Belgian Nursery Blog

May 12, 2024

Choosing the Right Tomato

Here at Belgian, we grow a lot of tomatoes—over 30 varieties at last count! So it can be a bit overwhelming to walk up the Annual Greenhouse aisles and be confronted by so many choices, especially if you’re just starting on your tomato journey. Hopefully, reading the following will help you navigate the oh-so rewarding world of growing your own delicious berries (technically, a tomato is a fruit!)

The Basics: Light and Water

No matter what tomato variety you choose, they all need full sun (at least 6 hours, preferably in the afternoon when the energy is strongest). So be sure that you have a bright, sunny spot to place your plants, whether in large containers, a raised bed, or in the garden.

Tomatoes need regular, deep watering throughout their growing seasons, especially during the hot summer days. Good saturation will help produce tasty and juicy fruit!


Tomato plants can take up a lot of space, as some varieties can reach up to 7 ft tall and 5 ft wide! But others have been bred with more compact growing habits to thrive in smaller spaces, like sunny balconies; these are typically determinate varieties, and may not require extra supports like bamboo poles or tomato cages. Take some basic measurements of the growing space you have available and then you can choose your varieties accordingly.

In-Ground or In Pots?

Nearly all tomato varieties have large, deep root systems, which is no issue when growing directly in the garden bed. They also grow perfectly well in containers, so long as they are large enough and deep enough to house their ever-growing feet. Besides, tomato plants root out from their stems so it’s a good idea to plant them extra deep (leave the top 1/3 showing about the soil) to have a strong stalk for all those yummy treats.

Note: When planting in containers ONLY use good quality potting soil! Garden soil, black earth, triple mix, and other garden additives are too heavy for such a confined space and could crush the roots.

Determinate or Indeterminate

You’ll see mention of “determinate” or “indeterminate” on all of our tomato variety signs, and it’s important to note of which category your plants fall under.

Determinate: also known as “bush tomatoes” have a limited harvest time when all of their fruit reaches peak ripeness, typically about 1 to 3 weeks. They also tend to be stocky and more compact, around 2 or 3 feet tall compared to their indeterminate cousins, and may not require caging or staking. Determinate tomatoes are great for canning, sauces, freezing, and of course eating fresh off the plant.

Indeterminate: also known as “vine tomatoes”, they have an extended harvest season, often going from summer heat to the fall frost! They also grow far taller and wider, reaching as high as 7 feet so a tomato cage or bamboo poles are hugely beneficial. Most small fruiting varieties, like cherry and grape tomatoes, are indeterminate.

 Heirloom or Hybrid

Heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds saved through generations, and can be from 40, 50, or even 100 years ago! And because they are from the “original” tomato stocks they have a lot of variety within each plant, including fruit size, shape, colour, and flavour. They are not as resistant to disease as the modern “hybrid” varieties, but you cannot beat the amazing colours and textures found in a mixed heirloom tomato salad!

Hybrid tomatoes are uniform in nearly every way within their specific variety, making them perfect for grocery stores and retail. They have been cross-pollinated by humans to develop certain traits, like disease resistance, less cracking, better yields, and all-over health. They are incredibly dependable from planting outdoors through to harvest time.

So Really, Which One Is Best?

All of them! There are so many sizes, colours, textures, and flavours to choose from! But since you asked, here are some of our favourites:

For Small Spaces (Compact Growers – 3 ft Tall or Less)

Hybrid: Celebrity Plus, Patio, Roma, Tumbler Red, Tumbling Tom Yellow

Burpee Brand & Other: Bush Champion II, Steak Sandwich, Heartbreaker Vallery Orange

Heirloom: Black Krim, Cherokee Purple

For Slicing, Salads, Eating Fresh (Beefsteak/Slicer)

Hybrid: Beefsteak, Better Boy Plus, Burpee Big Boy, Celebrity Plus, Early Girl Plus, Jet Star, Lemon Boy Plus, Pink Girl, Patio

Burpee Brand: Big Beef, Big Daddy, Bush Champion II, Fourth of July, Steak House, Steak Sandwich, Mountain Magic, Heartbreaker Valley Orange

Heirloom: Big Rainbow, Black Krim, Brandywine (Pink or Red), Cherokee Purple, Old German, Pineapple, Rutgers

For Snacking (Cherry & Grape sizes)

Hybrid: Red Grape, Sugar Rush Red Cherry, Sunsugar Yellow Cherry, Sweet Millions, Tumbler Red, Tumbling Tom Yellow

Burpee Brand: Bumble Bee Sunrise Cherry, Mightly Sweet Grape, Chocolate Sprinkle

Heirloom: Yellow Pear

For Sauces, Canning, Freezing

Hybrid: Roma                     Heirloom: San Marzano

Copyrights © 2022 Belgian Nursery All Rights Reserved.       powered by Digital North.