topping tomato plants

marullo1947May 28, 2011

I have never done this before (except in the late summer. I get the minimal amount of sun so end up with 8-9 foot plants which extend way above the cages. My brother in law (with my plants) grows tomatoes that never get over 4 feet tall and spread out 5 feet. He's got almost total sun so the plant never needs to grow tall. He gets twice as many tomatoes as well. Can I keep topping off a plant (from the beginning) to make it grow wider? Would such a plant produce more (despite my minimal sun)_?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Since no one else has responded I'll reply with my usual info that topping indeterminate plants is not recommended except perhaps in the fall to speed ripening and topping determinate varieties is never recommended. There are several previous discussions and a FAQ here about this that the search using 'topping' or 'pinching' will pull up if you want to read them.

It just doesn't work - trying to turn an indeterminate vine into a bush. When you cut a vine 2 new vines sprout from the node just below the cut. Not leaf branches, not bloom clusters, but new vines. Cut those new vines and 2 more vines will sprout from the nodes just below those cuts. And so on and so on. So you end up with lots of short vines but no fruit production.

But to really know what the cause or problem is we need to know the name of the variety. Your BIL's 4 foot tall, 5' wide plants aren't indeterminates, maybe semi-determinates like Celebrity? But an 8-9' indeterminate tomato plant is not abnormal regardless of the amount of sun. If your plants are leggy (long stem section between leaf branches then they aren't getting enough sun. But instead of trying to force the plant to adapt to the poor growing conditions you have to focus on improving the growing conditions instead.

Dave

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 11:40AM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

Dave,

While marullo does not give his/her USDA zone, he/she appears to be in Pennsylvania which ranges from USDA Zone 4b to USDA Zone 7a. I can tell you that most indeterminate varieties in my zone (5A) will not get over 5 feet tall and many are shorter than that because I can see over the rows and I am only 5' 3". That is why I quit buying 8' t-posts for the end of my Florida Weave rows and now use 6" posts driven about 18" into the soil. I don't think I had a single tomato get much taller than that last year. My plants are in the open (no wind break or shade) from the time they are transplanted, and I think they are probably 5' wide because even with tucking in the loose branches, my path between rows planted 6' feet apart gets pretty narrow in late summer.

marullo,

Is there any way you can increase the amount of sun your plants get? It sounds like they are stretching for it.

Are your plants in containers or in the ground?

Betsy

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 11:59AM
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marullo1947

Well, I got my answer and, no, can't get more sun unless I get arrested for taking down neighbors oaks. Anyway all my plants are indeterminant.....brother in law as well but those in almost total sun stay shorter and are more productive Guess there's no way around it. I do okay....not really complaining...just thought there might be something more I could do. Thanks for response - I will not top plants till fall.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 12:52PM
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Phildeez(9b)

Topping in tomatoes probably stems from other vegetables like peppers that will grow horizontal foliage as a result. Peppers do not vine, however, and the results are far different and much less desirable in tomatoes, IMO.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 6:44PM
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