It’s tomato-planting time again! If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past, you most likely have your favorites. If not, just ask! You’ll find some pretty strong opinions regarding tomato choices, and every gardener has their own top choices, must haves and great picks for tomatoes.
Along with soil type, climate, moisture and other typical gardening considerations, one of the features you will need to take into account when choosing what type of tomato to grow is plant habit. The two main habit classifications are “determinate” and “indeterminate” and are based on fruit use, available growing space and length of growing season. Both habit classifications include fruit selections in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and tastes.
Tomatoes from a determinate plant are produced earlier in the growing season, on terminal ends of a compact bush. This type of tomato generally reaches 3-4 feet in height and is easily supported with a tomato cage or may even be self-supporting. Due to its compact habit, it may even be grown in containers, ideal for gardeners with less available space. Because all the fruit ripens at the same time, determinate tomatoes are an excellent choice if you plan to can your fruit or make sauce, as you won’t need to worry about collecting enough fruit to work with. Determinate classification includes popular tomato varieties such as:
- “Celebrity” – an eating tomato
- “Roma” – a paste tomato
- “Patio” – a dwarf selection
- “Baby Cakes” – a cherry tomato
- “Carolina Gold” – extra large, yellow fruit
Indeterminate tomato plants will fruit along the entire length of the stem over a longer period of time, in fact continually, until frost. Smaller amounts of fruit ripening regularly throughout the growing season makes an indeterminate tomato plant an excellent choice if you cannot cook or consume a large quantity of this perishable fruit all at one time. Indeterminate tomato plants are vines, requiring proper pruning and support, to reach their ultimate height of 8 feet or more. Indeterminate classification includes popular varieties like:
- “Amish Paste” – heirloom, paste tomato
- “Beefmaster” – extra large sandwich tomato
- “Better Boy” – juicy but firm, compact vine with shorter internodes
- “Black Krim” – deep color, rich flavor
- “Chocolate Cherry” – cherry, chocolate red in color
By understanding the differences between these basic tomato classifications, it will be easy for you to choose the tastiest tomato to suit your gardening needs and harvest preferences. Many gardeners choose more than one of each type of tomato, ensuring there is always a bountiful supply to use, to share and to enjoy!