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Topping Tomatoes – Should Tomato Plants Be Topped?

Topping tomatoes may seem like a strange term to the average person but in the gardening world, it means something.

Growing up and watching my parents ply their amazing gardening craft as a child left some indelible impressions.

One of them was topping tomatoes. As Italian immigrants, the tomato was a staple part of their everyday life, and I mean every day life.

I can’t remember a day when a tomato wasn’t used on something. But topping tomato plants is something I will never forget.

Not that it is exciting. It isn’t. But it’s just those impressions you’re left with as a kid that never leave you.

So, should tomato plants be topped? Well yes.

Benefits Of Topping Tomato Plants

can't you just pinch off suckersThere are many reasons to top tomato plants. One is to prevent the plants from getting too tall and falling over.

Another is to get more fruit production if there is not enough space on the ground for the plant to spread out on its own.

And yet another reason might be because the plant has been pruned, limiting its ability to produce more fruit.

The benefit of topping tomato plants is that it can provide more fruit per plant and allow for less space between the rows of tomato plants which can lead to higher yields overall.

Top tomato plants by carefully removing the plant’s lower leaves, then cutting the stem just above a leaf node.

Remove all remaining leaves and any flowers that have not been pollinated yet.Take care to not cut into the stem when removing leaves.

Make sure you leave a couple of feet between the rows of plants, and that there is space for planting more plants on all sides. Special top tomato plant fertilizer can be used to help encourage natural fruit production.

Tomato plants are generally pruned to produce fruit, as opposed to large leaves and stems. However, it is possible to obtain more abundant harvests by topping the plant and cutting off the lower leaves.

The new growth will be smaller but will produce more fruit than previously. This practice of removing the lower leaves is known by many terms including “topping”, “pruning”, or “reducing”.

Downsides Of Topping Tomato Plants

the right time to top tomatoesThe main downside of topping tomato plants is that it can stunt the growth of the plant. This can lead to a shorter tomato plant and a lack of fruit production.

Tomato plants are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases when not top dressed.

Pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms can damage the plant while diseases such as verticillium wilt and nematodes can kill it.

Additionally, topping a tomato plant often disrupts its natural irrigation system, leading to water stress and foliage death.

So, putting the downsides in some sort of order, here are a few for you to consider.

First, topping can cause bad growth and fruit production.

Secondly, it’s important to wait until the fruits are mature before topping them for best results.

Be sure to prune the plants regularly so they don’t get too tall.

If you’re topping tomatoes for the first time, be sure to learn how to do it safely and correctly.

Make sure you have the right kind of soil and fertilizers for your tomato plants before topping them; otherwise, you may end up with stunted or unhealthy plants.

Finally, be careful when watering your plants after topping; over-watering could cause roots to rot.

These downsides are simply commonsense and if avoided, you shouldn’t have any problems. That’s why it’s important to know what you are doing, especially first-timers, when topping tomatoes.

Topping Tomatoes – When To Top Tomato Plants

when not to top tomato plantsThere are many factors that can affect the growth of tomato plants. One of the most important is knowing when to top tomato plants.

This shouldn’t be a big deal because for inexperienced gardeners, when you have done this a couple of times you’ll develop an ingrown timer and calendar and you’ll simply learn to just know.

Tomatoes are a versatile fruit/vegetable that can be cooked in many ways, but many gardeners enjoy their tomatoes fresh off the vine. For those who want to maximize their tomato harvest, it is important to know when the best time to top a tomato plant is.

If you top them too early, they will not have enough time to grow and produce fruit. It is best to wait until the plant reaches about 2-3 feet in height before topping it.

Tomatoes do not ripen after they have been picked, so gardeners usually wait until the fruit has turned brown and started to dry out before they top a tomato plant.

However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that tomatoes can be topped as early as mid-September in colder climates. The reason for this discrepancy may be that cold weather inhibits ethylene production, which is necessary for ripening fruit. In warmer climates, ethylene production is more active and fruit will ripen even earlier.

However, others will tell you that tomatoes can’t be topped in fall because the cold temperatures will cause them to frost. However, there are a few benefits of topping your tomato plants in the fall.

For one, topping your tomato plants in the fall will help to prevent them from being eaten by bugs.

Additionally, topping your tomato plants in the fall will give you a head start on harvesting your tomatoes early in the season.

Can I You Just Pinch Off Suckers Instead Of Topping Tomatoes?

why top tomatoesIt is true that you can pinch off suckers instead of topping tomatoes. However, if you want to produce the best quality fruit or vegetables, then topping is the better option.

Pruning hardy plants such as tomatoes is a common practice in the farming industry.

One of the most popular methods of pruning these plants is by pinching off suckers rather than topping.

Once again, if you want to produce high-quality fruit or flowers, then it’s better to top them instead of pinching off suckers.

Finally, remember that the benefits of topping tomatoes include increased yields and better flavor.

If you’re experienced, then you’ll know this but I’d like to reiterate to those of you who are inexperienced gardeners and have never topped a tomato plant before, just learn the process before tackling this important task.

Topping Tomatoes - Should Tomato Plants Be Topped
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JD Dean

Growing up on a farm gave me and my family some huge advantages. One of them was learning to grow our own food. Apart from acres and acres of crops, we had a magnificent fruit and vegetable garden plus, we canned our own food. I’m hoping to pass on some of this expertise and experience to you.

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