Tomatoes seedlings WAY too tall, can I trim tops until I can plant?

I have several tomato plants that I started just WAY too early and now are very, very tall but in Chicago here, the weather next week will be a little on the cold side to be able to plant them this weekend (beautiful out today and tomorrow).
 
I just started hardening them off on Monday and hope to have them do their first overnighter on Sunday (tomorrow) but the weather for Monday through the following Monday (May 11th) has only highs in the mid-50's and lows in the mid to low 40's and even some 38's and a 34 and 35.  The tomatoes will be going into large containers and I can keep them next to the house (facing east) with a small overhang but not sure if they will survive the forecasted colder temps.  (my peppers and tomatoes will be stored there once they are out all day and night anyway, so I guess if I do plant them there really won't be any difference....)
 
if not, can I "top" the taller plants so they are smaller?  Will this hurt them or cause issues after they are planted with growing or flowering??  There is NO way I can just let them go another 10 days before planting.
 
any help is appreciated.  THanks!
 
 
 
Greyhound_Gourmet said:
I have several tomato plants that I started just WAY too early and now are very, very tall but in Chicago here, the weather next week will be a little on the cold side to be able to plant them this weekend (beautiful out today and tomorrow).
 
I just started hardening them off on Monday and hope to have them do their first overnighter on Sunday (tomorrow) but the weather for Monday through the following Monday (May 11th) has only highs in the mid-50's and lows in the mid to low 40's and even some 38's and a 34 and 35.  The tomatoes will be going into large containers and I can keep them next to the house (facing east) with a small overhang but not sure if they will survive the forecasted colder temps.  (my peppers and tomatoes will be stored there once they are out all day and night anyway, so I guess if I do plant them there really won't be any difference....)
 
if not, can I "top" the taller plants so they are smaller?  Will this hurt them or cause issues after they are planted with growing or flowering??  There is NO way I can just let them go another 10 days before planting.
 
any help is appreciated.  THanks!
While tomato plants can be topped just like peppers I've always read "planting them deep" the preferred method for young tomato plants when transplanting:
 
Plant Tomatoes in Trenches for Better Results
Trench Planting Tall Tomato Plants
Bonnie - Plant Tomatoes Deep. Deep, Deep

_

_
 
hi, yes I always plant them right up to their tops but my issue is that I really canNOT plant them yet since the weather will most likely be too cold for the next 9-10 days and they are SO tall right now they will be just WAY to tall to hold themselves up until it's warm enough.   (plus they'll be SO tall by then my pots are not deep enough and the roots would have to be all the way to the bottom of the pot, which is not good, in order to get them deep enough).
 
My question(s) are
 
1) CAN I plant them now (semi-sheltered) with the weather being highs of 50 and lows down to 34-41?  Will they survive?
 
or 2) CAN I cut the tall tops off of the plants to make them smaller until I CAN safely plant them (on 5/11 or later) - will it hurt the plant in any way?
 
thanks!
The_NorthEast_ChileMan said:
While tomato plants can be topped just like peppers I've always read "planting them deep" the preferred method for young tomato plants when transplanting:
 
Plant Tomatoes in Trenches for Better Results
Trench Planting Tall Tomato Plants
Bonnie - Plant Tomatoes Deep. Deep, Deep

_

_
 
Greyhound_Gourmet said:
My question(s) are
 
1) CAN I plant them now (semi-sheltered) with the weather being highs of 50 and lows down to 34-41?  Will they survive?
 
or 2) CAN I cut the tall tops off of the plants to make them smaller until I CAN safely plant them (on 5/11 or later) - will it hurt the plant in any way?
 
thanks!
A question for you 1st.... how many plants ya got? Do you have enough to try both methods?
 
Probably not so it falls to the safest avenue and planting in ground & having a heavy frost/freeze will most likely kill them= topping is safest.
 

luvmesump3pp3rz

Extreme Member
you can also plant them now and put short stakes in the pots and then on cold nights drape an old sheet or a sheet of plastic. large garbage bags would also work. this is only advisable if it will not drop below freezing temps. let us know what you do and how it works for you. good luck.
 
The_NorthEast_ChileMan said:
A question for you 1st.... how many plants ya got? Do you have enough to try both methods?
 
Probably not so it falls to the safest avenue and planting in ground & having a heavy frost/freeze will most likely kill them= topping is safest.
I have 16 total and only 5 of them (Black Krim, Red Summer, Chadwick Cherry, Indigo Cherry and Large Red Cherry) have 2, rest (Pink Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Big Rainbow and another either Krim or Ananas Black) are singles so not really enough for a test :( .  I am planting them in containers since I have a black walnut tree that emits a toxin called "juglone" within 20 feet of the in-ground garden area and it kills them if I plant in-ground (my hot peppers seem to do ok even though it is toxic to them too!) and can put the containers next to the house for a little protection.
 
I'm planning on planting the Large Red Cherries, Chadwick Cherry and Indigo Cherries together in one pot (I don't have enough containers to plant them separately).
 
I did top several of the really tall ones so we'll see how it goes. :(  This weather is crazy....but I guess it IS only May 1st...
 
Topping will end that growing tip and you will be reliant on suckers to provide continued growth.
Better to trench plant them like Northeast Chileman suggested. 
Planting them really deep will keep the main root ball cooler and may not grow as well initially as the trench planting.
If they are tall and bushy: great. If they are tall, lanky, stretched, etc: in the future get more light and put the lights as close to the plants as you can without touching the leaves.
 
Rockandrollin said:
Topping will end that growing tip and you will be reliant on suckers to provide continued growth.
This is correct. Topping a tomato plant is usually used to stop the plants growth, let's say at the top of the cage or stake & you don't wat it to grow taller.
 
Greyhound_Gourmet said:
I have several tomato plants that I started just WAY too early and now are very, very tall but in Chicago here, the weather next week will be a little on the cold side to be able to plant them this weekend (beautiful out today and tomorrow).
 
I just started hardening them off on Monday and hope to have them do their first overnighter on Sunday (tomorrow) but the weather for Monday through the following Monday (May 11th) has only highs in the mid-50's and lows in the mid to low 40's and even some 38's and a 34 and 35.  The tomatoes will be going into large containers and I can keep them next to the house (facing east) with a small overhang but not sure if they will survive the forecasted colder temps.  (my peppers and tomatoes will be stored there once they are out all day and night anyway, so I guess if I do plant them there really won't be any difference....)
 
if not, can I "top" the taller plants so they are smaller?  Will this hurt them or cause issues after they are planted with growing or flowering??  There is NO way I can just let them go another 10 days before planting.
 
any help is appreciated.  THanks!
 
 
Get yourself an Agfabric frost blanket. Plant your tomatoes in their final pots and suspend the cover over the plants. The 0.55 oz fabric allows 85% light transmission and protects down to 28° F. Leave them covered until it's warm enough to suit you.  Then you can uncover them in the day and recover them at night to keep everything warmer.
 

PaulG

Extreme Member
+1 DW! I think that is the ticket.
 
There are several types of row covers and frost
blankets out there. Any good garden supply online
will have several types, weights and colors.
 
Swinglish said:
How did it go? What option did you take?
 
It seems OP busy elsewhere as they haven't been back in awhile...

05.19.20_Tomato.jpg


If I can make a suggestion as I enjoy your interaction with members. Check the OP's recent activity and/or "quote" them in your inquiry so they get a notification as we can't know if they'll ever stop back..
 
 
The_NorthEast_ChileMan said:
 
It seems OP busy elsewhere as they haven't been back in awhile...

attachicon.gif
05.19.20_Tomato.jpg

If I can make a suggestion as I enjoy your interaction with members. Check the OP's recent activity and/or "quote" them in your inquiry so they get a notification as we can't know if they'll ever stop back..
 
 
I'm so sorry for not responding before :(  has been a super crazy couple weeks here.
 
I did see every single reply :) and thank you to everyone for their help.  I ended up topping the 3 that were the really big ones.  
 
I rushed the hardening process (partially due to very little sun and  crappy cold weather here) and took my chances and planted them in their pots this past Friday (5/15) and so far they are doing ok.  The next day was supposed be overcast but instead was sunny but I think they'll be ok (a couple of the peppers I planted are a little sunburned but hopefully will be ok).  And of course we got a deluge in the past 3 days, over 8" of rain since last Saturday but they at least are getting watered. :)  I don't have an Agriblanket or anything to cover but might look into that for next year.
 
2 of the topped tomatoes look great but the 1, which was already kind of crappy looking (yellow pear) isn't doing to well and it's sprouting new leaves (the only ones now....) out the sides like someone said it would do.  So, we'll see how it goes :)
 
again, thanks for all the help.   Attached are a couple pics :)  the small one in front on the right (orange container) is the yellow pear :(  The green stuff in front are a bunch of onions I had planted last year that came back on their own (just cut off the ends of green onions and stuck 'em in).
 

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Greyhound_Gourmet said:
I have 16 total and only 5 of them (Black Krim, Red Summer, Chadwick Cherry, Indigo Cherry and Large Red Cherry) have 2, rest (Pink Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Big Rainbow and another either Krim or Ananas Black) are singles so not really enough for a test :( .  I am planting them in containers since I have a black walnut tree that emits a toxin called "juglone" within 20 feet of the in-ground garden area and it kills them if I plant in-ground (my hot peppers seem to do ok even though it is toxic to them too!) and can put the containers next to the house for a little protection.
 
I'm planning on planting the Large Red Cherries, Chadwick Cherry and Indigo Cherries together in one pot (I don't have enough containers to plant them separately).
 
I did top several of the really tall ones so we'll see how it goes. :(  This weather is crazy....but I guess it IS only May 1st...
actually I guess I DID reply to you guys LOL  didn't realize I had. . Like I said, crazy. :D
 

ahayastani

Extreme Member
I work with suckers. You can make a sucker become the main branch by cutting of the "old branch" above the junction. The plants won't win beauty contests, but they will give tomatoes. I recently "rejuvenated" some of my tomato plants like that after they were seriously *censored* when I couldn't take care of my plants.
 
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Did you try and root the tops?  A few days ago I potted up some extremely stretched tomberry plants, 2 of them snapped at the base as I was attempting to take them out there small pots. They didn't have any side branches to take cuttings from and the snap point was at soil level, so I cut the tops off and put them in a glass of water, after 3 days they are starting to grow roots. 
 
Another thing I have thought about (but it's to late to try now with the  snapped plants) is to cut the top off then cut the remaining plant down to the first node and graft the top onto that, I say it's too late for me to try it with the snapped plants  but as I type this I have a urge to try it, I have extra tomato plants so I will probably give it a go and see how it turns out.
 
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In the interim Maybe you can transplant into 1/2 gal paper milk containers. I used those one year with great success. Bury as deep as you want. Cut the container away when transplant.
 
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