Knowledge to Grow – Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

One of the most popularly grown vegetables is the tomato.  If you have ever eaten a sun ripened tomato straight from the garden you know why.  The store bought tomatoes just do not deliver the party in your mouth that the home grown tomatoes do.  So you decide you want to grow your own but do not know the difference between determinate and indeterminate when choosing your plant.  This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to tomatoes.

The determinate or “bush” tomatoes grow to 3-4 feet and stop growing when fruit sets on the top bud.  The fruit will ripen about the same time over a 2 to 4-week period.  They will not need a whole lot of support and therefore do well in a container.  Never prune this type of tomato plant as you will run the risk of significantly reducing your crop.  This type of tomato is great for those who want their crop to be harvested all at once for canning, saucing or freezing purposes.

The indeterminate tomato will grow to 6 to 12 feet and I actually consider them to be more of a vine.  They just seem to keep on growing, flowering and producing fruit until they freeze and die, or you rip them out because they have taken over the garden.  If you leave them to sprawl they will take up a lot of space therefore I like to trellis and prune mine.  You will need a very sturdy support system for these tomatoes.

I like to remove the suckers at the bottom 10 or so inches of the indeterminate plant.  I feel that this helps with airflow at the base of the plant and helps to reduce the risk of the fruit touching the ground and inviting pests or disease.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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