pinch off too tall tomatoes?

allen11(z5 MA)August 14, 2005

My tomato plants are now at 7 ft and growing, beyond the stakes and ready to fall over as the fruit ripens. I've never heard of pinching off the tops, but it seems like the best thing to do. What do you all think?

I thought maybe I gave them too much HM underneath when I planted them, but there's plenty of ripening fruit.

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squeeze(z8 BC)

yes, wild foliage growth means lots of nitrogen, but if there's lots of all the other nutrients that's not a problem - just head back all the new growth up there, and you'll prolly get new shoots shortly from lower down, which you'll also want to nip off as it's getting late for new shoots to get to flowering/ fruiting and then ripened before frost - it's standard practice, like cutting the suckers, but some folks do neither


    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 5:59PM
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The tomatoes you are growing will keep on growing and producing more fruit unless stopped by pinching back. The fruit set today probably won't have time to ripen before your first frost now and pinching back to stop the plant from setting more fruit will help get those fruits already set to ripen.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 6:35AM
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kjggames(z9/10, sunset16)

Hey there,

They seem a bit tall to me for determinate tomatoes;are they indeterminate? In other words, are you getting a bunch of tomatoes all at once, or have you been getting a few tomatoes at a time on this long vine? If so, it would be an indeterminate tomato, and grows like this naturally.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 3:29PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

Since your in MA, odds are anything at the 7ft level will not have time to ripen before first frost

I snip them when they get too tall to handle

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 10:11AM
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for better,faster fruit i cut off the top mainstem after 6 clusters have developed, on indeterminate toms. have had very good luck with this method. i leave the determinate toms to do as they wish.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 7:36AM
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Tyrell(Zone 9, CA)

I agree with Byron, that the fruit now forming won't get a chance to ripen. So in a way, nature will solve this "problem." But if you wanted to help the remaining bigger tomatoes, it would be better to just pick off smaller maters but leave the foliage. The more leaves you have, the more food the plant can make for your remaining tomatoes.
I have a much longer growing season here in Sacramento, so I developed 8-foot trellises to support my indeterminate plants years ago. I now use one with wire "shelves" made from 5 foot wire fencing. I attach the shelves every foot and a half to four 8-foot posts. The vines grow through the mesh, instantly being supported. Eliminates the tiresome chore of tying up vines. And with our long growing season I get more than 500 beefsteak tomatoes per bush each year- at least in a Normal year, which this one hasn't been.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 10:36AM
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pdxjules(8, Portland, OR)

Hi there,

What if we have a long indian summer?
You could be in tomato heaven...

I don't mind topping or I'd prune anything that's not going to make fruit - but I wouldn't want to top plants if they are flowering...until you KNOW you are a week or 2 from a cold snap.

If you have these in a row, maybe add a few taller stakes, and string 1-2 wire lines across the top to support any higher fruit? Another idea: I have a friend who uses 10' green plastic coated steel rods (rebar) stakes - with cloth strip ties (I'd use red - to stimulate more fruit production) and his system works great! Bamboo also comes in about 12' lengths and can do the job.

Do you have another garden item for support you can move there temporarily? For example - an 8' Arched Trellis, or a tall paint ladder?

I don't agree that new fruit won't ripen...sounds like these folks all grow only giants - which I don't. I prefer to get more for daily cooking rather than a few big ones for show.

Ripening depends on many variables - the size and variety -and in my experience - your weather, access to light, & level of care/neglect. If they get any color change at all they'll ripen even - even off the vine.

As soon as the season turns cold, I pick ALL fruit with any color beginning to turn, and top plants back to then next existing viable fruit. After watering and pruning, I dig and bring in as many as possible to extend the season. other people just add a cold frame - but I don't have anything that large - and still don't trust it to protect plants from the evil black stem. I keep mine going that way for 2 months months - in a chilly sunroom. I think the coldframe people may get just a few weeks. (peppers make it all winter and go back outside) Good luck designing your own system!

Here is a link that might be useful: as many staking methods as gardeners!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 1:02PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

A year ago at this time, there were some varieties which hadn't even ripened a single tomato! That meant a lot of work in short order for those plants. Some finally ripened less than 3 weeks before our expected first frost date. We got about a 10-day bonus there and it was around 5 October for our first frost. With a need to save what was there, a lot of effort went into protected the plants on that first night. As it turned out, that was the only October night with frost! Plants which were in doubt of producing anything were finally pulled in November just to stop them from ripening any more fruit!

That's just to point out that they can really put on a surge at the end to produce and ripen fruit. The tops can be trimmed off but plants will just keep trying to make another. Anything 7' tall, and still growing, is an indeterminate. Snip them off and they'll produce another growth tip from the next lower leaf node. It won't harm the rest of the plant as it's only a temporary thing.

However, don't start stripping off a lot of other foliage including laterals at this stage. Tomato plants use their leaves to create sugar in the fruits. It does put you between a rock and a hard spot since all that extra foliage can become so annoying and yet so necessary!


    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 11:08PM
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I am having the same problem. I have an early girl that is potted and is getting spindly. I have been taking off the suckers but should I take off the lower leaves close to the soil as well?

Thanks in advance,

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 4:01PM
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