Indeterminate Tomatoes

by Wayne
(U.S.)

I am looking for indeterminate type of tomato that will not get too tall. If this does not exist, can tomato plants be topped to keep them at an acceptable height?

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Answer from Stella/Simon:

Hi Wayne,

Indeterminate (or "vining") tomatoes are actually vines that continue growing in length throughout the growing season, if not pruned. They also continue to set and ripen fruit until the end of the growing season.

It is wise to prune your tomatoes, and NOT allow them to actually "vine". Left to its own devices, a vigorous indeterminate tomato plant can easily cover an entire 4- by 4-foot area with as many as 10 stems, each 3 to 5 feet long. By season's end, it will be an unsightly, impenetrable, disease-wracked tangle.

So how do you keep it under control? Study the plant as it grows and prune it regularly. Remove all "suckers" which sprout in the crooks of the branches. Prune off any side shoots, so that the plant is just one main stem. Then, either allow it to train up a string or trellis, or if you want to keep it short, just pinch off the tops. You have your work cut out for you though, as indeterminates by their nature want to grow and grow into many long stems. So you are always fighting the nature of the beast. (Determinate tomatoes require little pruning).

A properly pruned and supported single-stem tomato plant presents all of its leaves to the light (sun or lamp). Removing excess growth (suckers and side stems) diverts precious sugar production towards the fruit, making for larger and tastier tomatoes.

The majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate including most heirlooms and most cherry types. Other indeterminate tomatoes include: 'Beafsteak', 'Big Boy' and 'Brandywine'.

Hope this helps!

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