Tomatoes are one of the most prized garden plants. With hundreds of varieties, who can resist those sun-kissed bursts of flavor? But when new growers plant tomatoes, they often experience issues or total failure for one reason: there are two different types of tomatoes.
The type of tomato you grow will determine when you harvest, what you harvest for, and what type of support you need to provide for your precious tomato plants. So what are the two types of tomatoes and how do you know which type you should grow?
Type 1 – Determinate Tomatoes
The first type of tomato is called a determinate tomato. It’s called ‘determinate’ because we know that it will grow to a specified height. Since these tomato types grow to a determined height, growers typically use cages.
These types of tomatoes typically ripen all at once, making them the perfect choice for canning, sun-drying, or other bulk preservation methods. You can also eat them fresh, but they’ll only give you a few weeks worth of fresh harvests and they are usually less juicy. This makes them perfect for sauces, but not so ideal for that off-the-vine, fresh, juicy flavor we enjoy so much.
Keep in mind that if you’re growing determinate tomatoes, you want to follow the spacing on the seed packet carefully. These types of tomatoes should not be pruned much, if at all. If you prune them too much, they won’t produce as many tomatoes for you. That means you need to space them according to the packet (or even a little further apart) so that they get plenty of air flow. Keeping good air circulation will help prevent tomato plant diseases.
Type 2 – Indeterminate Tomatoes
The second type of tomato is an indeterminate tomato. Instead of growing to a determined height, these plants are actually vines and will continue to grow and produce as long as the environment allows. So if you grew these in a greenhouse under the right conditions, they would just keep growing and producing! These tomato types will give you fewer tomatoes all at once, but they’ll continue to produce all season long. This makes indeterminate tomatoes the perfect choice for your fresh, weekly harvests.
Since these types of tomatoes keep growing, they absolutely need a trellis. First time growers often try to use a cage for these types of tomatoes. But this vine-type plant will quickly take over the cage. The result is bent cages, fallen tomatoes, and often, other plant damage to nearby plants! So if you want those sun-ripened delicious tomatoes, choose an indeterminate and give your plant a nice strong, sturdy trellis.
For a video on a super easy trellis system, check out this video! The ability to trellis makes them a great choice for smaller garden spaces that need to use vertical space to maximize their garden harvests. And while determinate tomatoes can’t be pruned, indeterminate tomatoes can be pruned all throughout the tomato season. This has allowed growers to cheat a bit on the spacing recommendations listed on the seed packet… but that’s a blog for another time. 😉