Determinate, or "bush" varieties, usually grow 3 to 4 feet tall and then stop. Fruiting is concentrated over a month or two and then stops. The fruit usually appear at the ends of the branches so they are easy to pick. These are perfect for canning, sauce, and early harvest before for a long vacation. We recommend support from a cage because the stems get heavy with fruit.
Indeterminate varieties continue to grow and produce tomatoes all along the stems throughout the growing season. Give them extra-tall supports of at least 5 feet such as a tall stake, cage, or trellis. If you’ve seen photos of 10- or 15-foot tomato vines, you can be sure they’re indeterminate types.
Most gardeners grow both types: determinate for large harvests for canning and freezing and indeterminate to get fruit for salads and sandwiches through the growing season.
Variety descriptions include symbols for diseases to which the plants are resistant. This is important because diseases can wipe out a tomato crop. Below is a key to the shortcut symbols for the most common diseases:
- V - Verticillium Wilt
- F - Fusarium Wilt (two F's indicate resistance to both races 1 and 2)
- N - Nematodes
- A - Alternaria Stem Canker
- T - Tobacco Mosaic Virus
- St - Stemphylium (gray leaf spot)
- SWV - Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
- LB - Late Blight
Heirlooms are varieties generally at least fifty years old and not hybrid. They're treasured for old-fashioned flavor. Many have unusual shapes and colors.
Hybrids are bred by crossing varieties. They have better disease resistance, higher yield, and other improved traits. Bonnie hybrids are not genetically engineered.
Early variety describes a tomato that matures in 50 to 60 days. These are prized for early summer harvests or late summer planting for a fall crop. Sometimes we refer to tomatoes that mature in more than 60 days as 'early', but only in comparison to their peers. For example, the earliest beefsteak type is compared to other beefsteaks. Beefsteaks are typically longer maturing because they are so big!
Days to Harvest are approximate. Fruit matures faster in warm climates and more slowly in cool ones.