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Determinate Versus Indeterminate Tomatoes

When it comes time to plant your tomatoes there are so many choices and in this article, I’ll cover the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes so that you can plant the variety that is best for you.

A handful of fresh tomatoes

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Tomatoes are one of my favorite things to grow in the garden! I love to eat them fresh, in homemade salsa, homemade spaghetti sauce, and more!

So since I use tomatoes in so many ways I always like to give my plants extra care so that they grow the best that they can!

In this article, I’ll be going over the difference between determinate tomato varieties and indeterminate tomato varieties because choosing the right type makes a huge difference depending on the amount of space you have and what you want to use your tomatoes for.

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What is the Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes?

The main difference is that determinate tomato plants are smaller and produce the majority of their fruit all at once whereas indeterminate tomato plants continue growing and produce fruit throughout the entire growing season.

I will go over more details about each and the benefits of growing the different varieties below.

Determinate VS Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Determinate Tomatoes

Determinate 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 all of the fruit can be harvested at once.

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

Since these tomato plants tend to be smaller they usually do not require staking and will grow better in containers than indeterminate varieties.

Determinate tomatoes are also a great choice for canning since they all ripen at about the same time to give you one big harvest.

I harvested 66 pounds of tomatoes from my first harvest of just six Roma tomato plants. So they are definitely a great choice if you need lots of tomatoes to make tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, etc.

A box of Roma tomatoes harvested from my garden

A few determinate tomato varieties include,

Indeterminate Tomatoes

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

They have the potential to grow anywhere from 6-15 feet tall and will need to be supported by tomato cages, stakes, or heavy-duty wire.

These tomatoes are great for fresh eating and making salsa because you will get continued harvests all season long.

You can still can and preserve many indeterminate tomatoes but you won’t get one big harvest all at once as you do with determinate plants.

A few indeterminate tomato varieties include,

Tomatoes growing in the garden

Semi-Determinate Tomatoes

Semi-determinate tomato plants 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.

A few semi-determinate tomato varieties include,

Tomatoes growing on the vine

Summary

When it’s time to plant your tomatoes be sure to get the varieties that will work best for your needs and for the space you have.

If you have plenty of space you can plant any variety you’d like depending on your purpose.

Indeterminate tomatoes can get really big and will require support such as tomato cages or heavy-duty wire and stakes. They also require more growing space because they need to be planted further apart for best-growing success.

Determinate tomatoes will only produce one big crop but are great if you want to can and need to harvest one big batch. They are also a better variety for container growing.

Then semi-determinate tomatoes grow smaller and take up less space, making them another great option for container growing, but continue producing fruit all season.

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Determinate tomatoes vs indeterminate tomatoes

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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