Tomato plants come in two basic types:
- Tall varieties, also known as Cordon or Indeterminate.
- Bush varieties, also known as Determinate.
Cordon varieties (indeterminate) grow tall and usually need to be stopped above the fourth or fifth truss (growing outside) to encourage the fruit to ripen. If growing in a greenhouse, more trusses of tomatoes are allowed to grow.
During a plant’s growth, the side shoots need to be removed so that all of the plant’s energy goes into the main stem and upward growth.
Bush varieties (determinate) are in some ways easier to grow as they only reach about 18ins/2ft tall. They can be grown in a hanging basket or large pot, and the side shoots are left on, to encourage outward growth. Cascading and trailing bush varieties have become very popular and make a great display.
(Bush variety) growing in a large pot.
This early cherry variety is highly recommended because it is easy to grow and will produce a good supply of tomatoes before many other varieties have started fruiting.
(Cordon variety) growing against a garden wall. This is a truss of tomatoes which ripen when they turn a golden colour. A very sweet cherry.
I can recommend each of the following bush varieties for growing tomatoes outdoors – because I’ve grown them.
Tumbler – cherry – early (now difficult to find).
Red Alert – cherry – early
Garden Pearl – cherry – early
Tumbling Tom – cherry – early
Alaskan Fancy – medium – early
Siberian – medium – early
Balconi Red – cherry – early
Legend – large – mid-season
Oregon Spring – medium/large – early
Micro Tom – windowsill cherry
Vilma – windowsill cherry (good size fruit)
Maskotka – cherry – early
Mountain Magic – cherry – blight resistant
Crimson Crush – medium large – blight resistant
Here’s a quick look at Maskotka, a lovely tasting cherry bush variety that is one of my favourites. It is not the earliest bush variety – Red Alert takes some beating – but I highly recommend it.
Container Types & Varieties
Bush varieties are usually best grown in large pots and containers. This keeps the branches and tomatoes off the ground.
Small bush varieties are also known as “dwarf” varieties and can be grown in pots as small as 6 inches and are ideal on a sunny windowsill.
Tall varieties (indeterminate, cordon) are best grown in grow bags or directly into the border.
Hanging baskets make a great display and the best varieties are the cascading or tailing types for high containers.
If you choose to buy tomato plants from the garden centre, much of the hard work will have been done to get them to the small plant stage.
What to look for
Look for plants that have healthy looking dark green leaves with a stem that is not too thin compared to the other plants of the same size.
Buying young plants is a great way to get started with growing tomatoes but you may find that your choice of varieties will be limited when compared to the varieties that are available to grow from seed.