Field of Science

Determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes

An interested reader asks, "What's the difference between determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes?" First of all, understand that in the temperate zone tomatoes are grown as an annual, but actually they are sort of a scandant (sprawling) viney plant, but they aren't hardy. Most plants are indeterminate, which in the most general sense means the grow throughout their lives because plants have meristems, perpetually juvenile tissues. Most "old fashioned" tomatoes were indeterminate, so they just kept growing and they could get pretty big. The stupid things sold as tomato cages in most garden stores are laughable. My local good old boys garden store makes their own out of heavy fence and they stand nearly 6 feet tall. Tomatoes easily out grow them. Once had a cherry tomato grow so large it got pruned with hedge shears and we were harvesting 2 quarts of tomatoes a day at peak harvest. So such tomatoes will produce until the season gets too cold. Determinate tomatoes were bred to be a better fit for small gardens, and more importantly to produce a peak crop, something very useful for mechanical harvesting for process tomatoes. So determinate plants grow to a certain size, then flower and fruit producing a lot of fruit over a short period of time. So each has their advantage, but even still most tomatoes get bigger than most people think.


William M. Connolley said...

Ah, that is interesting. I have a tomato on an office window sill, currently into its second year. It has flowered but never fruited. Does it need a friend, and possibly a bee?

The Phytophactor said...

Belette wonders: "Does it need a friend, and possibly a bee?"

Yes. If you look closely at the yellow cone of anthers, you'll see that they only open at the tips (apical pores) and the stigma (pollen receptive part) occupies the space in the middle. When ever you see a flower like this that nods (e.g. shooting star) it's "buzz" pollinated. Bumblebees hang under the flower and rev their wing muscles to hit the right frequency to shake the pollen out onto their bodies, and in the process, some gets onto the stigma, or they contact the stigma of the next flower they visit. A tuning fork will work if you get the right pitch. But seriously, an office just isn't the right place for a tomato.