How Far Apart To Plant Tomatoes?
by Susan Grey on May 13, 2019
The simple answer is between 24 and 36 inches apart. But as we shall find out, there are many other considerations that influence how far apart you should plant your tomatoes.
Spacing is an indispensable consideration when planting any crop. Proper spacing goes a long way in ensuring crops have sufficient water, adequate air circulation, and mineral salts while also reducing competition from the adjacent plants.
When it comes to tomatoes, the issue requires even more tact and diligence. This is because tomatoes are considered one of the most delicate plants and any slight oversight could weigh heavily on their productivity. One of the main reasons for tomatoes failing is planting them too close together (link).
However, spacing them too far apart means you will have fewer plants on a disproportionately larger piece of land, a decision that may prove to be economically unviable in the long run.
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Why Should You Space Your Tomatoes Correctly?
If you space your tomatoes too close to one another, the competition for the intake of water and mineral salts will be higher and overall productivity will be lowered.
Also, spacing them too far apart translates into wastage of potential growing space and allowing enough space for weeds to thrive.
Tomatoes are known to be highly susceptible to diseases and a slight fluctuation in humidity could have serious implications on their yield. Disease-causing microorganisms thrive in warm and moist environments.
If planted too close together whenever you water the plants, much of the moisture will be trapped and concentrated within the plants, thereby creating a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria.
Light is a significant requirement for the growth of plants. Spacing tomatoes too close together means some plants will cast shades onto their neighboring plants, thereby limiting light penetration.
Lighting requirements are especially a matter of concern because tomato plants are considered heat-loving and require upwards of 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
Check out our article here on exactly how much sunlight tomatoes need (link).
When tomato plants are adequately spaced, there is more air flow within the plants and as such, the competition for air flow is decreased. The plants will not have to compete for water and mineral salts, with effect that the overall productivity will increase (link).
What Are The Factors That Determine Proper Tomato Spacing?
Tomatoes require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight in order for them to produce fruits (link). Tomatoes require light to produce enough energy, which translates to a better yield. The plants use light to sprout leaves and develop flowers.
The size of the plant dictates spacing requirements because naturally, bigger plants block the penetration of light. For large vine-producing tomatoes, you should consider spacing them up to 36 inches apart. Their rows should also be 4 to 5 inches apart.
To grow tomatoes they require a sufficient supply of water. For young tomato seedlings, excess water can prove detrimental regardless of how closely spaced they are. This is because young seedlings require a minimal amount of water to thrive, excess water prevents the free flow of air from penetrating the young plants.
If the tomato plants are spaced far apart use a sprinkler to water, there will be less likelihood of water lingering on the leaves and promoting bacterial growth. However, for plants that are spaced closer together, drip watering is most ideal. This ensures the water goes directly to the roots and minimizes wastage.
In regards to spacing, it is easier to plant tomatoes closer together when they are pruned. This is because there will be fewer leaves competing for sunlight, not to mention it is easier to care for the plants. You will find it a lot easier to water the plants, apply fertilizer and even cultivate the plants.
Generally, pruned plants are known to produce larger fruits that mature up to 3 weeks earlier as compared to prostate plants. But when it comes to tomatoes, pruning is not enough; you must also support their stems in such a way that all the leaves are exposed to sunlight.
Pruning is essential as it ensures the plants get maximum sunlight for photosynthesis. Pruning reduces leaf density which is known to cause permanent shade that affects the ability of the leaves to produce sugar. The result will be the leaf using up more sugar than it can produce, which leads to yellowing and ultimately dropping off.
How Should You Space Your Tomatoes In Vessels?
As a general rule, the recommended container size for a single plant is at least one square foot or a 5-gallon bucket.
Size - Always go for bigger containers for the simple reason that the bigger the vessel, the more adequate the flow of air and penetration of light. In order to maximize your yields, you will need to add high-quality potting soil as well as ensure the container has enough drainage.
Watering - Generally, you need to consistently keep the soil moist as opposed to wet. But since it may be difficult to keep tabs of the moisture content in these containers, using self-watering containers may be ideal. Water alone will not do the trick if you do not nurture the plants with adequate fertilizer (link). Using a slow-release fertilizer should be mixed thoroughly in the container.
Depth - It is important to plant your tomatoes deeply in the container so that roots develop out of the stems.
When it comes to spacing the pots, there is no standard rule apart from ensuring the pots are placed in such a way that each plant receives sunlight for a minimum of 6 to 8 hours a day.
By placing the pots closer together it ensures the inner roots receive proper shade, which may be beneficial when the pots are placed on hard concrete surfaces that are known to absorb and reflect a lot of heat.
Planting tomatoes in pots gives you some leeway when it comes to spacing, and it is an ideal way to leverage a small garden. The only major challenge is the fact that planting in pots is a rather time-consuming venture as each tomato plant will need to be taken care of on an individual basis.
However, when placing the pots close to each other, ensure the leaves do not overlap as this could cause water logging on the leaves, thereby escalating the spread of diseases.
Raised Bed Spacing:
A distance of about 4 feet wide should do the trick. Spacing them in such a manner that the center of the bed is accessible from either side is preferable for ease of cultivation (link).
Spacing Different Tomato Variants
First, different tomato variants require different spacing needs. In order to understand the spacing requirements of different tomato variants, it is important to, first of all, learn the main tomato varieties out there. Tomatoes are classified into two major varieties namely determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate - Determinate tomatoes are notably compact. These varieties also grow up to a certain height, after which they stop to flower before producing all their fruits. These varieties are known for their remarkably short harvest period, which makes them ideal for canning.
Indeterminate - Indeterminate tomatoes grow and flower before setting up their fruit. They have longer harvest periods as compared to their determinate varieties, extending up to 3 months.
Determinant Varieties - 12 to 24 inches apart
Indeterminate, Staked Varieties - 14 to 20 inches apart
Indeterminate Unstaked Varieties - 24 to 36 inches apart
Spacing - 24 inches apart
Row Spacing - 30 to 36 inches apart
It is also important to cage or stake grape tomatoes, as doing so prevents the fruit from rotting by holding them off the ground (link).
Spacing - 5 inches apart
Roma, Marglobe, Siberian and Penderosa Tomatoes
Spacing - 12 to 36 inches apart
Interested in learning our ultimate tips for growing tomatoes? Check out our article here (link)