If you are just getting into tomato gardening, you may not know that there are a couple of different kinds of tomato plants available. While there are thousands of individual varieties to choose from, all tomatoes can be classified as either determinate or indeterminate. What is the difference between these two classifications and which type should you choose for your garden? Let’s take a quick look at the differences between them and then you can decide which is perfect for your garden or growing area.
One of the biggest difference between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants is how they bear their crops. Determinate tomatoes yield their entire crop all at once, while indeterminate varieties parcel out their harvest over the course of an entire season. If you are the kind of person who wants to do all of your harvesting and processing at one time, determinate varieties may be ideal. However, if you want to enjoy fresh fruit all season long, you might want to select indeterminate plants.
Determinate tomatoes are also more compact. In fact, they are often referred to as “bush” tomatoes because of their growth habit. Indeterminate tomatoes usually grow longer vines and need stronger stakes, cages or fencing to support their stems. In most cases, determinate tomatoes are the better choice if you have limited space or want to grow tomatoes in containers.
So, if you are short on space or want to harvest all of your tomatoes at once, you’ll want to look for word “determinate” (or the abbreviation “DET”) in plant catalogs or on the plant’s label before purchasing. Then you want to find out when you can expect your tomato plants to produce fruit. This should be listed as a number of days. Knowing this information will allow you to space out your determinate tomatoes so that you can receive early, middle and late season yields, unless you want to do a lot of work at one time.
Gardening tip: if you love to make sauce and can tomatoes, you may prefer determinate tomatoes spaced out at different times throughout the season. This way you can make big batches at different times throughout the growing season.
On the other hand, you have the prolific indeterminate tomato varieties. In many cases, just one or two indeterminate plants will take care of your entire family’s needs. When shopping look for the word “indeterminate,” with the abbreviations “IND” or “INDET.” Indeterminate varieties are an ideal choice for fresh food lovers who want to enjoy bright and succulent tomatoes directly off the vine throughout the season.
When it comes to deciding between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants, there really is no correct answer. Instead, you’ll want to consider your own preferences and circumstances to determine which is right for you. If space allows, you may find the best solution is to incorporate both determinate and indeterminate varieties into your garden so you can experience the best of both worlds.