If you are new to gardening or growing produce like vegetables and fruits, you may not know which type of tomato plant and grow in your garden. There is more to picking a tomato plant than just the type of tomato it will produce – there are also differences in how the tomato plants grow and produce. When choosing your plants, you need to know the difference between determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes. Both have benefits, but which to choose for your garden depends on several factors.
What Is the Difference Between Indeterminate and Determinate Tomatoes?
The biggest differences between indeterminate and determinate tomatoes are how they grow and produce their fruit. The size of the plants and when or how much fruit they produce are vastly different. Here are the basic differences between these two types of tomatoes:
- Determinate tomatoes are smaller, bushier plants that have a short growth cycle. They create a larger amount of fruit at one time and then their growth cycle is complete.
- Indeterminate tomatoes grow on a much larger bush or vine and the growth cycle can span throughout the season. Fruit is produced in smaller amounts throughout the growth cycle.
Whether you prefer big beefsteaks or smaller plum tomatoes, you can find all varieties in both determinate and indeterminate varieties. Which you choose depends on your climate and how you plan to harvest and use your tomatoes.
- Length of Growing Season
- While most climates can support either determinate or indeterminate tomatoes, you should be aware of the differences in their growing cycles. Determinate tomatoes have a short growing season, which may be better for those living in climates with short summers. Indeterminate tomatoes grow slower and produce fruits throughout a longer growing season. They will continue to produce fruit for several months, so they are best used in regions with a long, frost-free spring, summer and fall growing season.
- Size of Plants
- When it comes to determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes and plant size, there is a significant difference. Determinate tomato plants are short and bushy, perfect for gardens and planters. If you have limited planting space, the determinate tomatoes are the best choice. Indeterminate tomato plants are taller and can become quite large and have longer vines than the short, bushy determinate bushes. You may need more than a small wire cage for these larger tomato plants, requiring a trellis or stakes for support.
- Harvesting Preferences
- How do you plan to use your produce from your tomato plants? When it comes to choosing indeterminate vs determinate for harvesting, there is a major difference. Commercial growers almost always use determinate to harvest large numbers of tomatoes at one time. This is also perfect for those growing their own tomatoes to can or preserve for future use. You will get a large amount of produce in a few weeks, then the growing cycle will be over.
- For those who do not plan to can quarts of tomatoes or make a large batch of salsa at one time, indeterminate may be a better choice. With indeterminate plants, you will have tomatoes throughout the long growing cycles. This is perfect for those wanting a few tomatoes at a time for salads, sandwiches or regular use during the summer and fall.
- Plant Maintenance
- Due to the longer growing season, indeterminate tomatoes will require more maintenance than determinate tomatoes. Both benefit from fertilizing in the early season but with indeterminate you will have to water, prune and protect your plants from insects for many months. If you want a lower maintenance tomato plant, determinate will not require pruning or ongoing care and may be a better choice for your garden or planters.
Types of Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes
The good news is that you can choose the type of tomato you prefer in both determinate and indeterminate varieties. If you want to have Roma tomatoes for salads throughout the summer, there are indeterminate plants that will provide you produce for several months. But if you want a large harvest of Roma tomatoes for canning salsa, you can choose a determinate Roma plant. Some of the popular types of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes include:
- Big Beef indeterminate beefsteak tomatoes will give you fruit up to 16 ounces about 75 days after planting and for the following months.
- Celebrity determinate creates globe tomatoes up to 10 ounces about 70 days after planting for a hefty harvest for canning.
- Sun sugar indeterminate cherry tomatoes start producing one-ounce fruits about 62 days after planting.
When deciding between determinate vs indeterminate tomato plants, you need to consider all these different factors. For the best results with either variety, you need the right soil and growing conditions. Talk to your local landscaper for fertilizing, watering and pest control tips and advice on which type of tomato is best for your needs and planting area.