Gardeners have many selections when choosing a tomato variety for their gardens. Plants come in assorted shapes and sizes with their fruits offering a variety of colors, sizes, shapes and tastes. Tomatoes are broken into four basic groupings: determinate, indeterminate, heirloom and hybrid. When selecting tomato plants for your garden, consider where you live within the United States and your climate conditions, so you grow a variety suitable for your region.
Determinate tomato plants have a bushier and compact habit of growth and rarely require staking. Plants have a tendency to blossom and set fruit at one time. The blossom and fruit production rate then declines. The plant's size is determined once all the blossoms are set on an end shoot, since it then stops growing. Determinate tomato varieties are suitable for gardeners planting vegetable container gardens or those with little or no gardening space. Varieties include "Small Fry," "Oregon Springs" and "Celebrity."
Indeterminate tomatoes, not damaged by the heat of summertime, continue growing until cold weather arrives. Unlike determinate varieties, blossoms are continuously growing along the plant's vines instead of only at their end shoot. Plants usually grow quite large and require staking or pruning. Gardeners can grow indeterminate varieties of tomatoes inside large garden spaces or in larger containers that have room for stakes or cages. Varieties include "Brandywine," "Yellow Pear" and "Top Sirloin."
The development of heirloom tomatoes is a process taking many years with only the plants with desirable qualities kept and their seeds stored. Varieties predating 1945 are heirlooms. Heirloom varieties can be indeterminate or determinate and may not have disease resistance bred into them, as modern hybrids do. Heirloom plants may lack the disease resistance of hybrids, but they are big on taste. Gardeners desiring an "old time" tomato that has been in some cases tried and tested for more than 100 years should grow heirlooms. Varieties include "Mortgage Lifter," "Brandywine" and "Cherokee Purple."
Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two varieties of tomatoes and bred for a specific quality each parent retains. Unlike heirlooms, their seed will not be true to the parent plant. Bred to be more disease resistant, hybrid cultivars include both determinate and indeterminate varieties. Hybrid tomatoes generally store longer, since their breeding considers long-distance shipping to get to the market. Gardeners desiring a more problem-free tomato should consider growing hybrid varieties such as "Celebrity," "Early Girl" and "Champion."