Topping tomato plants

Tomato    Zone 7B

So having read a bit more about growing indeterminates I have another question. Some people seem to advocate topping the tomato plants to ripen fruit later in the season, while other recommend simply pinching off flowers and new fruits. What is the opinion on here, is one method better than the other? How exactly do I cut the plants back (assuming I am successful with them of course!) :-)

Posted by: cara smith (2 points) cara smith
Posted: March 12, 2013


Tomatoes originated as perennial vines that can keep on growing for many years.(I saw some in Peru that were more than 12 years old and about 30 feet long!) Your indeterminate varieties will keep growing up and out until frost (or disease) kills them off.

"Topping" a plant means pinching or cutting off its growing tip (presuming you've trained it to a single stem) and preventing suckers from growing out of the upper leaf axils. I do it to keep the plant from growing above its eight-foot support wire beyond my reach! Topping also allows the plant to send it its energy into the leaves and ripening fruit below, rather than making new leaves and new fruit late in the season.

In terms of maximum fruit production over the season, I don't think it matters whether you choose to top & prune out suckers or pinch out the next blossoms. I'd go with topping. It's simpler.

Posted by: Peg Boyles (5 points) Peg Boyles
Posted: March 12, 2013

Are you concerned with getting those last few tomatoes prior to your last frost or overall output?

If what your asking is how do I get those final green tomatoes to start ripening prior to frost then I say try them both. Your goal is to send the plant a clear signal "you're dieing take care of your babies". So all its efforts turn towards getting that next generation ready because I'm not going to make it. So in addition to removing growing tips, and limiting the number of fruits so more effort goes to a limited set of fruit I have heard of "tugging".

You grab the plant and give a strong pull upwards damaging and breaking some of its roots this sends a pretty clear hey you're dieing message. Now I don't know how strong you are but I did pull some 5 foot tall tomato plants clear out of the ground not the desired approach. but just piled the plants on the porch came back 2-3 days later gave them shake and sorted out my ripe ones and then made green tomato relish with the rest.

Pruning the roots by pulling on the plants and thus breaking the root system to a considerable extent stimulates early ripening of the fruit. Of course such treatment early in the season is harmful. In North Dakota two varieties of tomatoes thus pruned early (July 23 and Aug. 17) produced a smaller total crop than those unpruned. Late pruning (Sept. 1), however, resulted in a decided increase in total yield. Plants thus stimulated practically ripened all of their fruits before the end of the season. 17
information taken from http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibr...

Posted by: Wurgulf (1 point) Wurgulf
Posted: March 28, 2013

From a plant disease perspective it's not too advisable to top your tomato plants. pulling off flowers and suckers are more advisable because you are not creating large wounds. When you top a plant that is a large opening for diseases to take advantage of. If you do top plants make sure you clean off your pruning sheers and do it on a very dry, sunny day.

Posted by: Kathryn Fiedler (72 points) Kathryn Fiedler
Posted: March 19, 2013

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