Tomato plants grow in several stages with each stage having its own specific characteristics. The stages are important to you because only certain stages will produce good tomatoes. The tomato yield increases in the later stages, so to know how productive your plant can be, you need some background information on the tomato plant's life cycle.
The tomato plant starts as a seed. The young tomato plant sprouts from the ground and begins to grow into a plant. In the early growth stage, you want to keep your plants indoors. The young seedlings grow best in temperatures around 18.3 degrees Celsius with an ample supply of light and air.
As the seed grows, it transforms into a tomato plant. This plant will branch out as it grows but will not produce any tomatoes at this stage. You can transplant your plants into large containers and leave them outdoors for several hours at a time, which allows them to acclimate to the outdoor climate.
As the tomato plant grows, it develops flowers. The flower cluster that is close to the ground is known as the inflorescence. Each stem will develop the inflorescence. The inflorescence is the basis where the tomato plant begins to produce tomatoes.
Once the plant establishes its inflorescence, it will begin to grow tomatoes. The tomatoes are green and measure around 1cm in diameter. The plant may still produce inflorescence at this stage. This stage continues until the first tomatoes to develop have breaker colour, which refers to the colour change as the tomato ripens on the vine. It changes from a green to a red colour.
As the plant grows, the tomatoes continue to ripen. Each inflorescence tomato continues to turn red. The tomatoes that ripen must have a completely red colour and not have any shades of green or spots that do not appear ripe. Eighty per cent of the tomatoes from each inflorescence must fully ripen before this stage is complete. At this stage, you can pick your tomatoes.
Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes
Two major styles of tomato plants exist, so the growth cycles vary some with each style. Determinate tomato plants limit their growth to around 6-feet tall and then extend outward. They produce a set number of tomatoes throughout the season. The tomatoes on determinate vines will ripen faster due to less energy the vine uses to grow. Indeterminate species can grow up to 10-feet tall. They produce more tomatoes throughout the season. To keep the plants off the ground, they have to have a cage or support, and you must prune them more than determinate varieties.
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