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Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Difference Between Determinate & Indeterminate Tomatoes

The Difference Between 
Determinate & Indeterminate Tomatoes

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There are generally two types of tomato plant categories. A tomato plant is either a determinate plant or an indeterminate plant. You may come across tomatoes called semi-determinate, however, you can treat them as a slower growing indeterminate tomato plant variety.

Clusters of  Determinate Tomatoes
Ripen Together for a Large Harvest
Determinates Mature Together
A determinate tomato grows to a set height and stops growing or greatly slows growth. They may be anywhere from 1-5 feet tall.

The determinate variety tomatoes tend to set all of their flowers over a very short period of time.

You will often see clusters of  green tomatoes that seem to appear all at once. They also tend to ripen together quickly, be ready for a large harvest.

The determinate plant typically begins to die off while the fruits are in the later stages of maturing.  Often, while the fruits mature, you will notice the plant leaves yellowing and dying off. This is a normal process for the plant.

Determinate types of tomatoes are great for getting early tomatoes from your garden and they do well in containers and in small spaces. You can often plant two rounds of determinate tomatoes in your garden, where you have about 5 months of warm weather. They can be planted in May and again in mid July.

Staked Indeterminate Tomatoes
The indeterminate tomato variety continues to grow and grow until frost or disease takes the plant. These plants can easily get to 6, 7, 8 feet tall and even taller. It will set flowers and fruit throughout the entire growing season. Typically, it produces several leaves, a cluster of flowers, several leaves and a cluster of flowers. This general pattern repeats, as tomatoes are vines.

Only frost or disease will stop an indeterminate tomato from growing and setting new flower clusters.  Think of it this way, a determinate tomato grows to a predetermined size and stops. Indeterminate tomatoes often need to be staked and pruned to manage their vigorous continuous growth.

Flower Cluster Form Tomatoes Over the Whole Season

A 'Sucker' in the Joint About to Be Pruned Out

I recommend slowly pruning the bottom leaves of indeterminate tomatoes and removing some suckers over the growing season. Pruning helps with airflow around and through the plant and it is done to help manage diseases and excessive growth. When and how much to prune is the gardener's choice.

You can often find out whether or not your tomato plant is an determinate or indeterminate plant variety from the seed pack. If you happen to buy a transplant or can't find what type it is, search the name on the internet. Very often you will find seed companies that carry your tomato variety and the plant description will tell you what type of growth to expect.

Tomatoes form from the bottom up on indeterminate plants. The lower part of the plant holds older tomatoes that mature and ripen. New flowers and tomatoes are found toward the top of the plant, as it grows.

The 'suckers' that form in the joints of leaves and stems will also produce flowers and continue to grow. Indeterminate plants are often pruned to limit production while determinate tomatoes should rarely be pruned.

Pruned and Staked Indeterminate Varieties
A Cluster of Green Tomatoes Mature 

Indeterminate Varieties Set Fruit Over the Season

Good Luck with Your Garden,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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