One of the most challenging parts of gardening is knowing how much distance to put between your plants.
You don’t want to put them too close together and force them to compete for nutrients.
Yet, planting too far apart is a waste of space. So how much space does a tomato plant need, especially for lively, high yield tomato varieties?
How Much Space Do Tomato Plants Need?
Most experts recommend giving your tomato plants at least two or more feet apart if you plan to plant tomatoes in your home garden. This distance is best for maximizing your yields and is sufficient for most tomato plants.
However, remember that these plants vary widely, along with their space requirements.
How Should You Space Your Tomato Plants?
Spacing your tomato plants at least two feet apart is best for root system growth, reducing competition for nutrient uptake, and supporting good airflow. If you were to ignore this general guideline, the plants that are too close to each other might experience stunted growth.
Further, crops that are too densely packed are vulnerable to rapid disease spread due to proximity and high humidity from closely-packed foliage.
Keep in mind that this two-feet minimum rule only applies to the plants grown in-ground without any additional equipment. If you are working with staked tomatoes, you’ll need to increase that distance to at least three feet for the best results.
Spacing tomatoes is a tricky business that depends on numerous factors, from your growing space (in-ground vs. container) to the specific species.
It takes a bit of practice, but once you know what to look for, you’ll have the perfect planting technique down in no time!
Related: Tomato Mistakes Growers Make
Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes
As mentioned above, several details play into what a specific tomato plant will need in terms of space requirements.
Perhaps the most important contributing factor is the variety of your particular plant. The types of tomato plants are generally divided into two separate groups:
- Determinate Tomato Plants: As they mature, these types of tomatoes will reach a maximum height. Once they reach this height, they will stop growing in size but will continue to produce fruit. Typically, a cluster of flowers marks the terminal growing point.
- Indeterminate Tomato Varieties: These tomatoes are not restricted in their growth potential, although they can level out at some point. These experience indefinite growth and will never set terminal flower clusters. Instead, they will produce lateral clusters and continue to grow upward.
Before you get to planting, you need to be conscious of the growing style you should expect from your plant. Then use that information to guide the space you’ll dedicate to each plant in your crop.
You might still have success if you were to plant both types according to the general recommendations mentioned previously. However, you’ll have far greater yields and healthier plants by adhering to the following advice:
- Determinate tomatoes should be grown between 2-2 ½ foot apart in rows with a minimum of 4 foot distance separating those rows.
- Indeterminate tomatoes will do best when spaced 2 ½-3 foot apart in wire tomato cages, or 3-4 foot apart if you want them to sprawl out. Distance the rows 4 foot apart.
If you need to pack in your indeterminate tomatoes into a small gardening space, you might be able to get away with spacing them 1 ½-2 foot apart. These types grow more up than out, so some experts encourage gardeners to try it out.
In-Ground Planting vs. Container Gardening
Where you grow, your tomato is also a significant factor in determining the amount of space your tomato needs to thrive.
Of course, you can follow all the above recommendations for growing tomatoes in an outdoor, in-ground garden. However, what do you do if you only have a small-space container garden to work with?
On the one hand, some experts don’t feel that potted tomatoes demand as much in space requirements as in-ground plants do. This is probably because all the nutrients are confined to an individual plant, eliminating competition from other plants.
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In these cases, the recommendation is typically to grow your tomato in a “large container.” This is not the most helpful answer, but for some, it works.
However, if you prefer precision in your container gardening, others suggest that you get pots that measure between 14-20″ in diameter. Experts have reported that the larger the pot, the larger the yield.
So, if you’d like to experiment in saving space while still growing the most fruit possible, try out a 20″ container!
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetable crops to grow for the beginner and expert gardeners alike. Yet, the job is only easy if you’ve met all the core requirements. By spacing your tomatoes according to the guidelines discussed here, you can maximize your yields and ensure that your plants thrive.