Do you want to grow your own tomatoes and the terms ‘determinate’ and ‘indeterminate’ have been mentioned? Just what do they mean and which tomato variety should you grow in your garden at home? Let’s find out.
The terms determinate and indeterminate are used to describe the growth habits and the size of tomato plants. Determinate tomato plants are smaller, compact bushes which fruit all at once. Indeterminate tomato plants are taller vines that will continue to grow and fruit throughout the growing season.
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Determinate tomato plants are smaller plants, often referred to as a bush, which will grow to a certain height, set fruit and then ripen all at once.
The determinate tomato bush grows to 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) tall. A compact size compared to the indeterminate tomato.
Once the determinate tomato bush produces fruit, they will ripen together over a very short period of time, usually within a 2-week period.
Determinate tomato plants are often marketed as “container”, “bush” or “patio”. Because of their smaller size, they do very well in pots and small spaces, as well as in the garden.
Determinate tomato plants still require a tomato cage or staking as their fruit becomes heavy and needs support.
Once the plant has finished the first flush of fruit, it will rapidly deteriorate. You can succession plant, which means to plant more, for further tomato harvests.
Why You Should Grow Determinate Tomatoes
You should grow determinate tomatoes if you would like a large harvest of tomatoes all at once. For example, if you want tomatoes for preserving by canning, cooking, making your own tomato paste, passata or any other form of tomato-based sauce, and you require a large harvest of tomatoes to be ready at the same time.
- Related Reading: Tomato Chili And Ginger Jam Recipe
You might also like to grow determinate tomatoes if space is limited, for example, you are growing in pots on a balcony or patio, due to their more compact size.
- Related Reading: Best Tomatoes To Grow in Pots
In climates with a short growing season, determinate tomatoes are a good option as most are early harvesting, so there is still time to grow tomatoes before the cold sets in.
As many determinate tomato varieties are early ripening, you can have tomatoes on the table earlier than you might have with indeterminate. Though there are also some indeterminate varieties that are early ripening.
Popular Determinate Tomato Varieties
Here are some popular determinate tomato varieties:
- Most Roma varieties including Italian Roma
- Amish Paste
- Early Girl Bush
- Glacier Bush
- San Marzano
- Super Bush
- Red Pride
- Rouge De Marmande
Indeterminate tomatoes are known as the vine tomato (even though both are technically a vine). This is because the plant will continue to grow in height throughout the growing season. They will also set fruit and ripen over a prolonged time throughout the growing season.
The size of indeterminate tomato plants is usually 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) but they can get much taller. Indeterminate tomato plants can be pruned to manage their size if required.
Tomatoes on indeterminate plants will continue to produce throughout the season and give a bigger yield as compared to determinate varieties.
Indeterminate tomato plants require a tomato cage or staking. They can also be trained onto a trellis, which is a great option to help keep all the many branches and their fruit supported.
You can purchase tomato cages here.
Why You Should Grow Indeterminate Tomatoes
If you would like to harvest tomatoes throughout the growing season, adding them to salads or picking them fresh to put on a sandwich, then indeterminate tomatoes are for you.
Popular Indeterminate Tomato Varieties
Here are some popular indeterminate tomato varieties:
- Most heirloom varieties
- Most cherry tomatoes including Tommy Toe
- Big Boy
- Cherokee Purple
- Early Girl
- Green Zebra
- Red Cherry
- Sweet Million
How To Tell Determinate And Indeterminate Tomato Plants Apart
You can’t tell determinate and indeterminate tomatoes apart just by looking at the seed or the tomato seedling. However, once the fruit sets, you can differentiate the two tomato varieties.
Fruit sets at the end of the determinate tomato plant branches. While on an indeterminate plant, the fruit sets along the main stem and along the branches.
Both the determinate and indeterminate tomato plants have their positives and negatives. Which variety you grow will depend on whether you prefer a tomato harvest all at once or throughout the season – as well as the length of your growing season and the space you have available. You may even decide to grow both!
As with any food gardening, it’s important to experiment and find out what you enjoy growing. And more importantly, what you and your family enjoy eating. Because no matter which variety you choose, growing your own tomatoes at home will be rewarding.
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- 7 Reasons Your Tomatoes are Small (With Solutions!)
- How To Grow Tomatoes In Pots
- Best Tomatoes To Grow in Pots
- Tomato Seedling Leaves Turning Yellow: Causes and Solutions
- Tomatoes Flowering But Not Producing Fruit? Causes and Solutions
- Tomatoes Rotting at the Bottom? (Blossom End Rot Explained)
5 thoughts on “Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes: What Are They?”
Excellent, timely information! The growing season in Florida has just started, so I will definitely use what I’ve learned. Will all of the varieties of determinate tomatoes you’ve mentioned grow well in central Florida?
Hi Nancy, have a look at Roma, Amish Paste, Celebrity, Early Girl and Marglobe. There are many varieties that will grow well in zone 9. Always check the seed packet or plant label for recommended climates. If you’re visiting a local nursery, they will stock tomato varieties that do best in your climate. Best of luck with your growing!
Wow. Every year I grow tomatoes, and I have never heard of this. Very informative! Pinned for when I get my garden going this year, now I’ll know just which kind of tomato to buy!
Wow! I went to an agricultural high school and had still never heard of these definitions. VERY interesting! I’ll have to pay more attention to the next batch of tomato plants my MIL gives us 😉
What great information. I grew beefsteak tomato’s last year and I was constantly trying to get enough to jar them at the end of the season. I had no idea about being able to ripen them all at once using these types of tomatoes. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I can not wait to try this year!!! Great post!