The Q&A Archives: Pruning Suckers On Tomatos

Question: I've always heard of people removing sucker or male leaves from their tomato plants to reap a better harvest. Is this true and how can I identify these leaves?

Answer: Suckers are actually secondary branches that may appear throughout the lower portion of the plant. These branches can be left in place or they may be removed. Reasons to remove them would include opening the plant up to better air circulation to help prevent disease problems, allowing more sunlight to penetrate inside the plant to help ripen the tomatoes faster, to reduce the weight of the plant to facilitate using less sturdy stakes, and possibly to direct more energy to the remainder of the plant. Removing suckers can also make it easier to harvest the tomatoes because they are easier to see. Whether to keep them or remove them is really a matter of personal preference and may depend on conditions each season. For instance, some years a bit of extra shade may be desirable to prevent sunburning the fruits, while in cloudy years every bit of sunshine helps. To do it, simply nip them off neatly with a sharp pruner.

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