't understand how a plant functions, and he misleads people by finally admitting that the super harvests that his grandfather grew were from a Polish/European commercial tomato variety not available to most people if it even still exists.

Here is a quote off of the front page of the website

"Today, When You Cut Open a Tomato, What Happens?

Well, first of all, notice that most tomatoes are thick skinned, they’re uneven, most of them are deformed. Cutting it is almost like trying to saw your arm off. Unless you have an extremely sharp knife, cutting tomatoes is a massacre."


This is the one reason why I don't think he grows or knows much about tomatoes because although grocery store tomates are thick and hard they are also perfect in shape (or they don't make it to the shelves). Nearly all home garden grown hybrid tomatoes are also perfect in shape, and none of them are hard like the grocery store ones. Some heirloom tomatoes can be lumpy, but they are also softer than the hybrids and the flavor of some of them is spectacular.

If I recall correctly he also makes some statements about tomatoes breathing air and the leaves just getting in the way.

Basic, undisputed plant science shows that leaves capture sunlight and take in carbon dioxide. The light energy is used to transfom the CO2 into larger carbon/organic molecules (which we eat as food). Carbon is far more than 90% of the plant's dry weight. The other portion comes from oxygen (from the CO2), hydrogen (from water), and "fertilizer" [Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus plus trace elements]. No Leaves = starved plant.

If you prune off all but the top three leaves those leaves never reach maturity which means that they can barely support their own growth let alone put any flavor into fruit.

The author of OTM also doesn't seem to know about sunscald. It doesn't matter if your three-leaved plant grows a billion pounds of fruit if every one is ruined by sunburn.

A summary of OTM is that to get the magic results you have to grow tomatoes like the author's one armed grandfather...in a greenhouse hanging on lines heavily pruned and using his soil mix and the mystery tomato variety available 50 years ago. If you pay the money for OTM he goes into the details.

Most of what he describes is a valid way to grow tomatoes practiced by commercial greenhouse tomato growers, but the actual commercial greenhouses do not leaf prune the tomatoes nearly as much as the author suggests. They keep several feet of adult leaf growth at the top of the plant (everything above the fruit that they are about to pick), but by the end of the growing period they may have 20 feet of vine below it so the plant looks like it has no almost no leaves.

There is a series of videos on the web of a man who does heavily prune tomatos for commercial ourdoor growth with good results, but again the pruning is nowhere close to as extreme as OTM. Whenever you see a growing "secret" just remember the billions of dollars spent over more than 50 years (modern science since WWII) by agricultural stations and universities to maximize harvests.

You can maximize harvest by pruning to a single vine and close planting. here are some examples.

There are only three mature leaves on this plant, the rest are still growing. I have pruned the bottom leaves off to help prevent blossom end rot and reduce fungal problems but I don't plan on doing any more pruning.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/5940220913/in/photostream

These plants are spaced 10-12 inches apart

https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/5940220911/in/photostream

Here is an example of growing several pruned single vine plants per cage instead of one large unpruned plant. This way I get several big first trusses instead of just one. Main stem trusses tend to be bigger than those on branches.

Both of these plants are in the same cage

https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/5940345925/in/photostream

https://www.flickr.com/photos/51251503@N03/5940347745/in/photostream

This takes a little more work than letting a plant go unpruned, and the extra harvest may not be worth the time to most people.

lereg15
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: Crossville, Tn

Thanks for your help TZ!! I haven't tried gardening in about 30 years, so my ignorance on the whole subject is outstanding. I have never even thought about the sunburning factor on the fruit, beings that I don't have a greenhouse. This is my trail and error year and I will definitely be more prepared next time!!

Beings that I have already butchered my plants, which seem to be doing fine, would I be able to salvage them by not pruning them anymore and letting them all fill out again?

Also, I was just reading, again, the sticky about the flowers falling of, due to stress. Could this be what may be happening to some of my flowers as well, due to the lack of leaves? I may have a few here and there on some of my other plants, but it seems like my 'bare' plants are a little worse off.

Also, I was using a soaker hose to water them with, and on my day off I went out to watch them water and noticed that my hose wasn't working all the way through, the way it should. I have since started to water them all, at the base, with my regular hose now. How long does it usually take the plants to adjust to the 'regular' watering again?

Once again, I appreciate your help :D !!

TZ -OH6
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

Sure, just let them grow out of it.

I'm not sure what you are going to do about support. I don't think your lines are going to hold up the plants or let you get at them without tripping and breaking useful body parts. Spreading out a thick layer of straw and letting them sprawl might be the way to go, but check out the tomato support sticky thread and see if you get any ideas.

lereg15
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: Crossville, Tn

Yeah, my support system has bit to be desired. On my next day off, I plan to buy some 1x1x8's and restake them up the way I should have in the first place.

Like I said before, this is my trial and error year, but I am hopeful to get a decent size harvest at the end of it!!

I will check out the sticky once again though for further info.

User avatar
JC's Garden
Senior Member
Posts: 280
Joined: Mon May 12, 2014 10:43 pm
Location: Moultrie, GA Planting Zone 8, Sunset Zone 31

Re: Heavy pruning of tomato plants

I stumbled across OTM earlier this year. I found it hard to believe but was looking for more info. Thanks to the members that posted for their input.
I think I'll stick to my method. I prune splash zone leaves and then sucker to get the shape and air circulation I need.

pow wow
Senior Member
Posts: 227
Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:55 am
Location: Alberta Canada

Re: Heavy pruning of tomato plants

I agree with you Super green Thumb. I wonder what part of Canada that author is from. Here in Calgary we get intense summer sun and I leave as many leaves on my tomato plants as possible to prevent sunscald. The fruit breathing and the leaves get in the way? Good grief!

One spring I was just monkeying about trying to create something that would keep my toms from falling over during high wind days. I created this and have been building my tom tipis ever since. lol
Image

User avatar
ElizabethB
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2105
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:53 am
Location: Lafayette, LA

Re: Heavy pruning of tomato plants

Romas are determinate and need little pruning - just trim the bottoms to keep the leaves off of the ground. I grow mostly indeterminate varieties so I can grow them vertically. I look for plants with only 1 main leader. If there is more than one I trim off the others. As the suckers form I trim them off.

When planting tomatoes all varieties benefit from being planted deeply. To plant I trim off all of the lower leaves and plant so only 1/3 of the plant is above ground. roots develop all up and down the buried stem and provide a better support system for the plant and more roots to absorb water and nutrients.

Curious to see how your experiment works.

Good luck
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown



Return to “TOMATO FORUM”