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Determinate tomatoes

Posted by claudosu z7 OK (My Page) on
Tue, May 10, 11 at 16:16

So I have these Roma tomato plants that the tag said they were determinate. Please educate me if I'm wrong, from what I understand determinate types give all their fruit roughly at same time, correct? So is it bad mine are flowering already? They are only a foot tall. Does that mean I'm going to have tiny bushes giving only a bit of fruit? Oh yes, they are in a raised bed (amended soil) not containers, and get full sun from sunrise to about 5:00. Thanks everyone!!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Determinate tomatoes

In general, you are correct. Determinate plants normally produce most of their crop in a relatively brief period, but not all of them do. Some determinates are what is known as stong determinates or vigorous determinates and those determinates can produce for roughly 6 to 9 weeks instead of the 2-3 weeks of production you see on regular determinates.

I don't know why your determinates are setting fruit at such a young age. They normally get larger than that size before they set fruit. However, the weather has been crazy this spring and maybe that has induced early flowering.

Did you plant determinates because you do want all your fruit at one time? If so, you are in a sense getting what you wanted although you're getting it earlier than expected.

If the reason you chose determinates is because of space limitations, there are some semi-indeterminates and some ISI (internode short indeterminate) types that stay more compact than the typical indeterminate and which will produce a crop throughout the growing season.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

The plant may of been older then you thought it was. I know my plants will bloom in their seedling containers if they are getting too big.

If it is still growing at a pretty good rate, you may still get a good crop.

I dont know if giving it a little nitrogen to stimulate a little top growth would help. I know i have some fish fertilize that is a 5-1-1. I have not used any to say how good it is.
But at the same time you dont want to over do it and get only lush growth and very little fruit.

Looking on the back of MG tomato plant food, it gives a 18-18-21. I was surprised to see the 21% in potash. I would of thought it would of been less.

The general purpose MG has a 24-8-16.

I just put them out there and maybe you could mix what ever you fertilize with to simulate the MG.

I am just trying to provoke some more input from others.


So maybe someone on here can reccommend a good fertilizer.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I have tried to use the MG tomato stuff in the past. I dont like it much honestly. I get HUGE leafy plants that never produce. I have used it on several varieties over several seasons and never am pleased with how it affects my production. It will actually take a producing plant and turn it into a leaf monster that produces nothing. I honestly think their tomato formula has too much nitrogen. I think the osmocote time release stuff is better. I get steady growth and good production. Its a 14-14-14, and so it doesnt act as much like a steroid as MG seems too. I have actually run experments between the two, my experience is that MG give better plant growth at first (larger plants) but the osmocote catches up and begins producing sooner and more... I wondered about it and I think that osmocote stimulates better root growth, (the rootballs on my osmocote plants tended to be larger and fuller than the mg plant) which in turn promotes the plant to updraw more nutrients and better fruiting. I will not use MG on anything other than leafy greens personally since I am looking for quick leaf growth on those... Thats just my experience though... has anyone else has issues with MG or am I alone in my dislike of it?


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

The only ones I got that were determinate were the Roma tomatoes cus I love cooking with those, the others are indeterminate. I wonder if it's because I planted them early in April cus I was fooled due to warm weather. Maybe they felt the biological clock ringing? Other than they look good. I used the miracle grow slow release for tomatoes and vegs at planting. And I also put in a little bit of extra nitrogen.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I grew all of my tomato plants from seed and some are in the ground but are not more than a foot tall but are also blooming. Most of mine are indeterminates. I don't like it when they bloom so small but since I treasure the first tomato, I leave the blooms.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

My indeterminates are still pretty small, too. I've got about five pea-size tomatoes growing on them (they're all cherry tomato plants), and not a single one of them is over a foot tall. I think the cold snaps we had slowed down their growth quite a bit, but other than being small they look great.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Okiepokie, Like you, I am careful about what I feed my plants because too much nitrogen gives me huge, leafy tomato trees that look gorgeous but only produce moderate amounts of tomatoes. I like to feed the plants with liquid seaweed or liquid fish emulsion, or with Neptune's Harvest, which is a combination product containing seaweed and fish emulsion. I do add Espoma Tomato-Tone to the beds prior to planting, and then if I remember to do it, I'll top dress the beds every 3 or 4 weeks.

However, I am not above using Super Bloom to manipulate the plants and "force" blooms if a cool spell hits in the middle of the summer after the heat has gotten high enough to mostly shut down fruit set. When there's a real cool front plus rain coming in the summer, I feed with Super Bloom about 3 to 5 days before the cool front arrives, and often am rewarded with heavy fruit set during the cool spell, especially if it lasts a few days. Obviously, the plants likely would flower and set fruit anyway if the cool front brings temperatures back into the proper range for good fruitset, but the Super Bloom is sort of a guarantee that there will a lot of blooms to potentially set fruit.

In general, I don't like manipulating plants with fertilizer, but in the dead of summer, it is worth the effort to get a new flush of flowers and fruit at an otherwise unfavorable time.

Claudosu, Probably the plants were "pretty old" when you set them out but stunted by the wacky weather.

Tomatoes set fruit in a fairly well-defined manner and once the plants are ready to set fruit, they're ready and you can't hold them back except by overfeeding them nitrogen, which forces leafy growth at the expense of fruit.

Every determinate variety does not follow the same exact pattern, but they all are fairly similar in how they grow. Every determinate variety has a genetically-predetermined amount of leaves, branches and fruit that it will form under most conditions (those conditions being what we consider "normal" or "average" weather). When you grow the same determinates year in and year out, you realize how consistent their growth pattern is from year to year, unlike indeterminates will can vary much more from one year to the next.

Usually, after you transplant your determinates into the ground, they go through a growth cycle that is largely vegetative at first. Then, when they are a certain size, they set fruit. Then, for a fairly brief period of time, they'll continue to put out more vegetative growth and each branch will have a couple of leaves and then blooms. Once they have set the number of fruit that is genetically programmed into their DNA, they stop setting fruit and focus strictly on enlarging and ripening the fruit.

Once a regular determinate has turned its attention to enlarging and ripening the fruit, unless it is a vigorous or strong determinate, the leaves begin to senesce. All your fruit then ripens over a fairly brief period of 2 to 3 weeks. If you have a vigorous or strong determinate variety, you may get continued growth until the plant is 4' or taller, and your harvest may spread out over 6 to 9 weeks.

So, with your plants, I hope the early fruit set is just that---the first round, and that you'll get more vegetative growth, flowering and fruit. I've noticed over the years that sometimes determinates set the first fruit and stall for a while. Perhaps during that time they are sending the sugars their leaves make during photosynthesis to the fruit. Then, sometimes, the stall ends and regrowth and more fruiting follow. Other times, though, the stall seems permanent even when I know that, based on previous years' performance, the plant ought to grow and produce more.

I suspect the early heat is the reason your plants formed fruit so small. What is unknown at this time is if they will continue to grow vegetatively while flowering some more. I haven't grown plain old "Roma" in a few years because there are other deterinates that give me much higher yields of paste-type tomatoes. Back when I grew it though, Roma always set a perfectly adequate amount of fruit, but if it bloomed too early and set too many fruit before its vacular system was well-developed, then there tended to be issues with blossom end rot, which is common with paste tomatoes.

With the passage of a few weeks, you'll know if what you are seeing now is just the first fruit, admittedly occurring while the plants are small, or if the plants have, for whatever reason, gone haywire and tried to finish up prematurely. I suspect they'll keep growing and setting more fruit since we've turned back cooler this week.

Ever wonder why or how tomatoes "decide" to set fruit at a given time? It is because of photosynthesis. As the plants are growing, their foliage is a little sugar-producing factory. Early in the plants' lives, that sugar feeds the development of foliage. Once the plants have reached a certain age or stage, the foliage has all the sugar it can use, and then the plant begins using the sugar to produce first flowers, and then fruit. So, to an extent, it is predetermined when they'll set fruit and you can't change it.

I think that deterionate plants which stay in small containers too long before being purchased and planted can be stunted by that experience and never really catch up and perform to their full potential. That may be what is wrong with yours, as Robert said when he stated that your plants might have been older than you thought when you bought them.

I don't know if feeding determinates will kick off another vegetative round and more flowering, because I haven't tried it. I don't think it would hurt to try. Feeding the plant won't kill it, so you could try feeding it to see if you can force another good round of growth and more fruit.

Usually I grow determinates in pots in spring for early production, and since they die after they produce, I don't have to water them all summer long. Some years they surprise me by not dying and then put out a whole new round of vegetative growth after I've harvested their main crop. I don't know why they do it some years and not others. There are still a lot of unsolved mysteries in the plant world.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Glad this thread came up. I finally got my plants in the ground last weekend. They were stragglyso I buried them deep. I have blooms on 2 plants, I think the black krim. It is the BIGGEST bloom I have ever seen. Never seen a bloom like that.

Anyway, should I pinch those blooms off? I don't think these plants can hold a large tomato, they are just too small.

Thanks!!


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I guess I am the oddball as I have the opposite issue this year. My black cherry is almost 4 feet tall already and only has a 3 flowers. I think its because I grew snap beans there previously and so the soil is loaded with nitrogen. But, I have heard its a monster plant and a huge producer so I am not overly concerned (yet) but have not grown this variety before so I am keeping an eye on it. I am almost convinced that I should have given it the bed all to itself =)


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Erod,

Earliest blooms like that are common and generally, but not always, result from the fusing together of two or more flowers. These ultra-large flowers generally are referred to as "fused blossoms", "fused flowers" or "megablooms". They usually will give you a very large fruit, although sometimes it can be lumpy and odd looking depending on how the flowers fused. Competitive tomato growers who are trying to grow the largest tomatoes possible to enter in giant tomato contests love megablooms because megablooms are likely to give them very large fruit.

Whether to pinch off blooms or not is a personal choice. I usually don't do it, but many people do. If your plant is less than a foot tall at this point, I'd probably pinch off the bloom in order to allow the plant to put its energy into growing more foliage at this point. However, there's a part of me that hates to say that because our hot weather here usually shuts down pollination/fertilization way too early in the season, so if you pinch off too many early blooms, you may not get much of a crop. Usually we are in a race with the weather---with us wanting our plants to flower and set fruit before the weather gets so hot that they cannot. (Heat does not affect cherry and other bite-sized types the way it affects the larger beefsteak or slicer types.)

Okiepokie, Black Cherry will flower and set fruit just fine as long as you aren't overfeeding it nitrogen. Mine usually hit 5 to 6' in height by the end of May and then flower profusely. They then continue to grow, albeit more slowly, until they are 7' to 8' tall and 3' to 4' wide. Black Cherry isn't the largest or most vigorous tomato variety I've grown, but it is near the top of the list.

I always plant my Black Cherry plants too close together so I can squeeze more plants into the space available. It doesn't hurt them to be spaced more closely, but I think if they had their own way, each Black Cherry would be happiest with 4 to 5' spacing.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Dawn, thank you for the reply. My main concern is that the plant itself is not big enough to hold the weight of a large fruit.

I know my mom always said she would pinch off the first blooms if the plant was still small.

Such a hard decision. This bloom is so big I can just see and taste the huge tomato coming from it...

I will say there is only 1 bloom on the plant, so I may leave it and pinch off the next few that come on to let the plant grow some more... Oh lord what a hard decision...

Dawn, can you tell me how to post a picture here, I will take a few photos of the plants and post them and then everyone can chip in with thoughts... Again, I'm scared the plant is too small to handle the weight of the fruit but I'm greedy for the huge tomato that will have to result from a bloom this big....

*sigh*

E


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

LOL. I haven't fed it anything. I probably need to plant a bigger nitrogen consumer before I plant a tomato where I grew beans previously. I am not quite sure how to deal with soil that has a surplus of nitrogen in it as most people seem to have the opposite issue. =)


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

E,

I'll pinch off blooms sometimes in March or early April, though obviously not from the plants I buy in February for the sole purpose of having early tomatoes. After mid-April, I won't pinch off blossoms because I want the plants to set as many tomatoes as possible and often our temperatures hit the forbidden zone (where fertilization fails to occur) in June, so I need early fruitset or it will be a poor harvest year.

At this time of year, assuming average rainfall and average sunshine, a tomato plant can grow an inch a day. So, my vote is to at least leave the first flower or fruit on the plant, because 2 or 3 weeks from now, the plant will be substantially larger and will be able to carry the weight of the tomato.

Someone else will have to tell you how to post photos. I don't do photos and have no idea how to post them. I am hopelessly and impossibly inept with anything involving technology in any shape, form or fashion.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Erod - To post a picture you must first have your picture at Photobucket, Flickr, or one of the host picture sites.
The easiest way to post is just to grad the HTML code of that picture on the host site, and past it into the block below the message block on GardenWeb that says "Optional Link URL". In the "Name of the Link" block you can give it any name that you choose.

Once you master that part, we will go on with the instructions to make it appear in the body of the message.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Thanks Sooner, I will have to make a photobucket account.

I have a house in Grove, btw. Near Buffalo Shores....


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Erod - Grove is a nice place to live if you ever decide to come here full time. Tonight it has been a little stormy tho. I was watching the hail cell go just west of us, then just east of us, then a heavy storm went across the south. We only got rain, so all is well. Last night we got some high wind and then rain. I would not be surprised if parts of Grove got hail, but I live north of town and I didn't.

I have lived in a lot of different places and I have never enjoyed gardening as much as I do here, but in Spring it is hard to find a time when it is dry enough to get everything in the ground. My husband said that he probably had enough wire to make 5 more tomato cages, and I even have the tomatoes, but finding room is getting a little bit tough. -grin- I am sure I will find a way to use those cages. LOL


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Reading okiepokies reply about the MG tomato fertilizer and the reply by dawn about the plants thatstay in containers too long brings me to think that is exactly why I didn't get but a couple of handfuls of tomatoes at the end of the season last year. I know better than to use the MG, but my plants were so slow taking off last year I gave it a try- well 2 or 3 trys. Won't make that mistake again.

Does anybody know if the Hu-more fertilizer is a good fertilizer for tomatoes and everything else in general? I bought the only bags they had which said they were for shrubs and flowers but there were instructions on the bag for vegetable plants and the guy at the local garden center said he thought it was really all the same. ?? I've already amended the beds and side dressed with it. Just wanted to remind everyone about the rabbit pellets too- they always green up my tomato plants in a flash and seem to perk them up when they appear to be suffering.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Huh, I didn't even know that they made Hu-more as a fertilizer. When I last bought it, several years ago, I think it was sold as a "soil conditioner" and I used it to amend some ornamental beds before planting. I could tell it made a great difference over the unamended beds - the plants were much more vigorous but couldn't tell you in terms of fruitset since it was all ornamental plantings.

I did venture up to the Ace Hardware at 15th in Broadway in Edmond yesterday for Tomato-tone. Can't wait to use it! Gotta locate some fish/seaweed emulsion. Am thinking TLC or Horn's?


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

The Humore I'm familiar with is sold a a soil amendent/soil conditioner as Mia said. Humore soil conditioner is just composted manure and alfalfa and composted cotton burrs. Alfalfa is great because it has some natural growth hormones in it. Sometimes I make alfalfa tea to feed my veggies by soaking alfalfa cubes in a 5-gallon bucket of water.

While Hu-More would add the same nutrients to soil that any other compost would add, I wouldn't rely upon it as my only fertilizer. I think of it more as a soil conditioner.

I don't think it hurts to use the MG Tomato Fertilizer immediately after your plants have formed their first found of flowers/fruit. It will boost them to push out a second round of flowers and fruit before the temperatures and humidity get high enough to impact fertilization. I wouldn't use regular MG on tomatoes though. Also, I think with products like the MG Tomato-specific formulation, if the directions are followed carefully and each plant is given only "enough" but not "too much" MG, you shouldn't get excessive foliar growth. Some people figure if one cup of the product per plant is recomended that they'll give the plant 4 cups or 8 cups to get even better reults (they don't) and then they do get the excess foliage. At least 2 or 3 times, M-G Tomato Fertilizer has saved my crop. Each time we had excessively heavy rainfall (9.25" in one day in April 2006 and 12.89" in one 24-hr. period in 2009, and long-term excessive rainfall in May-June 2004 and again in 2007) and my plants were suffering greatly because the waterlogging of the soil was keeping their roots 'choked' with water so they couldn't absorb nutrients from the soil. I repeatedly fed them MG Tomato Fertilizer via a foliar feeding as their color was awful and their leaves were curling and stressed. After a couple of feedings with MG Tomato Fertilizer and also fish emulsion and liquid seaweed, they finally began to improve although it was far longer before the soil dried out enough for normal growth and production to resume.

I like the Espoma Tomato-Tone fertilizer better than anything else I've tried in the organic realm. I don't like the new formulation as much as the old formulation, but I doubt they'll return to the old formulation just to please me.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I didn't realize there was a difference in soil amendment and fertilizer, I guess. I thought it did the same thing. Guess I'll use the MG tomato fertilizer again since I still have some from last year. What about the pepper plants, squash, watermelons, green beans, cucumbers, and okra? Do they need to be fertilized with something? I've been mixing Humore into the soil with them and side dressing around everything with it too.


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RE: Determinate tomatoesc

Sheri,

Think of soil amendments as anything you add to the soil to improve soil health, texture and fertility. Most soils here need to be amended in order to help the sandier or siltier ones hold moisture and nutrients longer and to help the clayier soils drain better and allow more free root growth. Among the many soil amendments available and often used are these: compost from any origin, composted animal manures, greensand, lava sand, packaged soil conditioner (usually a blend of pine bark fines and humus), alfalfa meal, colloidal soft rock phosphate, bat guano, blood meal or dried blood, bone meal, dry molasses or sugar (both stimulate microbial activity), cottonseed meal, humus or humate products, earthworm castings, mushroom compost and fish meal.

Fertilizer products add extra fertility. Both organic ones and synthetic ones are available in many different formulations. I prefer organic ones like those made by Espoma because they add micronutrients to the soil. Most synthetic fertilizers focus mostly only on N-P-K and ignore the micronutrients, although I am starting to see some synthetic fertilizers that are adding micronutrients to the standard N-P-K.

Can you add enough fertility to your soil with soil amendments only? Yes, but it is very hard to do this consistently year in and year out when growing vegetables because some of them are such heavy feeders. Also, it is hard to be sure your compost or other soil-building materials have all the micronurients needed by plants. The micronutrients, also known as trace elements, that plants need are: copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, sulphur, chlorine, zinc, boron, calcium, and molybdenum. These micronutrients, along with the macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) combine with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to make plants grow and produce.

If you add enough compost to soil, depending on what it is made of, you may be adding all the macronutrients and micronutrients your soil needs, but how do you know? I don't, so I use Espoma Tomato-Tone for tomato and pepper plants and Espoma Garden-Tone for other veggie garden beds to ensure that all the micronutrients needed are available in the soil. I also regularly feed with liquid seaweed and/or liquid fish emulsion. For plants that are heavy feeders, like corn, I add extra nitrogen. I also use Miracle Grow for plants in containers and sometimes as a 'quick fix' for plants that are struggling and obviously nutrient deficient for whatever reason.

I think it is easier for people in a milder and less extreme climate than ours to rely only on only organic matter like compost to feed their plants. However, it is harder for us since "heat eats compost" and breaks it down very quickly and our sometimes heavy, heavy rainfall (when it occurs) also leaches nutrients out of the soil like crazy. Also, we have a very long growing season here. We can start planting as early as January or February in parts of the state, and often don't have the first freeze of autumn until October or November. In some areas, crops can be grown almost all winter, or even all winter long with some plant protection devices like frost blankets or low tunnels. So, we're continually pulling nutrients out of the soil for most of every year and we have to put a lot of nutrition back into the soil to replace what is getting used up.

If you regularly add soil amendments to your soil and your garden grows and produces fine, you may not need to add any other fertilizers. However, if your plants seem to be growing in a sluggish manner or are slow to flower, fruit and produce, they may be hungry.

In addition to working organic matter into your soil, the best way to amend the soil continually is to mulch it using ordinary organic matter like chopped/shredded autumn leaves, half-finished compost, grass clippings from your own lawn and herbicide-free hay or straw. As the mulch decomposes it turns into compost right there on top of the beds and gets carried down into the soil by rain or irrigation, the digging action we use to plant seeds or transplants, and by the action of earthworms and other soil-dwelling critters.

As fast as our climate depletes our organic matter from our soils here, it is almost impossible to add too much. I always have a variety of fertilizers in my potting shed and don't hesitate to use them. Since my purpose in raising a veggie garden is to raise as much of our produce here as I can, I expect my garden to produce well every year and to do that you have to maintain high soil fertility and use supplemental fertilizers too.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Thank you for explaining the difference. I used the tomato tone and seaweed emulsion the first year I planted the heirlooms, but not since. That may explain why that was my best year, ive just relied on alfalfa pellets the last two years, along w MG tomato last year.

Dawn do you think I'll be ok with the 54" tomato cages from Walmart if I stick down pretty far into the ground? (if you have time later, can you look at my list and tell me which plants will likely be the biggest) I know that's probably a stupid question, but I had to use my cattle panels to make a pen for a baby pig that fell of a pig hauling semi truck on the highway last year. Husband stopped and picked him up. He said his back legs wouldnt work at first, but 10 minutes down the road he jumped up and started running around in his pickup. I hated to part with the panels but figured there's some reason the little guy fell out in front of the husband of a vegetarian, and lived through it. I don't want to let them sprawl. What do you think? I've remember seeing some "Florida weave" etc. I'm wondering if I'm going to be in big trouble in a couple of months.

Mia, I've found the seaweed emulsion at atwoods a few years ago and think they still carry it.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Thanks, Sharon, I'll check there.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

I'll try to look at your list later today as I'm headed out the door right now.

I have no idea how tall plants get in your soil and growing conditions, but I use 6' to 8' tall cages in my soil and my climate. Planting deeper actually could make indeterminates grow taller because it would give them better root systems.

I avoid those shorter cages because my plants outgrow them by the end of May. So, I think whether or not they'd work for you depend on your soil fertility and moisture availability. I already have tomato plants in my garden now that are well over 3' tall and likely will be 5' tall by the end of May, so for me, the 54" tall cages wouldn't work.

You could start out with them and then add extensions to the top of them, using zip-ties to attach the two, if the plants start growing out of the top of the cages.

My plants usually get cages that are 6' to 8' tall and for most plants that's fine. Once they're over 8' tall, I let the plants cascade back down to the ground in a sort of weeping willow type way. When you do that, though, you have foliage lying on top of foliage and it impedes good air flow and makes disease more of a possibility.

Hope this helps,

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I think I've determined that it was indeed the cold weather that stunted my indeterminates. After those few 80-90 degree days we had last week, my tomatoes put out a flush of new growth and grew about three inches taller in just a few days. I think they've slowed down some since it cooled off, too. Next year I think I'll wait awhile longer before transplanting them. I just have to find an indoor place to keep them where my cats can't get to them.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Dawn,
That did help-I think I'll just use these cages and add extensions if I have too. I was kind of more worried about the width of the plants. The cages from Walmart are not very wide. When I used a few of the cages before the plants I used them on seemed to get taller than the ones on the trellises-and the ones on the trellises seemed to be quite a bit wider. I'll just use these these cages and see what happens-I think it would be really ex$pensive to try to have cages made for this many plants all at once. Thanks, sheri


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

You're welcome.

It is expensive to make a lot of cages at once. It seems like all I did our first 4 or 5 years here was make more, more, more cages. I made them in the winter months when I otherwise wasn't spending a lot of money on the garden. I finally have a lot and I use them for everything, including melons and peppers. I use 2 or 3' tall cages for peppers and feel like I get larger yields from plants that are well-supported. Sometimes in the past the pepper plants were so heavily loaded with peppers that either limbs would break off the plant or the entire plant would essentially fall over sideways and lie on the ground. Stakes and cages put a halt to that.

If you watch Wal-Mart, Lowe's, HD, etc., you might catch them putting tomato cages on sale any time from late May to July after sales have dropped off. Then you could scoop up more cages to use as extensions.

All my tomatoes tend to spread out really wide and grow "beyond" their cages by about mid- to late-May. By early June, you really don't even see the cages because the plants have swallowed them up and all you see is a big wall of green plants. That's typical and is considered normal. The purpose of the cages is just to support the plants and not to fully contain them. I let them grow into a wild tangled mess, but I will pull a branch back out of a pathway and attach it to the cage with a zip-tie in order to keep the path clear. If a vigorously growing tomato plant is attempting to take over the path, I prune it back really hard. I have wide raised beds(4 to 5' wide) with very narrow paths (12-18" wide) in order to maximize growing space, so I can't afford to let plants take over the pathways since they're so narrow to begin with.

I always grow more plants than I have space for, so mine are always too close to one another and too crowded, but cages help contain them somewhat. A few years ago we went to a house in our neighborhood on a fire call and I saw just how wide a tomato plant could get if it wasn't crowded. The garden plot was about 20' wide and about 30' long and it had three tomato plants in it. Three! They were spaced in one row right down the middle of that big, wide garden plot and were about 8 or 9' apart and were just huge, huge, huge. I'd guess they were at least 8' tall and 5' to 6'wide. They were an incredible dark green and were picture perfect. I'd never seen such beautiful, lush, full, wide tomato plants in my life. But, and it is a big but, it was June or July and there was not one single fruit and not one single flower on the plants. Clearly they were being overfed nitrogen. I kept my mouth shut, but I wanted to tell those folks that they'd get a lot more fruit (or at least some fruit!) if they'd stop giving the plants nitrogen.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Your neighbor was probably using miracle grow, thinking they were going tohave an overload of tomatoes Lol What is the closest you space your indeterminate tomato plants? I was looking at a few I planted yesterday, thinking I might need to transplant a few, their about 18" apart! I'm trying to squeeze more in to make room for the fall tomatoes.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

I am a very, very, very bad girl when it comes to tomato spacing this year, but it seemed like a rational decision at the time because of the drought. Now, whether that will prove to be true remains to be seen.

I planted all of them, both determinates and indeterminates, a mere 24" from one another. Normally, I like to go with 30-36" although if I had really great soil, I'd plant them 4' apart like my dad used to. Since I have to do monumental amounts of amending to get my red concrete clay soil in decent enough shape for anything at all to grow in it, I try to grow plants as close together as possible so I can grow "more" in the improved soil I have. Still, 24" spacing with indeterminates is really pushing it.

With the ongoing drought, I was trying to cram as much as possible into my spring garden because I feel like I need for everything to produce early before the cost of irrigation makes me shut off the water in mid-summer. Usually in a drought year, I cannot irrigate enough to keep the garden going much later than June. I have four plantings of corn and 24 kinds of beans planted, so the tomatoes had to be squeezed into much less space than normal. We won't even mention the 6 or 7 dozen pepper plants and the amount of space given to them.

If the weather does an abrupt about-face and regular rain starts falling, I'll just have crowded, unhappy big tomato plants, I guess. However, if the drought continues with only sporadic moderate rain, then 24" probably will work out alright. At our house, our 2011 rainfall has improved a lot the last 2 or 3 weeks, but we're still at only about 50% of "normal" rainfall for the year-to-date.

I have noticed that the rows of tomato plants that went into the ground first and which are, therefore, the largest, are now a little over 4' in height and are growing into each other's tomato cages and engaging in pushing and shoving in an attempt to dominate the territory and seize more space for themselves. Some of them are determinates though, and I can take them out after they've produced their main crop if I think the plants are too crowded for their own sake.

I don't like crowding tomatoes that closely together and wouldn't do it in a wet and humid year because the reduced air flow would encourage all sorts of disease.

I do think he likely was using Miracle Grow, but I didn't ask. We were there on a medical call because Tim, like many firefighters, is a trained First Responder. I was with him because we were headed somewhere else and diverted to that house when the call was dispatched. It didn't seem like the right time to engage family members in a gardening conversation. I was just trying to stay out of the way of the first responders and paramedics, but I really, really did want to tell them they were overfeeding their plants nitrogen. I had to bite my tongue.

For fall tomatoes, I will have the option of three raised beds currently filled with onions and potatoes.

In another space-saving move, I interplanted broccoli and tomatoes in the large bed at the west end of the garden. The broccoli is planted in the pathway area between the rows of tomatoes which are, believe it or not, 4' apart. Right now, I have to step over and around broccoli plants, but once the broccoli is done and I've removed all the plants, I'll have nice wide paths between those rows of tomatoes. Right now, everything in that bed looks great and is growing well, and since broccoli is planted first, it was large enough by tomato-planting time that they won't start shading it much until it is almost "done".

If there is a way to cram more things into less space, I've used it this year. For example, every single raised bed has a border of bush beans planted around the entire perimeter of the bed. Pole beans and peas are growing on the garden fence, which is 7' tall, and I'll plant more pole beans with the mid-season and late corn once those corn stalks are about 3' tall. I wait for the stalks to reach a certain size so the beans don't outgrow the corn. I planted Seminole pumpkins near the eastern fenceline so those plants can grow out into the new mulched area east of the garden fence. That might mean the deer eat them, but then some years the deer don't bother the pumpkin plants at all, so we'll see.

I really wish I had two gardens the size of the one I have. I'd plant cool-season crops in one and warm-season crops in the other, and once each one had produced their crops and the season was ending, I'd plant a season-appropriate cover crop. When I mention the idea of building a second garden to DH, his eyes glaze over and he looks at me like I've actually lost my mind. I think that's why I got the greenhouse for Christmas---to distract me from wanting to build a second big garden.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

I'm going to start my fall tomato seeds tomorrow and hope im not too late to get them ripe before frost, I should be a little ahead of you to match your frost date anyway. Maybe the MG tomato will do the trick, I'm glad you lady's spelled that out to me, Im sure I've seen you post that they need the fertilizer to help with the flowering before, but Failed to realize just how much they need it. How big is your garden plot?

I've started some pumpkins too, I remember you saying how much your dogs liked them and thought that would be a nice treat for mine. Tried it last year, but had to reckon with the squash bugs and they won. I mixed up so many water/alcohol/ivory concoctions it's ridiculous. Wasn't going even try the squash thing this year, but then I went to buy a few and saw that one small straightneck squash was $1.68, same for broccoli, so I headed straight home and started seed. Planted some tableace too, and saw four big squash bugs helping themselves yesterday. Getting ready for combat!

BTW, my neighbor mentioned that she heard that we have locusts heading this way for some reason or another, and they may be big trouble for our gardens. Have you heard anything? What would remedy locusts? Praying mantis maybe? I thought about praying mantis for the squash bugs, but hate to do that to the larger than normal population of ladybugs I'm seeing.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

It is hard to assign a size to my garden because it isn't a square or rectangle. It has about 8 sides (no two the same length) because it is squeezed into a clearing next to the woodland with heavy forest to its north about 10' away, light forest to its west, the driveway to its south and a retention pond and berm to its east. So it meanders and curves and is roughly 80' x 80' in the main area with a large extension jutting off the NE corner. When we put up the taller fence, it took us right at 400' feet of fencing, so if it were perfectly squared, I guess it would be roughly 100' x 100'. That's the main garden.

Then there's the Peter Rabbit Garden next to my garden shed, and I think it is about 15' wide by about 60' long, and the 'auxiliary' area in our narrow band of sandy soil where I'm growing melons this year. It is about 12' x 30'. And, if I can get Tim out behind the barn with the rototiller next week, I want to plant field corn, amaranth and sunflowers in an area behind the barn that is roughly 40' x 20'. That's likely to happen if it doesn't rain. If it rains a lot on Friday-Sunday like they are saying it will, it might be too muddy to rototill. I'd rototill it myself today before the rain arrives, but it is very dense red clay and you have to use the big tiller which is too much tiller for me to handle. I don't think my little Mantis cultivator could handle that heavy red clay.

I also have about 80 containers, including a 4' diameter galvanized metal stock tank (with the rusted out bottom that allows great drainage) and about 6 or 8 molasses feed tubs they are roughly the size of a whiskey half-barrel) plus lots of smaller containers. The joke around here is that you can't set down any sort of container like a large iced tea glass, or I'll drill holes in it and plant something into it.

My newest container is a cattle feed trough that is about 8 or 10' long and about 20" wide and 10" deep. It was a Christmas gift from my DH because I've long complained that every wild critter in the world eats our lettuce and I wanted to get it out of the ground. He drilled numerous drainage holes in it and I filled it with Miracle Grow Moisture Control Soil and planted about 20 or 25 lettuce varieties in it. We've been harvesting lettuce from it since late March. Slowly the lettuce varieties are bolting one by one, at which time I pull them out and feed the bolting lettuce to the chickens. Once all the lettuce is done, I'll replant something else in it, probably bush beans, true dwarf tomatoes or southern peas for the summer months and will replant it with winter lettuce in the fall.

The lettuce from our trough has been absolutely perfect with no pests on it whatsoever whereas the lettuce in the ground in the garden has had a minor bout with aphids and also some pillbugs (I didn't put Slug-Go out around it or they wouldn't be there) and grasshoppers. We also had something, likely field mice or voles, eat about half the young in-ground lettuce plants the first few weeks after I planted them there. They can't easily reach the cattle trough lettuce since it is a couple of feet above the ground and I don't think they can climb its metal legs.

So far this year, I only have a few tomatoes in the largest containers and Laura Bush petunias in all the rest. Normally I grow peppers and tomatoes in a lot of the smaller containers, but due to the ongoing drought, I stuck those veggies in the veggie garden (hence, more crowding to squeeze in all of them) and planted more drought-tolerant flowers in the smaller containers, which mostly are 4 to 10 gallons in size.

All that really works for me with squash bugs and squash vine borers is to raise them totally under floating row cover and to take off the cover briefly every morning to hand-pollinate them. I just get so tired of fighting them otherwise.

It is supposed to be a big locust hatch this year, but I don't know if they'll come our way. I need to do some research and see what they are saying about this year's hatch. With locusts as with adult grasshoppers, there's not a lot you can do as most pesticides, whether organic or synthetic in nature, don't kill them in the adult stage. You have to do your best to repel them (Garlic Barrier or Surround WP might be effective).

I avoid praying mantids because they will eat all your other beneficial insects. In fact, the praying mantids eat each other. We still have a few around every year, but I certainly don't buy and release them. I'd rather have all the other many types of beneficial insects that control many other insects.

With adult grasshoppers, I have had some success with placing quart canning jars half-filled with a mixture of water/molasses around the garden. The hoppers fly in to get a drink of the sweet water and drown. It might work with locusts. I've never had a bad problem here with true locusts, but we do fight adult grasshopppers by the hundreds and thousands every summer. For young hopper nymphs in the spring, I put out Semaspore, which contains Nosema locuste, a biological control that only targets members of the locust family. However, it is most effective only in April's and May's cooler temperatures and only on the earliest instars when the hoppers are roughly 1/4" to 1/2" in length. I've been putting it out in my garden weekly for about a month now.

It is good you are seeing a lot of ladybugs. They are terrific garden helpers. I see them scattered around here and there in my garden and assume they're working on controlling aphids, mites, etc. My best garden helper so far this year has been the Spined Soldier Bugs, which are somewhat rare. Some years I see one or two, but this year I have about 4 or 5 in the potato patch each day. They eat Colorado Potato Beetles so they've really helped a lot this year. I have hand-picked and drowned a couple dozen CPBs, but last year I had hundreds and hundreds, so the spined soldier bugs clearly are making a huge difference.

We had adult grasshoppers show up here at our house in March! I believe they migrated from Texas which was burning like mad with huge wildfires in many places. It drove me crazy to have those hoppers flying around my yard and garden all day. In a bad year like last year they can strip every plant of every fruit, flower and leaf, but they normally don't show up here in those numbers until July or so. Having them in March was very discouraging. I already have made up my mind that it is "war" if they show up in those numbers this year, and I think I'll buy and use EcoBran to control them, if I can find any. It is a bran product laced with a very small amount (2%) of Sevin. Normally I avoid the use of all chemicals, but I lost the entire Peter Rabbit Garden to the hoppers last July and al my big garden's bean plants as well, so I am determined to win the grasshopper war this year. The EcoBran would only hurt criters that physically eat the bran and ingest it, so it shouldn't harm beneficial insects the way Sevin dust or liquid would.

Dawn


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Wow! That's some garden or gardens! I would likely have it the same way if I had some acreage. I have 7 tomato plants and a few pepper plants in my front yard-I've never done that before. I'm hoping they don't get gigantic, it's probably going to look weird in the front yard. I honestly think I have some kind of tomato problem, I have the larger part of the neighbors garden and a large part of it is packed with the 50 tomato plants already-and will be packed with alot more as soon as the new seedlings get bigger, not too mention the fall plants in a month if I can fit them. The sad thing is- I would probably be ordering more seed, if I had more space. I'm going to try to cover the cattle panels that surround the garden with beans cucumbers and melons so everyone can't drive by and see how many plants I have. I feel abnormal standing in the midst of all of them when people drive by and stare. I haven't seen anyone around here with more than a dozen or so.

I pondered the idea of putting some watermelon etc out on the land where we keep our horses and pig, but was afraid I wouldn't be prepared to deal w all of the pests and critters out there. So I'm going to till up my old tomato patch and put some of the melOns in there and see if the restraining order holds up. Lol. I don't see anyway I can fit everything in at my neighbors otherwise.

I ordered the semasphore from planet natural and will be putting it out for the first time this year tomorrow. I will probably have to give the ecobrand a try too, along w the molasses water, the grasshoppers were so bad here last year, and we too are noticing adult grasshoppers early.

I guess it's too late for me on the row covers because I don't have the squash raised up. You know what's weird that I've been thinking about...in 2007, I had 1 tableace squash plant by the tomato patch, and it never had a single squash bug on it. I think it had some vine borers at the end, but I didn't know they were then. Yet, across the street my neighbor has always had to fight the squash bugs. I'm wondering if it is because I only had the one plant. Also, both years gardening in my backyard, you may remember I had horrible aphid problem followed by red spider mites then white flies. I remember my neighbor saying that he hadn't ever had the aphid problem. With this bring my third year gardening at in his yard, I've not noticed any aphids or white flies. Their were some red spider mites but not out of control like they were in my garden. I really don't think that he ever amended his soil too much, mine was probably more than his. He does use the miracle grow on everything though, and all of his stuff usually does look bigger and Often healthier than mine. So maybe it was the lack of nitrogen on my plants, but I thought nitrogen attracted more insects? I don't know.


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Ok, so my husband would not let me have a bale of hay. He said it is good horse hay and not straw. As if feeding his horses is more important than my little tomato patch...

So, I bought some cypress mulch which is what I use in my flower beds. My question is, do I put it all the way up against the tomato stalk or just close??

My poor 'maters are only about 6" tall. But, I think instead of planting fall tomatos, I can use Dawns stuff and feed them nitrogen to make them leaf out when they get puney around August, then use the stuff to force them to bloom and then I will have summer and fall tomatos from the same plant!!

Ok, is that crazy? Has anyone ever done it? Am I on to something HUGE here???

LOL


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RE: Determinate tomatoes

Sheri,

Insect behavior is highly variable. Sometimes I see them on one variety of a given veggie, but then not on another variety of the same vegetable sitting right there in the next row.

Nitrogen in the right balance with other nutrients gives you healthy plants that should not be any more attractive to pests than other plants. It is excessive nitrogen that makes some plants excessively attractive to some pests. I think the excess nitrogen can lead to excess carbs/sugars in the plants and the pests are drawn to those.

Erod, Mulch is mulch is mulch. I prefer locally-grown hay if I can get it, but only if I know for sure it was not grown with the use of chemical herbicides. Cypress mulch will be fine. You want it up pretty close to the tomato plants main stem, but not touching it. I usually leave it an inch or so away from the stem.

At this time of year, healthy plants which are are receiving adequate moisture and fertilizer can grow 1" per day, so you should have every reason to expect your tiny plants to be a decent size and to have fruit setting on them by the end of June. Just strive to keep them healthy and if they can survive all the diseases and pests and heat stress that summer weather throws at them, they may continue producing into fall. Mine do it all the time.

I almost never take out my spring tomatoes and replace them with fall tomatoes. Instead, I plant fall tomatoes in a bed left vacant by the havesting in June or July of one of the cool-season crops like onions or potatoes. So, I have spring/summer tomatoes that are still producing and fall tomatoes that are growing and getting ready to produce. As long as the spring plants stay healthy and producing well, I leave them. However, when they start slowing down and looking bad, I start yanking them since I do, after all, have new fall plants coming along.

I probably grew only spring tomatoes for the first 20 years or so and kept them producing until the first fall frost. I just began planting fall tomatoes about 15 years ago. Some years, if it is a bad drought year and water is scarce and expensive, I don't plant fall tomatoes. Sometimes in a really nice, wet (but not flooding) year, I can keep the spring tomatoes going all summer without new plants for fall.

You just have to figure out what works best for you in your location, with your weather and your soil, and what works best will vary depending on what kind of summer weather you have. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new methods. That's the only way you'll learn what works best for you.

Dawn


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