Thursday, July 28, 2011

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes, Plus Why I Hate Tomato Cages

Have you seen tomato plants described as determinate or indeterminate and wondered what that meant? Well, it's easy. Determinate varieties are usually "bush" type. Their fruits all ripen at the same time, usually over a period of about two weeks, then they die. They usually don't require much support.

Yellow Taxi is a determinate variety

Indeterminate varieties are those that vine, and can grow to 10 feet tall, but 6 feet is the usual. They blossom, set fruit, and ripen at different times throughout the season, and the plant is killed by frost. They require substantial staking to keep the vines from breaking and the fruit from sitting on the ground.

Speaking of support, I am completely fed up with my wire tomato cages. I had some ideas about what to use to support the tomatoes, but just didn't have time to build them. So I bought the cheap wire ones from Home Depot. We've had a few strong storm systems move through Chicagoland in the last few weeks, and each morning following, I've been greeted with downed tomato cages. Grrr!

Green Zebra
My Green Zebra variety is so full of fruit that it was the first to come down. I used an old wooden ladder (which actually looks quite charming) to hold it up because I didn't want to lose the plant. It's working very well!

But this morning, another cage was down. And I don't have another ladder!

What a mess!

There's not much that can be done at this point to provide adequate support that actually looks nice too. I'll just have to tie some string to the top of the cages and stake them like you would a new tree. But I'll be prepared next year with a strong and good-looking solution!