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Writing about the things I love. My writing work has appeared in hard copy magazines including Green Prints, Twins Magazine, Practical Parenting Magazine, The Journal of Court Reporting, and more as well as hundreds of articles in Sunset Hosta Farm's Hosta blog and The Homesteading Village blog.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tomatoes - Determinate vs. Indeterminate

What are the basic differences between a determinate tomato plant and an indeterminate tomato plant and which one is right for your garden?  

There are three major differences:

How much they grow.
How tall they grow.
How long they grow.

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Determinate Tomatoes aka "BushTomatoes"

Abbreviated "DET" on most seed packets

These plants are bred to stop growing at a pre-determined compact height which is generally three to four feet. After the first big flush of fruit appears, the plant's growth will slow dramatically. When the fruit sets on the top bud, their growth will stop.

Advantages of Determinate Tomatoes

  • As the tomatoes ripen at the same time, it is great for gardeners who grow, for example, paste tomatoes to use for canning or freezing during certain times of the season where one large harvest is preferable.
  • They're great for small garden plots or spaces. The spacing between plants can be as little as 2 feet.
  • They're great for container gardening. Small or medium-sized plants can be grown in a three-gallon pot. A five-gallon container (one that is 20" across and 24" deep) can nicely grow the larger determinate varieties.
  • The small plant size requires a limited amount of staking for support. You don't need a trellis or stake as tall or as strong as you would with indeterminate varieties, however staking is still recommended.
  • No heavy pruning is necessary. However, as with all tomato plants, it is vital that you remove any branches or leaves that touch the soil to prevent the start of the disease.
  • You can stagger your harvesting time by planting both early season and main season tomato crops.
  • Early season types mature in 45-60 days. That means you can get in a tomato crop before the late-season diseases can take hold.
  • Some great early season determinate tomato varieties include Glacier, Bush Early Girl, and Legend
  • Main season types will produce large yields of round to oval red tomatoes. They generally mature in 70-80 days.

Disadvantages of Determinate Tomatoes

  • The fruits tend to be smaller. You won't get the huge, beefsteak tomatoes from determinate plants.
  • All the tomatoes from that plant will ripen at approximately the same time, usually over a three- to four-week period. (This can also be an advantage.)
  • Most determinate tomatoes are hybrids. (This can also be an advantage.)
  • Hybrids are plant types created by breeders by cross-pollinating two different varieties of a plant. The goal is to produce an offspring, or hybrid, that contains the best traits for each parent. Hybrids are generally considered easier to successfully grow because some of the disease genetics have been bred out. The disadvantage is that seeds saved from hybrid fruits cannot be used to grow more tomatoes season to season as they will not produce the same crop.

Note:  "Days to maturity" is the average number of days it will take for the first ripe fruits to appear after you put six-week-old plants into the ground. If you're growing tomatoes from seed, you will need to add the six weeks to that number.

Indeterminate (Classic tomato types)

Abbreviated "INDET" on most seed packets

Indeterminate tomato plants have no growing limit. The plants will grow and produce fruit until the plant is killed by frost or disease. Their long vines can easily reach to heights up to 12 or 14 feet. They include the big, sliced or salad tomato varieties.

Advantages to Indeterminate Tomatoes

  • Plants will bloom, set new fruit and ripen throughout the season providing a continuous harvest.
  • They will produce longer into the summer than the determinates.
  • Most indeterminate varieties are heirlooms so you can save the seeds from the fruit and replant them year to year.

Disadvantages to Indeterminate Tomatoes

  • Plenty of garden space is required. A row spacing of three feet apart is generally recommended. If growing in a circular wire trellis, increase the spacing to four to five feet apart.
  • Tall, sturdy stakes or heavy-duty cages are necessary, high as you care to grow them.
  • Pruning these vigorous vines is necessary to balance the energy going to the plant versus the energy going to the fruit. If no pruning is done to the plant, you will get a larger harvest of smaller tomatoes. Pruning opens up the plant canopy for airflow which reduces the chance of disease.

Knowing the basic differences between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants will go a long way in choosing which is right for your garden. Or try a combination of the two for a longer tomato harvesting season!

Where to go next!

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at affordable prices.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Beauty of Variegated Hostas!

Hostas continue to be one of the most popular perennial plants for shade and part sunny gardens, and for good reason. The sheer amount of available hosta sizes, shapes and leaf colors and designs ensures you can find one or several to fit into your garden scheme.

Variegated Hosta Design Tips

The most beautiful hosta combinations always include variegated hostas which provide a color accent that emphasizes their unique leaf colors and patterns. Whereas it is easy to work a solid colored leafed hosta into a garden design, adding a variegated hosta requires a little more forethought.

Two hostas planted close together should complement each other in some way. If you put all your potted hostas together and take a closer look, you will quickly notice the color combinations that work well together and complement each other.

In general, variegated hostas look best when they are contrasted against a solid background.


One of the best hosta designs includes a swath of solid leafed hostas, like the solid green of Honeybells below, with a pop of color from a smaller variegated grouping of a hosta variety like Minuteman (green with very strong white variations).



Another example of this type of pairing below is planting a patch of Halcyon hosta (blue solid leaves) which will bring out the blue variegation in Hosta June and make the yellow margins really pop.



A white, cream or yellow variegated hosta will stand out beautifully when planted in the midst of solid green hostas.



Hush Puppie

        Variegated hostas as focal points

  • Variegated hostas, in general, make wonderful focal points simply because they will catch and hold the eye.

  • White variegated hostas make the best focal points because the amount of sun they get will not have a drastic effect on the white color.

  • However, gold or yellow variegated hostas are a little trickier to use in this way because the brightness of the leaf color is dependent on the amount of sun they receive.

  • Gold and yellow variegated hosta leaves can appear chartreuse or greenish during the season which may clash with the color scheme you're going for.

  • Siting them in the morning sun and afternoon shade will help preserve that goldish color longer through the season

What Doesn't Work

  • Planting too many variegated hostas of different colors close to each other, however, will have the effect of your eyes competing for attention and cause the area to look chaotic.

  • Planting two light-colored hostas, like a white hosta near a yellow-variegated hosta, has the same negative effect because it confuses the eye.

Variegated Hostas and the Sun


Guacamole in shade and sun

Variegated hostas have minimal amounts of chlorophyll. In full sun, the chlorophyll levels can increase and cause the leaves to pick up a green cast and look less variegated as the Guacamole hostas on the left appear.

With insufficient sun, any yellow or white margins may not lighten to the mature color.

White centered hostas can be difficult to grow without enough sun. With more sun, the green portion of the leaf in these hostas can often produce the extra food needed for the hosta to thrive, as you can see in the Guacamole photo on the right.

White variegated hostas with thin leaves should be restricted to partial shade or early morning or afternoon shade as direct sun is too intense.

Our great variegated hostas!

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell the hostas we love. Our variegated hostas were selected because of their well-defined leaf patterns.

Here are our best picks

Small and mini category

Click on the hosta name for more pictures and descriptions.

Mighty Mouse

Rain Forest Sunrise

In the medium category

In the large/very large category



No matter how big or small your hosta garden is, adding variegated hostas can be a beautiful addition to your overall garden.

Love hostas or know someone who does?

Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price.



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