By Ryan Dorn,

Tomatoes are the heart of the summer garden, offering a versatile bounty that spans from fresh salads to homemade sauces. As we dive into the gardening season of Spring 2024, it's essential to understand the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. This choice isn't just about tomato varieties; it's about how you plan your garden and harvest. Whether you're aiming for a hefty batch of salsa or fresh tomatoes at every meal, knowing which type to grow can make all the difference.

Determinate tomatoes give you a compact, manageable harvest, perfect for those big canning days, while indeterminate varieties promise a continuous supply of fresh tomatoes throughout the season. In this blog, we'll explore the specifics of each type, including growth habits, support needs, and the best varieties to plant this spring. From the juicy Beefsteak to the versatile Roma, let's find the perfect tomato for your garden.

Various tomatoes varieties on a wooden table. Southern Seeds.

Indeterminate Tomatoes: A Garden's Climbing Bounty

Indeterminate tomatoes are the marathon runners of the tomato world, displaying a vining growth habit that continues throughout the growing season. These varieties are known for their ability to produce a steady stream of fruit from early summer until the first frost, making them a favorite among gardeners who dream of fresh tomatoes on their table for as long as possible. The sprawling nature of indeterminate plants means they typically require staking, caging, or trellising to support their lengthy vines and abundant fruit production. This support not only helps manage their growth but also facilitates air circulation and sunlight exposure, reducing the risk of disease and promoting healthy, ripe tomatoes.

Vines with Green and Red Tomatoes

Pruning plays a crucial role in the care of indeterminate tomatoes. By selectively removing some of the plant's suckers—shoots that emerge from the joint between the stem and a branch—gardeners can direct the plant's energy toward producing fruit rather than excess foliage. However, it's a balance; too much pruning can stress the plant, while too little can lead to a tangled mass that's hard to manage and harvest. In terms of usage, indeterminate tomatoes are incredibly versatile. Their continuous yield is perfect for fresh eating, from juicy slices atop burgers to tangy additions in salads. Many heirloom varieties fall into this category, offering a wide range of flavors, colors, and sizes that are as delightful to look at as they are to eat. Whether you're a fan of the classic red tomato or looking for something more unusual, indeterminate varieties provide a world of choice for the adventurous gardener and cook.

5 Popular Indeterminate Tomatoes

Among the vast array of indeterminate tomato varieties, five stand out for their exceptional flavor, versatility, and garden performance. These favorites are cherished by gardeners and cooks alike for the unique qualities they bring to the garden and the dining table.


Sliced ripe beefsteak tomato at a market next to san marzano tomatoes.

The Beefsteak tomato has been a Southern Seeds top seller for years and for good reason... it is the quintessential choice for a summer sandwich or burger. Known for its large size, meaty texture, and rich flavor, this variety can produce individual fruits that weigh over a pound. Its thick slices are perfect for caprese salads or simply seasoned with a dash of salt. 

Beefsteak Tomato Guide



Sliced brandywine tomatoes on a cutting board

Brandywine is a heirloom variety prized for its exceptionally rich, tangy flavor and smooth, creamy texture. With color ranges from yellow to black, Brandywine sets the standard for what many consider the ultimate tomato taste. It requires a bit more patience due to its longer maturation period, but the wait yields a harvest that's unparalleled in flavor.

Cherokee Purple

Cherokee purple tomatoes on a purple background

This heirloom variety is renowned for its unique, deep purple-red color and complex flavor profile that's a mix of sweet, tart, and smoky. Cherokee Purple tomatoes are medium to large with a dense, juicy texture, making them a standout addition to any dish that calls for tomatoes. Their striking appearance and robust taste have made them a favorite among heirloom tomato enthusiasts.


Celebrity tomatoes growing on the vine.

Celebrity tomatoes are celebrated for their adaptability and disease resistance, making them an excellent choice for gardeners looking for a reliable, no-fuss variety. These medium-sized, globe-shaped fruits offer a classic tomato flavor that's well-balanced and versatile, suitable for everything from fresh salads to cooking.

Sun Gold

Sun gold tomatoes in a basket.

Sun Gold tomatoes are small, cherry-type tomatoes known for their incredibly sweet, fruity flavor that bursts in your mouth. Their bright, golden-orange color makes them a beautiful and tasty addition to salads, pastas, or simply as a snack straight off the vine. Sun Gold's rapid and prolific production ensures a steady supply of sweetness throughout the summer.

    Determinate Tomatoes: Compact and Bountiful Harvests

    Determinate tomatoes, often referred to as "bush tomatoes," are the sprinters of the tomato world, designed to grow to a certain height, flower, and fruit over a short period. This growth pattern makes them an excellent choice for gardeners with limited space or those who prefer to harvest their tomatoes all at once. Unlike their indeterminate counterparts, determinate tomatoes do not require staking or pruning, as they naturally grow into a compact bush form that's easier to manage. This characteristic makes them especially suited for container gardening or small garden plots where space is at a premium.

    The main advantage of determinate tomatoes is their ability to produce a full crop of tomatoes that ripens within a few weeks, making them ideal for large-scale canning, sauce-making, or any situation where a bulk harvest is desired. Because they expend their energy in a concentrated production period, gardeners can plan for a singular, abundant harvest, which is particularly useful for those looking to preserve tomatoes for year-round use. However, this also means that once the harvest period is over, the plants will not produce any more fruit for the rest of the season, so it's often beneficial to stagger plantings a few weeks apart to extend the harvest window.

    Determinate varieties offer a wide range of tomato types, from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteaks, each with its own unique flavor profile and culinary uses. They are a testament to the versatility and adaptability of tomatoes, providing gardeners with options for every taste and garden size. Whether you're a home canner looking to stock your pantry or a balcony gardener seeking fresh tomatoes without a sprawling garden, determinate tomatoes offer a practical and rewarding solution.

    5 Popular Determinate Tomatoes

    In the realm of determinate tomatoes, several varieties stand out for their flavor, yield, and adaptability. These favorites are cherished by gardeners who appreciate the convenience of a more manageable growth habit and the benefit of a simultaneous harvest. Here are five determinate varieties that have captured the attention of tomato enthusiasts:


    Fresh Ripe Delicious Roma Tomatoes on Table

    The Roma tomato is a classic choice for anyone interested in making pastes, sauces, or canned tomatoes. Its plum-shaped fruits are packed with a rich flavor and contain fewer seeds and less water, making them ideal for cooking down into a thick sauce. Romas are also great for fresh salads and salsas, offering a versatility that's hard to beat.

    San Marzano

    Fresh raw San Marzano tomatoes on Linen Napkin on Table

    Revered in Italian cooking, the San Marzano tomato is long and cylindrical, boasting a sweet flavor with low acidity that's perfect for sauces. Its thick flesh and minimal seeds have made it a go-to variety for culinary use, particularly in traditional Neapolitan dishes. San Marzano perform well in the garden, providing a bountiful harvest that's ready for processing or eating fresh.


    Homestead tomato on a cutting board on wood table

    Homestead tomatoes are particularly well-suited to warmer climates and are known for their ability to produce fruit even in hot conditions. They offer medium to large, flavorful tomatoes that are excellent for slicing and canning. Homestead's reliability and resistance to common diseases make it a solid choice for gardeners in a variety of regions. 


    Marglobe tomato in a wooden basket in the field

    Marglobe tomatoes are appreciated for their uniform size, classic tomato shape, and disease resistance. The fruits are juicy and flavorful, making them excellent for fresh eating, salads, and sandwiches. Marglobe's consistent performance and adaptability to different growing conditions have made it a favorite among home gardeners.


    An assortment of Floridade tomatoes.

    As its name suggests, Floridade is a variety that thrives in hot, humid climates, but has proven itself to be remarkably adaptable across different regions. Its fruits are firm and flavorful, with a good balance of tomato sweetness and acidity. Floridade tomatoes are ideal for fresh use, canning, and juicing, making them a versatile addition to any garden. If you question whether or not you can grow a tomato in your garden, this is likely a great option.

      Our Garden Favorites: A Personal Selection

      When it comes to planning our own garden at Southern Seeds, we gravitate towards a mix of tomato varieties that promise both a feast for the eyes and the palate. Our selection reflects a balance between the sweet, the meaty, the versatile, and the heirloom, each chosen for its unique contribution to our gardening and culinary experience. Here's a peek into what we would grow in our garden if we could only grow 3 varieties, showcasing the diversity and richness of tomatoes we adore.

      Small Cherry Tomatoes

      Small red cherry tomatoes on rustic background. Cherry tomatoes

      No garden is complete without the pop of color and flavor that small cherry tomatoes provide. These little jewels are a constant source of delight, easy to snack on right off the vine, and a vibrant addition to salads and dishes that call for a burst of tomatoey sweetness. Their prolific nature means there's always enough to share, making them a garden staple for their beauty and bounty.

      Beefsteak Tomatoes

      For the hearty slices that cover a sandwich or burger in one go, we turn to Beefsteak tomatoes. Their size and flavor are unparalleled, offering the perfect blend of juiciness and tomato tang. Growing Beefsteaks is a labor of love, with the reward being those massive, satisfying fruits that become the stars of summer barbecues and picnics.

      Amish Paste

      Close up photo of organic amish paste tomato

      For a touch of heirloom charm and exceptional taste, the Amish Paste tomato is our choice. Renowned for its use in sauces and pastes, this variety combines the meatiness of a Roma with the delicate sweetness of a cherry tomato. Its versatility in the kitchen and reliability in the garden make it a cherished variety for those who appreciate the art of tomato cultivation and the joy of cooking.

      Wrapping Things Up!

      As we conclude our journey through the world of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, it’s evident how vital this knowledge is for every gardener. Whether you’re working with a vast garden or a modest balcony space, selecting the right type of tomato can significantly enhance both your gardening experience and your kitchen table. From the hearty flavors of Beefsteak to the versatile Roma, the juicy cherry tomatoes, and the heirloom qualities of Amish Paste, each variety brings something unique to your garden.

      Keep in mind, we at Southern Seeds are here to support you. If you’re pondering over which tomatoes to plant, need some guidance on their care, or have any questions as you navigate your gardening journey, don't hesitate to reach out. We’re committed to helping you achieve a garden that’s not just productive, but also brings joy to your daily life. So go ahead and plant those seeds with confidence, knowing you have a community ready to help your garden thrive.


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