How to delateral tomatoes

Late November to early December
  • Choose a day when the sky is blue and there’s a good breeze. If it’s overcast and still, it’ll most likely also be humid and humidity can cause blight. Blight is a disease of the foliage and fruit of tomatoes or tubers of potatoes, causing rotting.
  • Start by identifying the two strongest leaders on the plant. You want to train only two leaders up your stake.
  • Remove all other leaders by pushing the stalk upwards then downwards (or vice versa) with your hands (no need for secateurs) and it’ll break off.
  • If there are flowers and fruit already on your plants, decide if the plant is vigorous enough to nourish them. If not, break them off too.
  • Break off all the lower leaves. This creates air movement around the plant which wards off diseases. If lower leaves have started to curl it’s a sign of cold weather or wind.
  • A lateral is anything that can grow into a leader. Laterals are the secondary stems on tomato plants that can grow up almost as sturdily as the main two stems and go on to produce fruit. However it’s generally best to get rid of many of the laterals as otherwise the plant has to work too hard to support all the growth, and the tomato fruit ends up smaller and not as good quality.
  • Use soft ties to secure the leaders to the stake. You may need to tighten any old ties.
  • Now paint Flowers of Sulphur on the wounds where you’ve removed laterals using a small art paint brush. This reduces the risk of infection which causes blight.
  • Laterals can be put straight into soil and they’ll grow into plants.
  • If you’re a smoker, it’s best to use gloves when delateralling tomatoes. Smokers can carry a disease on their fingers called tobacco virus. If one plant gets tobacco virus it’ll wipe out your entire tomato crop.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes