Topping a tomato plant – why do it? And what is topping a tomato plant anyway? Sit back, relax and read the how and the why of topping your tomatoes. Then, you can see a video on how to top, and a surprise I had for a plant.
Topping a Tomato Plant — What is It?
Quite literally it’s taking off the growing point…which usually happens to be at the top of the plant. Depending on how you prune it (or not), your tomato plant can have more than one growing point. If you have pruned your plant to just one stem, you only have to take off one growing point.
However, if your tomato plant has more than one stem, you will have more than one growth point. You can choose to top just the tallest, top them all, or anything in between.
Important: You only want to top an indeterminate tomato plant; do not top a determinate — you will sacrifice a lot of your tomatoes if you do it.
Check this post where I talk about the difference between indeterminate and determinate tomatoes.
Why Top a Tomato Plant?
OK, so why would you want to top your plant? There are a few reasons to do it.
Stop the upward growth. Sometimes you have a plant that just keep growing taller and taller, to the point of being unmanageable. If you top the plant, it won’t grow any taller (although it might grow wider).
Ripen existing tomatoes faster. If the tomato isn’t focusing on growing taller, it can direct that energy towards ripening existing fruit. This can be especially useful towards the end of the growing season, when the threat of frost is getting near and your fruit isn’t close enough to ripe yet.
Rejuvenate a stressed tomato plant. I discovered that topping a tomato plant can help to rejuvenate a plant that got too stressed and looks sad. Now I’m not talking about a diseased plant, but one that has been environmentally stressed (too much or too little sun/water/fertilizer/heat). The tomato plant won’t grow upwards from where you topped it, but it can develop suckers lower down that are healthier. That is, assuming you’ve addressed what was stressing your plant.
Encourage larger tomatoes. This one is kind of controversial; some people say it doesn’t help but others swear by it. The idea behind it is if you top the plant, it’s going to direct its energy towards the fruit. If it’s around the middle of your season, the existing tomatoes (and any that are still forming from flowers) have the chance to grow larger than they normally would grow.
A Topping Surprise
I also had something interesting happen to a stressed plant. It had a truss with two tomatoes and what looked like some aborted flowers. The plant was looking so scrawny that I wanted to give it a chance to ripen the two tomatoes it had. Now mind you, the two fruits it had on the truss had been growing (slowly) for a couple of weeks, and it was just the two ‘maters. It was still pretty early in the season so I figured I had nothing to lose.
I topped the plant and waited to see what would happen. I also took off most of the stressed branches except for two or three (for future comparison).
Within a few days, there were new suckers forming lower down on the plant which looked healthier. The following week brought me a huge surprise.
The truss with just the two tomatoes (and what looked like aborted blossoms) had new tomatoes forming! Where once there were two, there were now five! I totally had not expected that to happen.
How to Top a Tomato Plant – Video
In this video I’ll show you how to top your tomato plant. I’ll also show you a “before” and “after” of my topped tomato plant which gave me some surprise tomatoes. I hope you enjoy it! You can also check out my YouTube channel for more garden videos.
Tomato garden tour video for mid-June 2020 is what’s on today’s post. I want to do tomato garden tour videos every couple of weeks, so you can see what’s growing. I’m growing tomatoes in Tennessee zone 7A, and it’s way different from growing in S Florida!
Growing Tomatoes in Containers
Growing tomatoes in containers is what I have to do in my garden. I explain why in my first tomato garden tour done at the end of May. I find that it’s working pretty well for me. The shade is my biggest enemy when it comes to my gardening. That’s why I have three gardening spots in my yard — no one place is big enough.
Growing Tomatoes in Tennessee
I have to say, it’s much different from S Florida. Instead of two short seasons, I have one long season (mid/late April to mid/late October).
Here in Tennessee it’s frost which defines my seasons; in S Florida, it was the heat and humidity (not to mention hurricanes). It’s my first summer garden here in East Tennessee, and I keep getting told that it does get really hot and humid. However, late last August when we moved here, we had record heat and humidity.
What they call heat and humidity here was nothing more than late Spring weather in S Florida.
Growing tomatoes (peppers and other assorted veggies) is different here. You’ll see from the difference between my first tomato tour and this one, how much it’s grown. In just two weeks!
The biggest problem I have here is the shade in my yard. The trees I so loved in the fall are the bane of my gardening existence now. Which is kind of ironic since in S Florida I had to use a shade cloth.
Tomato Garden Tour Video
I made this tomato garden tour video on June 14th, 2020. The previous tour was on May 30th. I can’t wait to film my next one, somewhere around the end of June — I’m sure I’ll have many more tomatoes to show you.
Just wait until you see Vorlon — that plant is outgrowing stake after stake. I’m beginning to wonder what else I can do for this plant. And it’s growing in a…7 gallon container I think — or maybe 10 gallon. Either way, I never thought it would get this big in a not-so-big container.
All this being said, here’s my tomato tour video for June 2020. Hope you enjoy it, and keep a lookout for my next tour! (And if you want to see more garden tours in general, check out my YouTube channel.)
Tomato garden tour time! I have a tomato garden tour video for you, which I filmed at the end of May, 2020. I decided that it was time that I start doing videos of the tomato garden, to you can see what growing tomatoes in Tennessee is like for me.
A few things, though. I started all my tomato plants from seed, and I grow all of them in containers of various sizes — all the way from 1 gallon to 10 gallons. I almost broke down and bought a SunGold tomato start from Home Depot, but didn’t since I already had a few too many seedlings at home, waiting for a container. 😉
Growing Tomatoes in Containers
There are two main reasons I have for growing tomatoes in containers. First, the soil in my yard is rocky and hard clay, and I literally have to use a pick axe to dig a hole. (I have planted a few things in the ground, but they have all been flowers or herbs, and a good portion of them perennials.)
My second reason for growing tomatoes in containers is that I have a shade problem. There isn’t any spot in my yard that gets 6 hours of direct sun a day, except for maybe a small slice in the front. Six hours of direct sun is the minimum needed for fruit-bearing veggies, but growing tomatoes in containers allows me to move plants around to maximize the sun I do get.
(I’ll do a video and post on semi-shade gardening in the future and will link to that when I have it up.)
In any case, I have three different garden areas in my yard — front, side and back — to let me grow as many tomato plants as I can, based on the amount of sun I get in the spaces.
Tomato Garden Tour Video
As I mentioned before, this tomato garden tour video is the first of my tomato-growing season in Tennessee zone 7A. This is my first year for growing tomatoes in Tennessee as opposed to Florida it’s waaaaay different! It’s not only the soil (sandy in Florida), but the heat and humidity (less of both). Plus, since I had to start my garden in February in S. Florida I was pretty much finished by June. Here in Tennessee…June is just barely the start of the growing season!
I filmed the tomato garden tour on May 30th, 2020. Here’s the video, and I hope you like it! I’ll likely have even more tomatoes in the next tour, as I still have seedlings that need to be planted out — so stay tuned!