What does determinate and indeterminate mean?

Tomato varieties can be divided into three groups according to their growth habit: ‘indeterminate’, ‘semi-determinate’ and ‘determinate’.

Indeterminates (also known as cordon varieties) provide a continuous harvest from about mid-June (cherries) or early July (others) until first frost. This type produces side-shoots, which must be removed, and needs to be ‘stopped’ (have the growing point pinched out) in the first week of September for cherry tomatoes or early August for other varieties. In a commercial greenhouse, each tomato plant produces over 30 trusses and grows for up to 50 weeks (including propagation). The stems grow up to 15m long. All of our varieties apart from Lizzano and Tumbler are indeterminate.

Semi-determinates are in between and do not need side-shooting or stopping; Lizzano is a semi-determinate variety suitable for growing in patio containers or hanging baskets; it may need staking if grown in open ground.

Determinates are short and bushy (they are also known as bush varieties). They grow to about 90cm (3ft) tall and usually don’t require support. Determinates provide lots of ripe tomatoes at once and are suitable for growing in containers. They do not require ‘stopping’. Tumbler is a determinate variety.

Tomato Variety Choice

Firstly, decide what sort of tomato you want to grow. Cherry varieties get ready before larger types and have a more concentrated flavour. Large varieties such as plum and beefsteak are trickier for beginners. I recommend:

Shirley F1 AGM: very early, short-jointed variety suitable for heated or cold glass/polytunnels; heavy yields of top class fruits; resistant to TMV, Cladosporium and Fusarium.

Sungold F1 AGM: golden-orange cherry – good yield of attractive round fruit; good flavour

Sweet Million F1 AGM: red cherry – long trusses of sweet fruit; good yield

Tumbler F1: early bush variety for baskets & tubs; red cherry-sized fruits with excellent flavour

I have grown all of the above varieties outdoors in East Anglia.