Why Topping Tomato Plants May Be Important for the Harvest

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If you want your tomato plants to grow well and get beautiful fruits, consider Topping tomato plants. This way of pruning will help your plants to produce more fruit and keep them healthier in the long run.

Here you will find out when and how to top off tomato plants, and what are the benefits and negative sides.

Do you want to learn more about this simple way of pruning? Stay here for a while….

What Is Meant by Topping Tomato Plants

Tomato plant with marked parts drawn on paper freehand

Topping is a type of pruning of the plant. In doing so, the top of the plant and also all actively growing tips of each main stem are removed.

 It is not something extremely necessary. However, it can definitely influence to a certain extent a better yield.

Tomato plants are perennial plants that can produce fruit for up to six months. As they grow, they will produce side shoots and eventually a single main stem. The main stem will be the tallest and most vigorous shoot on the plant.

 Topping means pinching or cutting off the plant’s growing tips and preventing suckers from growing out of the upper leaves’ axils.

 Suckers are small shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch meets the stem. They waste the plant’s energy and they are usually undesirable.

 If suckers are left, they will grow into a full branch. In that way they can cause a reduction in tomato growth. In case you don’t want that, you should remove the suckers.

With this type of pruning, the energy is redirected to other areas. In that way tomato plant becomes bushier instead of growing taller.

When to Top Off Your Plants

A girl with a scarf in a grenhouse with tomato plants is looking at the upper part of the tomato plant and is holding it with her left hand.

First of all, you should decide whether it makes sense to top off your tomato plants. In order to make a decision, you need to understand the ripening process and the climate in which you are.

If you decide on this method of pruning, it is important to know when to do it.

 You don’t need to top off your plants if you live in a mild climate. Also, topping is not required if the plants are indoors or in a greenhouse. But if the plants are outside in the garden, then you can think about the topping them.

Weather Forecast

Follow the weather forecast. The tomato plant can’t survive a temperature below 13 degrees. If the forecast temperature is below 13 degrees overnight or if a freezing night is coming, then calculate the time before that first fall frost.

 Perform the topping 30 to 60 days before the first fall frost, depending on the type of tomato.

Make sure you are not too early with this. By topping, you remove parts of the plant, so if you do it earlier than you should, you may end up without those fruits.

When the temperature drops a little, the remaining flowers can’t continue to develop and bear fruit. Then we apply the topping.

Mid-Season and End-Season Topping Tomato Plants

Top off your plants if the stems grow a lot, ie. outgrow the top of the stake or cage. The best time to top off tomato plants is when they have grown to about 5 feet tall and have produced 3-4 side shoots.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Growing Tomato Plants From Seed: The Ultimate Guide”

Mid-season topping will control height and growth of the tomato plants.

At the end of the season, in addition to ripe fruits, there are also green, not yet-ripe fruits. They can ripen quickly if you top off the plants. All energy for stem and leaves will go to fruit production.

Topping Tomato Plants Procedure

Green pruning shears laid outside on a wooden basePrepare the pruning shears. Clean and disinfect them.

In case you cut with pruning shears a plant infected with pathological microorganisms, can be transferred to your tomato plant. That’s why you carry out disinfection.

Make a clean cut on the main stem right above the leaf node. Cut off the top of the plant where the flowers are. Remove the flowers, but leave a certain number of them.

 It is the flowers that later grow into fruits, i.e. tomatoes. How long it takes for a flower to grow into a tomato fruit depends on the type of tomato itself.

After topping, it takes 3 weeks to ripen before frost. For larger variants (heirlooms), it takes 6 weeks to ripen before the last frost.

Do not cut leaves unless with the disease.

At the end of the season, find fruits that you would like to keep. Cut the stem just above those fruits.

Tip: Do not over-prune.

Topping Tomato Plants Benefits

There are many benefits of this kind of pruning.

Bigger and Better Fruits

The goal of topping tomato plants is to improve the yield of tomatoes. Of course, you want a big harvest. Topping your plants will help the fruit to ripen faster.

Stems Strengthening and Control of Plant Growth

If the stems are weak and leggy, strong wind or heavy fruits can break them. In this way, the stem itself can die. By cutting the tops of the central stem, it becomes stronger.

Other Benefits

  • Improving the airflow in your plants
  • Keeping the plants tidy
  • The plants become less prone to diseases.
  • After the rain, tomato plants dry faster.
  • Flowering becomes better, therefore more fruits.
  • It will produce more branches.

What Types of Tomato Plants You Can Top Off

The woman is holding the top of the tomato plant in the greenhouseTomato plants come in two varieties, indeterminate and determinate.

Indeterminate varieties grow tall. Mostly only indeterminate varieties of tomato plants are topped off. You can prune them in this way throughout the season.

Determinate varieties grow to a certain height. Then growing stops. So their growth is determined in advance. The plant is smaller and bushier. You can top off also determine varieties, but only if it is at the end of the season.

You need to be sure which variety of the tomato plant you have. If you are not sure, then it is better not to top off your plants.

The Negative Sides

It is a time-consuming task among many other tasks.

When your plants are topped off, the stems grow back. This means that you have to do that regularly (once a week).

Final Note

And there you have it, Topping tomato plants is explained. As you can see, it is a simple method of pruning plants.

You could learn here something about when and how to do it, and what types of tomato plants you can top off. We also discussed the benefits and downsides.

And now it’s your turn, try to prune your plants yourself in this way.

If you have any suggestions or question about Topping tomato plants feel free to join the discussion. Please leave a comment below.

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