Tomato Starts: Determinate vs. Indeterminate

June 4, 2014


It is officially time to plant your tomato starts so we need to have “the” talk - determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes. There are a lot of exciting and delicious tomato varieties available in the market – Black Prince, Green Zebra, Sun Gold, Brandywine… it is easy to get caught up in all of the tasty choices and forget to pay attention to whether you are buying a determinate or indeterminate variety. This matters because it determines how and where you plant your tomato.

Determinate tomatoes are bred to grow to about 4 feet. They usually ripen all of their fruit within a two week period, after which they die. They make excellent container tomatoes and are perfect for gardens with limited space. They require minimal caging or staking.

Indeterminate tomatoes are also called “vining” tomatoes. Simply put, they continue to grow for the life of the plant. They will grow and produce fruit until frost and can reach 10 feet long. They require very substantial staking or caging. Those little round cages that you purchase at the hardware store are not enough for these plants.

Choose your tomatoes wisely, read the tag and know what you are getting yourself into. If in doubt, ask the grower for recommendations. That is one of the advantages of buying your plants at the market – the sellers are also the growers so they are full of helpful advice.

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