The Word on Tomatoes: Determinate vs. Indeterminate

Interested in growing tomatoes? With the wide variety of tomatoes available it can be overwhelming to choose. Do you want beefsteak, cherry, Roma or an heirloom tomato? Better yet, do you want determinate or indeterminate tomatoes or both?tomatoes

What does determinate or indeterminate mean?

Determinate tomatoes grow to a specified height and then set their flowers and form fruit all at once. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season.

Characteristics of Determinate tomatoes:

  • Smaller plants, good for containers
  • Fruit ripens early in the season
  • Produces a lot of fruit at once; ideal for mass canning
  • Plants usually die by midsummer
  • Requires little staking or caging due to smaller size of the plant.

Characteristics of Indeterminate tomatoes:

  • Larger plants that continue to grow throughout the season
  • Fruit is continually set so it produces through the season
  • Plants require strong support due to their size
  • In-ground planting is better in vegetable beds

So, which is best for you? If you are planting in limited space you may choose determinate varieties. If you want fruit throughout the season and have the space then plant indeterminate varieties. Ideally, you could choose to plant both so you can enjoy tomatoes all summer.

How do you identify determinate and indeterminate plants? Look on the seed packet or plant tag for the word “determinate” or “DET” or “indeterminate” or “IND”. Not all plant tags will show this information, but a quick internet search of the tomato variety will give you the info you need.

Remember – no matter what tomato varieties you choose to plant – nothing tastes better than a home grown tomato.