Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. What’s the difference?

The true definition of the word determinate is; having defined limits, or; conclusively determined.
All determinate tomatoes are varieties that have been bred to grow shorter in height than indeterminate types.

Determinate varieties may only grow to be about four or five feet tall. They will stop growing when flowers have set their fruit on the terminal bud. Determinate tomatoes will ripen their entire crop at the same time and then they will complete their lifecycle and die back.

Supporting your tomatoes is always important, and it doesn’t matter whether they are determinate or indeterminate. They all need some sort of support. No pruning is necessary with either type of tomato; however, if you do pinch out the sucker growth of a determinate tomato, you are removing a lot of the potential for flowers to set fruit. I grow Celebrity and Roma varieties. These two examples are known as determinate tomatoes. Remember: Do Not Pinch Suckers!

Indeterminate varieties or the so called "vining" tomatoes require a lot of support. Using 6” square wire mesh used in the pouring of concrete driveways is a good material to wrap in a three foot diameter circle for a cage. These cages could be as tall as eight feet, depending on the width of the wire mesh. This type of wire mesh can be found at your local “big box” hardware store, or lumberyard.

Indeterminate tomatoes grow throughout the season putting on a lot of vegetation and fruit until it gets so cold that the plants can be killed. They are known to flower, bear fruit and ripen all at the same time as the growing season progresses. Remember: it is not necessary to pinch out the suckers on an indeterminate variety of tomato, but you may have been taught, or are already practicing this acceptable method of improving fruit quality. I've planted Early Girl, and cherry tomatoes that are indeterminate varieties.

Regardless of the variety or its determinate or indeterminate nature, during times of high heat and humidity, you are bound to see fruit set decrease dramatically. The pollen gets too sticky, and is unable to float to other flowers. Bees are not typically found out working in the extreme heat of the day in places like Texas.

Always check the label in the pot or the back side of a seed packet prior to purchasing your tomatoes so that you know if they are determinate or indeterminate. You will better understand your tomatoes growth patterns and how to best care for them during the growing season.
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To Vegetable Garden or Not?

Are you thinking about starting a vegetable garden? Or, are you the type that considers it too much work for the results? Well, all I can tell you is that I’ve reaped the rewards for the last 40 plus years by planting vegetables and receiving some other rewards from the work as well.

The benefit in knowledge gained (and shared with anyone who wants to learn what I’ve learned) is just tremendous and you can just imagine all of the other benefits that come from spending time in the garden with family, teaching the next generation.

And let’s not forget the health benefits! I just came from a visit with my doctor, who said that beyond a few very small problems easily fixed, he’d never seen a 55 year old as healthy looking as me. He knows my gardening history, and partially attributes my level of health to my involvement in the garden.

I know you really want to get started. I can feel it right through this keyboard as I type this post to you. So, are you ready? Where do I start, you may ask? Start by setting a goal. Start out with a 4X4 foot area. Learn as you grow, but get started.

There are so many viable resources available to anyone who wants to get started, so get started! I’m here to help. Ask questions and get to it today!
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How to Hand Pollinate a Pumpkin

Today I’m going to discuss something that many do not know how to do, and sometimes even fear doing, thinking that they won’t do it right. Let me assure you that you cannot fail in hand pollinating your pumpkins if you follow a few simple instructions. Once pumpkins start producing flowers, you may also notice that the plant will also start producing small pumpkins with flowers on them too. When the flower on the end of the pumpkin actually opens, it’s time to get started.
Take a pair of scissors and snip off one of the flowers on a long stem. This is one of the male flowers (Do not cut off the flower with the pumpkin attached, as these are the female flowers that actually produce the pumpkins). Before you cut it, make sure it is at least ‘just opening. Peel back the petals of this flower, exposing the male parts of the flower. DO NOT SET THIS FLOWER DOWN UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED WITH THE ENTIRE PROCESS. Ask someone to help you if you are unable to do it all by yourself.
Once the petals are peeled back, select the female that you are going to pollinate. This would be a flower with a baby pumpkin on it; a flower just opening. Hold this female flower open with two fingers and your thumb, and lightly rub the stamen (male flower parts) onto the stigma (female flower parts).
Be gentle, as you do not want to break the female flower parts. When you have completed this part of the process, loosely wrap the female flower petals back together. This should help in keeping anything else from pollinating it. You are finished.
Wasn’t that easy? With a little practice, you can become a pro at making sure that your pumpkins always set fruit that grow into healthy pumpkins for the Thanksgiving season.

Now here's a photo of the same pumpkin as above, just 6 days later!