Tomato Terminology: Gardening Tomatoes Made Easy
Tomatoes come in many shapes, colors, and sizes, but before you start deciding whether you want to grow beefsteaks or plum tomatoes, there are a few basic terms you should know so that you can plant the best varieties for you and your garden!
Indeterminate vs. Determinate
It’s important to know what growth type, plant size, and harvest time you can expect from your tomato plant before you plant it. “Indeterminate” and “determinate” are terms that will help you choose the best plant for your growing space and your plans after harvest.
The main difference between these two classes of tomato plants is that determinate plants have a genetic limit on how much they will grow and how many tomatoes they will produce in a season. By comparison, indeterminate tomato plants will grow and produce all season long.
Require a lot of support for their vines and a dedicated growing space since they spread out. These plants will produce a little later in the season but will continue to produce until late in the season.
Since indeterminates produce all season, a few plants are more than enough for a family. If you want plants that will give you tomatoes for your salads and sandwiches all summer long, indeterminate tomato plants are the way to go!
Great for small spaces or if you’re looking for a one-time harvest, perfect for if you’re planning on canning a bunch of recipes in one go! These plants are typically smaller and grow well in a cage or with minimal support, making them perfect for containers or flower beds. Determinate tomatoes are a little more manageable to grow, but you’ll need to be ready for that harvest all in a pretty short period!
You might hear about semi-determinate varieties, which are somewhere in between determinate and indeterminate. Semi-determinates grow to a moderate height of about five feet, need staking but won’t grow out of control, and have various harvest amounts.
Miniature Tomato Plants
If you have a small growing space or want to grow your tomatoes inside, consider miniature or dwarf tomatoes. Miniature tomato plants are distinct from cherry tomatoes, as the plant, including the leaves and stems, are smaller than typical tomato plants, though some varieties produce nearly full-sized tomatoes.
Miniature varieties are a great option if you are growing on an apartment balcony or indoors, but be sure to get them as much sunlight as possible. They will grow best in containers and make an excellent option for getting your kids involved in the vegetable garden!
Heirloom vs. Hybrid
Heirloom tomatoes are often known for their curvy shapes and fun colors, but there’s much more to their history than meets the eye! Heirloom tomatoes are hand-selected for seeds that produce a specific quality in the plant, but they are not pollinated via human intervention. Instead, they are open-pollinated, leaving the plant production to the pollinators! Once a variety has been grown for 40-50 years without human intervention, it is considered an heirloom.
Alternatively, hybrid tomatoes come from plant breeders specifically cross-pollinating at least two varieties to create plants with specific characteristics. To clarify, GMO tomatoes are not the same as hybrid bred tomatoes—Roger’s Gardens does not sell any GMO vegetables! In general, hybrids produce consistently-sized fruit on plants that are often more resistant to disease. If you’ve ever wondered why your garden heirlooms have such funky shapes, but the supermarket tomatoes are always the same size and color, it’s because they’re hybrids!
With these terms in your vocabulary, you’re ready to start your tomato garden and find the best varieties that will give you a fulfilling growing season! If you have any questions about tomato varieties or what we carry at Roger’s Gardens, contact us or visit us, and we’d be happy to help! You can also check out our playlist of videos on growing and caring for tomatoes.