Growing in the Garden: Determinate or Indeterminate

Tomatoes – Determinate or Indeterminate

Did you know there are two distinct types of tomatoes?  Tomatoes grow in two different ways.  The two types of plants are referred to as determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.  Here are some differences that I have found.

Determinates grow for their growing period and put on fruit all at once.  The plant has a definite limit to its growing capacity or ability to put on fruit.  This is a type of tomato that you would like to have in your garden if you are choosing to can your tomatoes.  You will get a large crop all at once.  They do well being supported with tomato cages.


Indeterminates do not have a limit to its growing capacity, except by its external physical limitations.  Indeterminates will continue to grow, as long as they are supported and the weather allows.  These vines have been known to grow up to 12 feet or longer.  They grow best with a strong support system so the long vines do not break.  These plants put on tomatoes at regular intervals, so if you only have a couple plants, you will need to be creative with your planning for preserving your tomatoes.  If you have a lot of these plants, you will have a continuous supply of tomatoes for processing, eating fresh, and sharing.

What type of tomato plant you choose will be largely determined by your garden space, your ability to support the plant and your plans for the fruit.

I find that for canning, I like a paste or Roma tomato or a smaller round tomato like Marglobe.  Many of these are determinates (but not all of them).  I like the determinate varieties because they all come ripe at one time so I can pretty much be done with tomatoes in a 2 week period of time.  This is wonderful for canning purposes.

For fresh eating, I like to have tomatoes over a longer period.  I have found that indeterminate varieties are wonderful for this purpose.  As long as you keep the tomatoes picked, they seem to continue to produce until the end of your growing season.  These plants are good to get in early in your garden season so you have a longer continuous supply.

Over the years, the seed companies did not always (and still do not) mention whether a tomato variety is a determinate or an indeterminate type of growing tomato. Gardeners would get jealous over their neighbor’s tomato plants that grew 10 feet tall, while their own remained at a meager 4 feet height.  Others watched as some picked a large crop for canning purposes and they were struggling to find enough tomatoes to get a batch for canning.   I have been in both categories and it wasn’t until the last couple years that I finally discovered this interesting fact about tomatoes.

So, what can we learn from the types of tomatoes?

We each have different styles of growing and producing fruit.

A typical evangelistic campaign of sending out flyers and having a 3-4 week long session of meetings produces a crop of believers that we work with to produce a harvest.  Does it work?  Yes.

We also have another style of witnessing in which we put out feelers and have Bible studies with a smaller group, but on a more continuous basis.  It produces fruit often in smaller quantities, but in a more continual pattern. Does this work?  Yes.

In our homeschool setting, we will find that some children thrive with a large motivated project while others thrive with smaller more steady forms of input and output expectations.

Each style has its own type of work associated with it and its own expected response of success.  I have learned there are benefits to the two different types of tomatoes for my home garden.  I believe there are also benefits to the different styles of sharing Jesus with those we meet, to the learning styles within our families/homeschools, and to the style of teaching (sometimes switching it up is better for obtaining a different response). Knowing the growing style of the plant helps you to care for it better; knowing the learning styles of those around us, helps us to help them grow better, as well.

To learn more about determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, see the link below:

Should You Grow Determinate or Indeterminate Tomato Plants? 

Please share more spiritual insights that determinate and indeterminate tomatoes bring to mind with you in the comments below.

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