Determinate and indeterminate tomates

Determinate and indeterminate tomates

When you start growing tomatoes in your home garden, one of the first decisions you have to make is the kind of tomatoes you want to grow: determinate tomatoes or indeterminate tomatoes?
It all depends on how much space you have in your vegetable garden, if you want to grow tomatoes in containers or in planters, how much crop you can handle, and when you need to crop to produce.

Here are the main differences between determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes:

Determinate tomatoes:

  • Are often called “bush” tomatoes
  • They grow to about 3 or 4 feet high
  • The entire crop yields at the same time, usually within one to two weeks
  • The plant stops growing when the fruit sets on the terminal bud
  • The plant dies after the crop occurred
  • They prefer some level of staking or caging, but can function without any
  • Suckers shouldn’t be removed, and tomato plants shouldn’t be pruned, or you run the risk of ruining or reducing your crop significantly. Reason is that these tomato plants are wired genetically to produce a certain number of stems, leaves and flowers. If you mess it up, you will interfere with the abundance of the crop
  • Compact and bushy plants, you can grow determinate tomatoes in containers, pots, buckets, any kind of container
  • The seed catalogs usually refer to them as DET, or Determinate Tomatoes. If in doubt, contact the seed vendor
  • Determinate varieties are favored by the tomato industry: mass production growers tend to prefer this type of tomato as it allows them to mechanically harvest the entire crop at once
  • Many hybrid tomatoes are determinate
  • Great for people who want a massive amount of tomatoes all at once for canning, saucing, freezing
  • Early varieties are usually determinate tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes:

  • Are often called “vine” tomatoes
  • They usually grow to approximately 6 feet tall. From experience, I have seen some indeterminate tomato plants in my vegetable garden reach over 10 feet tall
  • They will grow and produce stems, leaves, flowers and tomatoes until the frost kills the plant
  • Tomatoes will consistently produce crops until the plant dies
  • They need strong staking or caging support systems, the taller they get the heavier they are and the more support they need
  • The plants are better off if the suckers are removed, however will do well if not
  • For better crops, I suggest removing the suckers. In warm climates where frost happens late, the plants will continue to grow and you may want to prune them a bit to keep them manageable
  • Large plants that continue to grow all season long, therefore you should not grow indeterminate tomatoes in containers, pots of buckets. However, if you want to grow them in pots, make sure you stake or cage the tomato well and get a good handle on the suckers and the new growth
  • The seed catalogs usually refer to them as IND, or Indeterminate Tomatoes. If in doubt, contact the seed vendor
  • Indeterminate tomatoes are the pride of real tomato farmers: each tomato is checked before being harvested. It is not the most economical harvest process obviously, but it is a sign or true tomato passion
  • Most heirloom varieties are indeterminate tomatoes
  • Great for people who want to add tomatoes to their menu all season long

Semi-determinate tomatoes

  • Their characteristics are somewhere between the determinate and indeterminate tomatoes
  • Grow to 3 to 5 feet tall
  • They produce suckers, although less than determinate tomatoes do
  • Few tomato plants fall in this category
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