Plant Profile: Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes


With the first day of spring behind us, I thought that we would look at tomatoes. In Zone 7 we are less than a month away from planting our warm season veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, etc. A tomato is a tomato right? Wrong! There are two very distinct types of tomatoes: determinate vs. indeterminate.


Determinate means that most of the tomatoes ripen at the same time…their timing is determined if you will. These types of tomatoes are excellent for canning as you can have a large bounty at the same time. But you can also easily become overwhelmed if you aren’t prepared to deal with the onslaught of tomatoes. Determinate types are generally shorter and bushier and don’t require the amount of staking that the indeterminate types do. Some examples of heirloom determinate tomatoes include:

  • Costuloto Genovese
  • Heinz 1350 VF
  • Hungarian Italian Paste
  • Principe Borghese
  • Roma VF
  • Rutgers Improved
  • Sophie’s Choice



determinate vs indeterminate tomatoesIndeterminate means that the tomatoes will ripen over an extended period of time. Once the tomatoes begin to ripen, they will continue to produce throughout the summer, often up until the first hard frost in the fall. If you enjoy using tomatoes in a more laid back way such as salads, sandwiches or for cooking, indeterminate tomatoes will be the way to go. Be prepared ahead of time to stake your tomatoes. There are several ways that this can be successfully accomplished including tomato cages made from concrete wire (my favorite way), tying them to single poles or even the Florida tomato weave. Most of the tomatoes that you buy from garden centers will be indeterminate types including the infamous Better Boy and Early Girl. Here is a list of indeterminate heirloom tomatoes:

  • Amish Paste
  • Arkansas Traveler
  • Black Krim
  • Brandywine
  • Cherry tomatoes (virtually all of them are indeterminate)
  • Druzba
  • German Johnson
  • Green Zebra
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Stone


Of course these lists of determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes are by no means exhaustive. What are your favorite types of tomatoes to plant? I’ll be growing around 12 different types this year and I hope to be able to give you a play-by-play regarding their performance. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!

March 21, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

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