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Choosing Maters & Taters: Determinate v. Indeterminate

Have you heard these terms before? Do you feel confident you know the difference between a "determinate" and an "indeterminate" variety? Well, by the time you read through this section you will! Typically, when we hear these terms, they relate to our tomato plants. The "determination" refers to how a variety will produce fruit throughout the season. It is important to understand how your plants will produce fruit, as it can dictate how you care for them.


Here's the rundown for tomatoes - Determinate Tomatoes:

  • have a "set" or "determined" number of fruit they can produce

  • are typically hybrids, or bush tomatoes

  • send productive, fruiting energy in all directions (up and out)

  • have clusters of fruit that ripen all at once

  • are typically best supported by a stake or tomato cage (if you like using those thingies)

  • should not be pruned or suckered, except for trimming the bottom leaves

Indeterminate Tomatoes:

  • do not have a "set" or "determined" number of fruit they can produce

  • are typically heirloom varieties

  • send productive, fruiting energy upwards / vertically, thus are vining varieties

  • have fruit that ripens gradually, one at a time

  • are typically best supported by multiple stakes, or a trellis

  • should be pruned, suckered, and have bottom leaves trimmed


Did you know, there are determinate and indeterminate POTATO varieties too?!


Yeah, neither did I, until a few weeks ago when I was talking to a farmer friend and she said that she just learned about it! Oh my word, ya know what they say, if it ain't growing (or learning, in this case), it's dead.


So, here's the rundown for potatoes - Determinate Potatoes:

  • grow at the soil surface, or just a few inches down

  • do not need to be "hilled" or covered with soil as they grow

Indeterminate Potatoes:

  • grow deeply in the soil, many inches down

  • benefit from being "hilled" throughout the growing season to produce more tubers

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