Contents: Types | Support Systems | Pruning

Basic facts:
Growth habit:

  • Determinate (or bush) varieties grow to a certain height (usually 2 to 4 feet), set fruit, and then concentrate on ripening that fruit. They bear all their fruit within 3-4 weeks. Good for making into soups, sauses or canning all at once.
    Type          Maturity  
    Early-Season  45-60 days "Glacier, "Bush Early Girl" and "Legend."
    Main-Season   70-80 days "Floramerica," "Kootenai," " New Big Dwarf", "Siletz."
      (Celebrity, Bella Rosa and Mountain Spring)
    Dwarf Types   45-72 days "Small Fry," "Cherry Grande," "Koralik," "Elfin," "Patio" and "Better Bush."
    Source: SF Gate 
  • Indeterminate varieties keep growing taller and taller (They can reach heights of up to 12 feet although 6 feet is normal), setting and ripening fruit until they’re killed by frost. These varieties require more support (from cages and stakes) and more a bit more attention from the gardener.
    Type          Maturity 
    Early        55 days   Early Girl, Qukick Pick, (Better Boy, Fantastic)
    Beefstake    80 days   Beefmaster, Supersteak, Delicious
    Tiny Fruit   65-70 days "Super Sweet 100", "Sweet Million", "Yellow Pear"
    Source: Indeterminate Tomato Plant List | Home Guides | SF Gate
Home Gardening Videos - Tomatoes- Determinate and Indeterminate Types at
Hybrid vs heirloom:
  • Hybrid tomatoes come from a mix of tomato plants.
    • On a commercial basis that might be to prolong the shelf life of a tomato.
    • For home growing it might be for better flavor or faster maturing.
  • Heirloom seeds when saved will produce a plant with the same characteristics year after year
  • Typically it is size that defines how long it takes for a tomato to ripen.
Tomato - Vegetable Directory - Watch Your Garden Grow - U. of Illinois Extension
Varieties of Tomato Plants, Buy Tomato Seeds, Determinate, Indeterminate Tomatoes |
The Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Tomatoes |

Support Systems
The main purpose of supporting tomato vines is to keep the plants off the ground where tomatos may rot.
There are several basic systems, caging, staking, stringing and trellises.
See Tomato Staking Techniques Evaluation | Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County

- Caged tomato vines produce more fruit of a smaller size.
Hard to see/collect fruit inside cage due to foliage if plant is not pruned.
- You can grow almost twice as many staked tomatoes in a given area
- Staked and tied plants produce less fruit which mature earlier yet are larger
- Better disease control because of better air circulation.
Trellis                                             Multi Stake
Vertical String
Cut lengths of natural fiber twine (heavy gauge) and tie a Bowline knot at bottom of main young tomato stems when plants begin to sprawl. Twirl the twine around the stems to top of plants in approximately 3 cycles. Tie the excess twine to the horizontal conduit using a clove hitch with a slipknot so it can easily be untied in order to gather more of the plant stems as they grow.

Prune off suckers so you have one main branch.
Tie the branch to the steak adding ties as it grows.
Use pieces of cloth rather than twine which might abrade the stem.
Loop the cloth around the stem so it doesn't slide up and down.
Staking at U. Main

Pruning is not always necessary. However, when pruning your tomatoes, remember these main points:

Plants with two or more stems produce more tomatoes with better foliage protection from the sun than plants with one stem. However, tomatoes pruned to one leader will bear earlier but with less yield overall. Choose the stems you want to keep and pinch out the others as they develop. A dense leaf canopy may reduce the incidence of black mold and cracking but may increase the incidence of other fruit molds such as gray mold.

Severe pruning to one stem will reduce your total crop greatly and also is likely to increase the incidence of some diseases or disorders.

Before removing suckers or side shoots on a tomato plant, wait until two leaves develop and pinch above them.
Source: Pruning | Univ. of California - IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

To properly prune a determinate tomato, pinch all suckers from the ground level to the first flower cluster . A sucker is a small stem that is growing between the main trunk and stem of a tomato.

To properly prune an indeterminate tomato, prune all suckers from the ground level up to the second flower cluster. (diagram to the right).
Source: How to Properly Prune Your Tomatoes | LSU


Gro-Box | The Garden Patch
GrowBox Review - Gardening Products Review

You want to keep the soil in your pots consistently moist - not wet, but damp.
Too much water and the plants drown, too little and you get blossom end rot. Before you water, check if your soil is already moist. To do this put your finger into the soil about an inch or two (a good way to do this is going to your second knuckle). Add water if the soil feels dry to the touch at your fingertip,
How to Stake and Cage Tomatoes Video - Home Gardening Tips and Advice | Burpee
Tomato Cages, Stakes or Trellises: Which is best for Supporting Heirloom Tomatoes?
Pruning and Staking Tomatoes - Perfect Techniques - YouTube
Garden Tips and Tricks - Staking Tomato Plants

last updated 12 June 2016