Determinate & Indeterminate Tomatoes, What Is The Difference?

Gardening season finally starts to “feel” real when our tomatoes first crest the soil! With snow still in our forecast and feet of it still left to melt, our tomato seedlings somehow dispel the frozen wonderland around us.

If you’re looking for a good tomato strategy, you really need to know about determinates and indeterminates. Determinates are a great option if you don’t have the ability to trellis your plants to very tall heights. Determinates will be more bush like, growing to a particular height and putting out a “determinate” number of flowers and therefore fruit. They can excel in cool climates for this reason, since they only spend so much of the season focused on growth, eventually shifting towards fruiting. This is the tomato type that tomato cages were made for!

Indeterminates are what we tend to grow, but they are much more challenging. Indeterminates are much more vine like, growing upwards of 8 to 12 feet tall in a given season. They really require some sort of trellising system to manage that growth effectively. They also need some aggressive pruning, since their vines will start growing every which way if you don’t manage “suckers” effectively. That said, they are the “infinite tomato hack,” to a season-ending point anyway, as they’ll just grow to practically infinity. They are really good in greenhouses, offering the gardener the ability to use vertical space much more effectively.

There’s another type of tomato called a semi-determinate. This is sort of a hybrid between these two. They can grow real funky and vine like, but tend to share bush like tendencies as well. We’ve found these quite unpredictable as you never really know what to expect until you’ve grown the variety out a time or two. They aren’t bad, in fact we grow one variety of semi-determinate because it favors more strongly towards indeterminate.

When you’re selecting your tomato varieties, be sure to figure out what major type of tomato you’re growing. It can have a huge impact on how and where you might want to grow them!

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