Deciding on the Right Tomato Variety

2 Nov

Tomatoes come in many shapes, sizes, colours and flavours, and with more than 11,000 recorded varieties, choosing what to grow can be a little daunting! Here are some tips to help you get started.

Jointed or Jointless Tomatoes

Tomato varieties are either jointed or not jointed. Jointed tomatoes retain their stalk when picked, whereas jointless varieties don’t. While jointed varieties often look more attractive, many home-gardeners and organic farmers opt for jointless tomatoes.

Determinate or Indeterminate Tomatoes

Determinate tomato varieties grow to a bush about 1 metre tall, and bear all their fruit in a concentrated crop. This crop usually lasts about 2 weeks. Determinate plants are often small, making them more suited to growing in containers. By growing a range of determinate varieties that bear crops at different times throughout the season, you can make sure you have access to homegrown tomatoes all season long. This method is great if you enjoy drying or preserving tomatoes because you can pick the harvest virtually all at one time and get bottling.


Most cherry tomatoes are vining, indeterminate varieties, but you can also buy determinate varieties.

Indeterminate tomato varieties grow much larger (up to 5 metres), and therefore require support. They also bear fruit over a period of about 12 to 20 weeks. Many home growers and greenhouse growers favour these varieties because they produce a steady amount of fruit over the course of the season. One or two plants can produce enough tomatoes for you and your family. Many cherry tomato and heirloom tomato varieties are indeterminate.

There are also semi-determinate varieties, which are popular with home gardeners. These plants grow to 1.5 – 2 metres, usually require staking, and produce fruit over a 2 – 6 week period.

Cold Climate Varieties

Tomatoes that mature early to mid-season are best for cold climates. So, if you are from Tasmania or Victoria, give these varieties a go:

  • Black Cherry tomatoes are an indeterminate variety that produces large crops of 3cm-round, deep red to black cherry tomatoes. The plants produce fruit early in the growing season, and are fairly resistant to disease. The tomatoes are full-flavoured, burst in the mouth, and look great paired with red and amber tomatoes.

The Rouge de Marmande is a favourite in cooler climates.

  • Oxheart tomatoes are indeterminate and can grow to about 2 metres tall. This heirloom tomato variety is an old-fashioned favourite, producing large, pinkish fruit that can weigh more than half a kilo. The fruit contains meaty flesh and very few seeds, making them perfect for sandwiches.
  • Rouge de Marmande is an indeterminate that matures early in the season, and is a favourite in Tasmania. This disease resistant plant grows to an average of 2.5 metres and must be staked. The fruit is ribbed, large (6-9cm), flat, and of a deep red colour. These tomatoes are incredibly versatile, and make great snacks, salads and sauces.

Warm Climate Varieties

Warm climates also present growing challenges. These tomato varieties are especially resilient to hot weather:

  • The Burnley Gem is an Australian heirloom determinate variety that produces round, medium-sized fruit in the mid to late season. The bush, which grows to about 1 metre, does well in sunny positions, and is very sensitive to

    Grosse Lisse is a great producer, particularly in hotter climates.


  • Grosse Lisse is an indeterminate that grows to about 2 metres. This has been a popular variety in Australia as it produces fruit in hot conditions. The smooth rounded fruit grow to about 6-10cm in diameter. It’s best to pick the tomatoes when they are slightly pink, and let them ripen indoors.
  • Patriot is a hybrid semi-determinate, and can grow as a trail on the ground or on a trellis. The fruit matures during mid season, producing deep-coloured oblate tomatoes. This variety does particularly well in hot, humid areas, such as northern NSW and South East QLD.

Hybrid or Heirloom?

You should also consider whether you want to grow heirloom or hybrid tomatoes.

Heirloom tomatoes are ‘open pollinated’, meaning they reproduce without human intervention. Many heirloom varieties have histories spanning several generations. Heirloom tomatoes come in a range of individual colours and shapes, and many gardeners agree they win on flavour.

Hybrid tomatoes are created when plant breeders cross-pollinate two varieties in order to create a new, superior variety with the best traits of each parent. Commercial growers favour hybrid tomatoes, as they are predictable.

Seeds or Seedlings


A fine mass of tiny seedlings sprouting in a seed tray, ready for pricking out into individual little pots.

Purchasing seedlings from a nursery is probably the best way to go if you have not had previous experience growing seeds.

However if you want to try out the fun of growing from seed, you will need patience and infrastructure. Essentials include seedling trays, seedling potting mix and a warm area to get them started. Oh, and lots of tender loving care – particularly at transplant time.

Once you have decided which varieties to grow, and whether to opt for seeds or seedlings, you are ready to begin planting and nurturing your babies into beautiful, productive plants.

For expert advice on how to grow and maintain your tomato plants, pick up a copy of our very popular book, How To Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes. It contains a wealth of scientifically trialed information on every aspect of growing tomatoes.