Bush Tomatoes and Vine Tomatoes:
Before I begin to discuss the differences between vine tomatoes and bush tomatoes, let me first briefly discuss my preference. I have planted many variety of tomato in my backyard garden and indoor grow area and as the years passed along, I found that I began to favor planting the bush variety. In all honesty, this is likely because the bush variety took less manual labor than the vine variety. The longer the vine variety gets, the more work one must do to make sure that the plant grows, is properly pruned, and stabilized adequately. Building a proper framework for the tomatoes to climb takes time, patients, and can even require a strong lower back. Unfortunately, I only have two of those attributes. I’ll let you guess which two. I ultimately ended up building several raised beds in my outdoor garden so that I could spend more time fostering the development of bush variety tomatoes. Plus, and this makes more sense for those growers interested in starting and/or growing tomatoes indoors, bush variety tomatoes are far easier to manage in an indoor grow situation. I had much more success growing the bush variety tomato in an indoor setting. Space can be at a minimum and bush variety tomato plants just fit better in many indoor environments. Also, since the bush variety tomato plant grows low and dense, it is easier to position the LED grow lights closer to the plant for optimal light coverage. This is a big plus for me. Optimized light coverage equals optimized tomato production.
Some Basic Differences Between Bush and Vine Tomato Plants:
So after that bush variety endorsement, some may still be interested in knowing a few basic differences between the two plant types. I will do my best to be somewhat non-biased, but you may see right through me given my opening soliloquy. The basic bush variety tomato plant will grow somewhere between 2′-5′ tall. Dwarf varieties will grow around 2 to 3 ‘ tall and other varieties can grow a foot or two taller. So the less room you have, the more likely you will want to go with one of the dwarf varieties. Once again, ideal for the indoor grower, and for those outdoor growers not open to managing a growing vine that needs more laborious stabilization. Tomato plants that vine can grow 4’ and higher depending on how well you are willing to space, structure, and manage the proper stabilization of the vine. They can grow and produce throughout the entire season if cared for properly. In some seasons with vine growing plants, I have lost out on potential production because my management and stabilization of the plants was not strong enough. If you are the type that is willing and able to get out there and “tend to the garden” routinely every day, the vine growing variety of tomato will be more manageable, and if not, you may prefer the bush variety. For those still interested in the vine variety, I have found that sinking one by one posts into the ground outside has worked well for the vine to climb. I normally utilize soft cloth strips to softly tie the vine to the post so that it can continue to climb higher and not be pulled over by the eventual weight of the fruit. I sometimes will utilize a lattice structure with the one by ones for added support and structure on which the vines can grow. I have used the store purchased tomato cages as well, but these normally are not tall enough to adequately support the vine growing tomato plant. The cages can sometimes leave me feeling as though I lost out on possible plant production due to inadequate space and structure to support grow. It should also be noted that there are dwarf varieties of the vine growing tomato plants as well. These can grow in smaller spaces and in closer proximity to other plants since they spread out less than the standard vine growing variety.
Specifically speaking, the vine category of tomato is called (indeterminate), and the bush category of tomato plant is called (determinate). And for the trivia seekers out there, as I referenced earlier, a tomato can scientifically be considered a fruit. But generally, most people consider the word “fruit” to describe a sweet fleshy botanical part higher in fructose.
Production Basics of Bush and Vine Variety Tomato Plants:
Production should be considered when one is deciding on bush tomatoes versus vine growing tomato plants. In many bush variety tomato plants, the fruit production is produced during a smaller time frame than many of the vine growing varieties. So basically, vine growing varieties may tend to have a longer period of time during the growing season which a grower can harvest fruit. Vine variety tomato plants may require a bit more care and pruning may be considered. Given that I grow some bush variety indoors and outdoors, this has not been a problem for me. I tend to harvest so many tomatoes during the smaller harvest time window that I am giving them away to friends and family. Bush variety plants will provide a mass quantity of fruit which can be a positive thing for those home gardeners interested in canning or whipping up a big batch of sauce. One quick tip for planting the bush variety outdoors is to space the seed drop and ultimately the germination times. This way, not all of your plants will mature at the same rate, which will result in your harvest times being spaced far enough apart so that you are not overwhelmed with production in one small window of time.
LED grow light that I have used when growing the Bush Tomato Plant Indoors:
I utilized an LED grow light with an actual power draw of almost 400 watts. This is sufficient for supporting healthy plant development during the vegetative and bloom stages. The light incorporated 3 watt LEDs and was engineered to emit 8 bands of color spectrum when powered on. The broad range of light spectra included blue and red wavelengths, as well as IR, UV, and white light. I included this range of light spectra to closely align with the natural light that the tomato plants would have received had they been grown outdoors. Making sure that the LED grow light you are utilizing covers a broad range of wavelengths, especially the red and blue light spectra that research shows is best for plant development, should be a priority. Some LED grow lights are intentionally designed to support only specific plant growth stages. Be aware and do a little homework on the grow lights specifications. Make sure that the LED grow light is engineered to support the vegetative and flowering stages of a plant’s development and be sure that the light emitted includes both blue and red wavelengths. Light within the photosynthetically active radiation zone is key.
Tomato Food for Thought; Semi-Thought you might Say:
I plan to experiment by growing semi-determinate tomatoes. Semi-determinate tomatoes are a hybrid of the determinate and indeterminate plant types. The growth cycle of semi-determinate tomato plants falls somewhere between determinate and indeterminate plant types. As a review, determinate tomatoes have bushy growth not requiring a support in most cases. Indeterminate tomatoes (vine) can grow quite tall, depending on the pruning and care provided, and this type will need adequate support. Semi-determinate tomatoes can have qualities of both plant types and it is hard to tangibly quantify since it is a hybrid, yet the branches can grow long enough and need extra attention. The branch growth will likely require support and will make the overall height of the plant several feet, or around one meter. In general though, it is somewhat controversial to specifically classify the growth habit of the tomato plant as something other than determinate or indeterminate, yet that won’t stop me from giving it a go this year with seeds controversially categorized as semi-determinate. Maybe it will be the best of both worlds.