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Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes and Which Kind is Best

When it comes time to planting your tomatoes there are so many choices such as hybrids and heirlooms, determinate versus indeterminate, and cherry tomatoes vs beefsteaks.

So in this article I’ll cover what the difference between determinate and indeterminate is so you can choose what type is best for you.

Tomatoes Growing on a Tomato Plant

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Tomatoes are one of my most favorite things to grow in the garden!

I love them fresh, in homemade salsa, in homemade spaghetti sauce, and more!

So doing everything I can to make sure that my tomato plants grow well is important.

In this article I’ll be helping you learn the difference between determinate tomato varieties and indeterminate tomato varieties so that you can grow and produce the best tomatoes yet!

Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes

So first, which are which?

Determinate Tomatoes – These tomato plants are smaller, bush tomatoes, that stop growing around 3-4 feet tall.

They bloom and produce their fruit all at once and after the first harvest the plant is done producing and will start to decline.

This type of tomato variety is favored by commercial farmers because they are smaller in size which means they can grow more plants in one area and also because the fruit can all be harvested at once.

After the first harvest, commercial farmers will typically use succession planting to have more harvests throughout the season.

This type of tomato can also be a good choice for a home gardener who wants a large harvest all at once for canning.

Indeterminate Tomatoes – These tomato plants continue to grow and produce fruits throughout the entire growing season until the plants are killed by a frost.

They often will need tomato cages or some kind of support since they have potential to grow huge.

Many of your most common tomato varieties are indeterminate.

Then there are also semi-determinate tomato plants which are smaller and more compact than indeterminate tomato varieties but will continue to produce fruit all season long, unlike determinate varieties.

This type of tomato plant is great for container gardening because they are smaller in size but will continue producing tomatoes all season.

If you have a small area and want to plant varieties that will grow great in containers, check out these heirlooms that grow best in containers.

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Determinate Tomato Varieties

  • Ace 55 Heirloom
  • Amelia
  • Better Bush
  • Primo Red
  • Roma

Indeterminate Tomato Varieties

  • Beefmaster
  • Better Boy
  • Cherokee Purple Heirloom
  • Early Girl
  • Super Sweet 100

Semi-Determinate Tomato Varieties

  • Inca Jewels
  • Litt’l Bites Tiny Cherries
  • Tasmanian Chocolate
  • Stupice
  • Super Bush

Of course there are many more of each type but those are just a few!

Best Types for Containers

If you’re going to be growing your tomatoes in pots you’ll be best off planting either semi-determinate varieties or determinate varieties.

Both are smaller in size and so they won’t get out of control and outgrow the pot.

Just be sure to keep in mind that determinate types will have one big harvest in a short amount of time and semi-determinate types will produce all season.

If you’d like some ideas check out my article Best Heirlooms for Containers.

Best Types for In Ground Planting

If you have space in the ground to plant you can plant any variety you’d like depending on your purpose.

Indeterminate types can get very big and will require support of some kind such as tomato cages or a trellis that you can tie your tomatoes to with tomato twine.

Determinate varieties will only produce one big crop but are great if you are planning on needing one big batch of tomatoes to can.

Then semi-determinate varieties will grow smaller and take up less space, but continue producing fruit all season.

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Tomato Planting Tips

  • Tomatoes grow best planted as transplants so you can either start them in pots by seed and transplant them. Or you should buy them as already started transplants.
  • Tomatoes don’t mind root disturbance so if you have 2 or 3 plants growing in the same pot you can separate the tomato seedlings and plant them all as their own plant.
  • If you purchase transplants already started, be sure to check the quality of the plant. Avoid buying any that:
    • seem leggy
    • have blooms or fruit on them already when the plant is still very young
    • show blemishes or discoloration in the leaves or on the stem
    • or are wilted and crowded

Happy Gardening!

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Tomatoes Growing on an Indeterminate Tomato Plant

One Comment

  1. This is quite informative. I transplanted 6 tomato plants that I’d purchased from various places. 1 German Queen heirloom, 2 beef steak, and 3 (can’t remember the exact name) vine ripe. Oh my goodness the Plantation were beautiful and they grew to be very large. They looked so healthy. I got a total of 2 tomatoes from the 6 plants. I don’t know what I did wrong. But I am trying again this year with my own seedlings. If you have any tips, please feel free to advise.

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