Five Feline Farm

Living and Promoting a Sustainable Life

How To Choose Determinate or Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Are you anxious to experience that warm taste bud tingling bite of juicy tomato on top of a burger or the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with a tomato you grew yourself? Or maybe you dream of a plate of red and yellow tomatoes interspersed with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with finely shredded basil and drizzled with olive oil.

Then you walk into a garden center to buy your plants and the number of different varieties of tomatoes is overwhelming.

This post aims to breakdown one of the more confusing questions around tomato plants.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate

What on earth could that mean to a tomato?

Determinate

A determinate plant is one with a limit to growth and production during the season. The plant will remain compact and is the best choice for a container garden. This limit to growth also means that at the peak of it’s growth cycle, it will also stop producing tomatoes.

Indeterminate

The indeterminate variety will continue to grow and unless pruned will grow throughout the season becoming taller and taller, sometimes almost tree like. It will continue to produce fruit until frost or the gardener pulls it out of the ground. Indeterminate plants need to be in a garden or deep enough soil to support the large plant. These tomatoes also need to be staked, caged or somehow supported to keep them upright.

How do you know?

We recommend you buy plants directly from the grower. Check your local farmer’s market in April and May for vendors who have plants for sale. The farmer will know what type of plant they are offering and will be more than happy to tell you all about their tomato plants.

If you are shopping in a garden center, check the plant tag. It will specify determinate or indeterminate as well as several other facts that will help you choose the best tomato plant for you.

We will cover a few more of these in our next blog posts.

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