By Eve Werner, Butte County Master Gardener, April 25, 2014
Tomato varieties are grouped into two general types, determinate and indeterminate, according to the way they grow and set fruit. Selecting a variety with a growth style to match your eating plans will enhance your gardening experience.
Determinate tomatoes stop vertical growth at a specific point in their life cycle. The plant then sets flower and produces a single crop that ripens at one time. The bushy, compact growth habit of determinate varieties makes them perfect for smaller spaces or container planting. Good determinate varieties for canning include Roma and San Marzano.
Indeterminate tomatoes, also known as “vining” tomatoes, grow, bloom, and produce fruit continuously until killed by frost, providing a steady supply of ripe fruit. You'll see blossoms, green, and ripe tomatoes commingling on a single plant. Indeterminate varieties grow big – six to ten feet tall in the Sacramento Valley. Sturdy support with wire mesh cylinders or panels will promote healthy growth and reduce damage from pests and sunburn. Indeterminate varieties to try include Sweet 100 (cherry tomato), Better Boy and Burpee 4th of July (multipurpose), and Paul Robeson (heirloom).
For further information, see University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Publication 8159: “Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden”).