Removing leaf branches or de-leafing tomato plants usually begins when the lowest leaves begin to turn yellow.
Yellow leaves around the base of a plant are very common and it’s caused by plants sending their nutrients to the upper leaves and growing tip – the lower leaves become unnecessary and are best removed.
The usual method of de-leafing tomato plants is to remove leaf branches up to the truss that is producing ripe tomatoes.
When tomatoes on the first truss are ripe, leaf branches can be gradually removed up to that truss. Similarly, when tomatoes on the second truss begin to ripen, leaf branches can be gradually removed up to the second truss and so on.
I don’t usually remove leaf branches above the second or third truss because I only grow up to six or seven trusses and tomato plants do require some leaves!
A Tomato E-book
There is a very well promoted tomato e-book advertised on the internet. Its main selling point is to suggest that tomato plants can grow successfully with very few leaves, so it teaches to remove most of them, that is, remove all except six leaves at the top!
I would strongly advise against stripping a plant of its leaves, leaving only the top few branches. In my experience it would send a plant into stress that would have a negative affect on its tomato production.
Advantages of De-leafing
However, when de-leafing is done gradually and moderately, it does have a number of advantages:
- Increases air flow which helps prevent fungal diseases
- Removes the opportunity for aphids and other critters to breed
- Helps direct nutrients to the growing tip and fruit
Professional tomato growers who grow in ideal glasshouse conditions, grow more trusses on their plants than we do. Therefore, they will remove a lot more leaf branches because their plants grow to a height where they need a ladder to pick them!
Of course the more trusses you have, the longer it may take for the lower trusses to ripen. That’s the challenge when growing tomatoes in a short season area like the UK, tomato plants need to be encouraged to reach maturity more quickly than if left to do their own thing!