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Should You Grow Determinate or Indeterminate Tomatoes? (2023)

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indeterminate vs determinate tomatoesIndeterminate vs determinate tomatoes

As you stroll through the garden center in spring, the overflowing tables of tomato starts beg for your attention.

The choice depends on your timing, space and support capabilities. Indeterminate varieties produce clusters of fruit continually until frost kills the plant. Left to sprawl, indeterminates become long and unwieldy. To avoid chaos, provide tall stakes or cages as support structures.

While staking requires effort, the reward is months of harvest. Compact determinate varieties stay bushy. Most bear the majority of fruit in a 2-3 week period. As the harvest wanes, so does the plant.

With minimal staking to keep branches off the ground, determinates work well for canning and freezing. By understanding growth habits, you can match tomato types with your garden’s possibilities.

Key Takeaways

  • Indeterminate tomatoes grow continuously and bear fruit until frost kills them, while determinate tomatoes cease growth after fruit set and have a concentrated harvest.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes become long and unwieldy without support, while determinate tomatoes stay bushy and require minimal staking.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes bear fruit steadily all season long, while determinate tomatoes produce most of their crop in 1-2 months.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes require ample space and sturdy trellising for support, while determinate tomatoes need less space and minimal support.

Tomato Growth Habits

Tomato Growth Habits
When choosing which tomato variety to plant, you must consider the growth habit, as there are two main types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate varieties are bushy and compact, reaching a fixed mature height and setting all their fruit at once, while indeterminate vines continue growing taller throughout the season and bear fruit steadily until killed by frost.

Understanding these differences in growth patterns, yield, and space requirements will ensure you select the right tomato type for your garden goals and constraints.


You’ll get a compact bush that stops growing and fruits all at once, so be ready to can or freeze the bounty from your small garden or container. Opt for determinate tomatoes like Ace 55 or Roma for their concentrated harvest.

These varieties cease growth at fruit set, unlike the continuous growth of indeterminate types. Determinate cultivars are perfect for container gardens, needing little pruning or trellising.


Spread your wings, friend, as those vines forever reach for the sun, bearing sweet treasures along an endless journey. Indeterminate tomato varieties like Early Girl offer a continuous supply of fresh tomatoes all season long from 5-foot vines in even the smallest garden.

Opt for indeterminate hybrids like beefsteak or cherry tomatoes if you desire that endless vine of red gems.

Fruiting Timelines

Fruiting Timelines
Cause indeterminates keep fruitin’ all season while determinates lump it up over a month or two, you can get a steady tomato supply from the first by plantin’ early, mid, and late varieties. Determinate cultivars like Amelia, Grape, and Better Bush produce most of their crop over just 1-2 months.

Then these bushy plants peter out. But indeterminate types such as Sungold, Beefsteak, and Cherry keep on pumpin’ out tomatoes at a steady pace once they start. They’ll keep growin’ and fruitin’ till frost kills ’em off. Just stagger plantin’ dates of different indeterminate varieties to ensure a continual harvest.

With careful plannin’, you’ll be pickin’ ripe tomatoes from your vine right up to first frost.

Plant Size Needs

Plant Size Needs
Since indeterminates are gangly vines that’ll creep 5 feet tall and wide, give ’em room to ramble in the garden or train ’em up strings, cages, or trellises. These rampant tomato plants need space and support to flourish. Their sprawling growth habit continues during fruiting till frost kills them.

Unlike compact determinate tomatoes that reach a predetermined height, indeterminate types keep growing, spreading, and producing all season.

To grow healthy robust indeterminate tomatoes, allow ample space for their vining growth habit by staking, caging, or trellising the lengthy stems. Understand the spreading needs of indeterminate tomato varieties when choosing planting sites and support structures.

Pruning and Trellising

Pruning and Trellising
You’ll really want to trellis your sweet-growing indeterminate tomatoes if you hope for top-notch production all season long!

Unlike their determinate cousins, indeterminate tomato plants need a sturdy support structure to reach their full potential.

  • Indeterminate vines become lengthy, spreading 5 feet or more.
  • Left to sprawl, the branches easily break under fruit weight.
  • Proper staking keeps the plant upright, avoiding disease and damage.
  • Supported plants yield more tomatoes that ripen evenly and are easier to harvest.

Install stakes or cages right after transplanting tender indeterminate tomato starts.

Recommended Varieties
You’ve grasped the key differences between indeterminate and determinate tomatoes.

For vining indeterminate types, you can’t go wrong with productive classics like Better Boy, Early Girl, and Champion. These bear clusters of flavorful fruits all season. Try colorful Sungold, Sun Sugar, or Black Cherry tomatoes for sweet bursts in salads.

If you love canning tomato sauce, look for hearty Roma or San Marzano cultivars.

For bushy determinates, choose compact varieties under 3 feet tall. Ace and Celebrity are reliable producers for containers. Roma and Taxi yield plentiful small tomatoes for salsa and paste. Tiny Tommy Toes offer cute bite-sized fruits.

Care Tips

Care Tips
Growing juicy tomatoes takes some care, but it’s so worth it for that homegrown taste.

  1. Whether you grow vining indeterminates or bushy determinates, make sure plants receive at least 6-8 hours of sun daily.
  2. Water tomatoes regularly, about 1-2 inches per week. Use mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
  3. Cage or trellis indeterminates for support as vines grow. Prune suckers and lower leaves to focus energy on fruiting.

With the right conditions, your tomatoes will thrive! Daily harvesting keeps plants productive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How deep should I plant my tomato seedlings?

You, dear gardener, must bury those tomato seedlings exactly two inches below the soil’s crust, as historically guided by experienced gardeners. This wisdom nurtures our shared need for community in the ancient art of gardening.

How far apart should I space my tomato plants?

You foolish gardener! The spacing of your tomato plants depends on the variety. But fret not! Let the fruits of knowledge guide you. For indeterminates, space 18-36 inches apart. For determinates, space 12-24 inches will suffice.

How often and how much should I water my tomato plants?

Water tomatoes deeply twice a week during summer’s heat. Dig down with your finger – if the soil is dry below one inch, it’s time to water. Provide one to two inches per watering, adjusting for rain. Consistent moisture creates sweet, bountiful fruits.

What kind of soil and sunlight do tomatoes need?

Tomatoes thrive in rich, well-draining soil with 6-8 hours of sunlight. Choose a sunny spot with fertile loam or compost-enriched soil.

How do I know when my tomatoes are ready to harvest?

Check your tomatoes daily once they start changing color. Gently squeeze – a ripe tomato will feel slightly soft and detach easily. Harvest ripe tomatoes by twisting gently to avoid damaging the plant. Enjoy tomatoes immediately for the best flavor.


You’ll find that indeterminate tomatoes allow for a prolonged harvest while determinate tomatoes produce higher yields all at once. Consider planting both! An interesting statistic – determinate tomatoes yield around 15-20 pounds per plant while indeterminates produce 5-10 pounds per plant over time.

Ultimately, weighing growth habits, fruiting timelines, yields, and your gardening space will determine the best tomato type for your needs.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.