how far apart do you plant tomatoes

How Far Apart Do You Plant Tomatoes To Increase Yield?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

When planting tomatoes, most people concentrate on aspects such as soil, temperature and water. However, the main aspect that determines successful tomato yield is spacing. So, how far apart do you plant tomatoes to achieve this?

This article discusses the proper spacing of tomatoes based on type, varieties, soil and gardening styles that enable healthy growth. It also discusses some benefits of spacing tomatoes while planting, so read along to know more about spacing in relation to increasing healthy produce.

Importance of Tomato Spacing During Planting

Spacing your tomato during planting is important for the following reasons:

  1. Spacing promotes the overall health of the tomato plant.
  2. Like any other plant, tomatoes need adequate light to thrive, so they boost the plant's lighting needs.
  3. When tomatoes are spaced, they do not scramble for nutrients.
  4. Spacing boosts the rate of fruit production since it bases each plant on individual performance.
  5. Spacing makes the plants easily accessible in case of any inspection you want.
  6. Spacing also prevents the spread of pests and diseases from spreading to one plant.

Factors That Determine How Far Apart To Plant Your Tomatoes

Regarding spacing, different factors come into play to increase your yield and give you healthy produce. The factors that may determine how you will space your tomato plants include:

  1. The soil type.
  2. The type of tomato plants.
  3. The variety of tomatoes you are dealing with.
  4. The garden type.

Let us discuss these factors in detail so that you know how to space your tomatoes for a better yield.

1. Soil And Spacing Tomato Plants

If you want to get away with spacing your tomato plants, you can plant them in a rich loamy soil. Loamy soil has plenty of nutrients that support plant growth and promote plant success even when planted closely. You can also add the best fertilizers for tomatoes to your soil to increase yield.

However, if you plant in nutrient-deficient soil, such as hard clay or very dry soil, your plants may compete for nutrients in the soil and end up dying. If you are not using loamy soil, ensure you space your tomato plants far apart to give them a higher chance of survival.

2. How Far Apart Do You Plant Different Tomato Types?

Tomatoes exist in two types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow compactly and are mostly caged. They do not need extra support as they tend to be smaller and compact.

Determinate tomatoes thrive in containers as they do not need much room. You can grow them in your kitchen garden as they require a short growing season before they produce fruits and wither immediately after fruit production.

If you are going to plant determinate tomatoes, you need to space the tomatoes about one and a half feet in between each tomato and plant the tomatoes in a row. The rows should be three feet apart.

b). How To Space Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomato plants grow throughout a season and produce a higher yield than determinate tomato plants. However, these plants require a lot of space and staking as they can grow even bigger.

These plants may take a whole season to yield, but they produce fruit all through the frost. If you are going to plant indeterminate tomatoes, consider spacing them apart as much as possible.

However, if you plant them on a trellis, you may place them close together to make the most of the available vertical space. For example, you can space your tomato plants two feet from each row.

However, if you use wire cages, you can space your tomato plant two or three feet apart from each other. If you do this, you will take advantage of the vertical space, but you will need to utilize some horizontal space.

If you don't want to use your horizontal space, you can provide support to the plant by staking. But if you are interested in using your horizontal space and don't mind your plant sprawling on the ground, then you need a good three to four feet spacing between each plant.

c). How Far Apart Do You Plant Staked Tomatoes?

If you are going to stake your indeterminate tomatoes, you will have to space them 24 inches apart in your rows. The space allows the tomato plant to grow upright, thus taking less space.

If you don't stake your tomato plants, they will sprawl horizontally and take much space to grow. However, if you stake the tomatoes, they will go up to 8 feet vertically and need 36 to 48 inches between each row to give each tomato plant enough room to stretch.

Ensure your rows are at least four feet apart to give you space to walk in between them for inspection or harvesting. If you have a big garden, you can let your tomatoes sprawl out and wander as when tomatoes touch the ground; they produce new roots to gain nutrients from the soil.

However, if you lack space, the only option is to stake them and plant tomatoes close to each other.

d). How Far Apart Do You Plant Caged Tomatoes

As mentioned earlier, cages are used for determinate tomatoes as you expect them to grow at a certain height. Cages are designed specifically for each type of tomato you intend to grow. If you use cages, you can opt for spacing them 2 feet apart and space your rows 4 feet apart.

The space gives you enough room to work around harvesting, pruning, or tending your tomatoes without breaking them.

3. How Far Apart Can You Plant Different Varieties Of Tomato Plants

Different tomato varieties require different spacing needs. For example, indeterminate tomatoes require more space in your garden than determinate, which may take up less space. The dwarf variety can exist in either indeterminate or determinate. They are better since you can grow them close to each other to save on space and yield fruit.

In most cases, you will find tomato spacing recommendations on the seed packets you purchase.

4. Spacing Tomatoes According To Garden Type

Your garden type will determine the amount of spacing you need or your tomatoes to thrive. The common types of gardens include:

  • Container Gardening
  • Square Foot Garden
  • Traditional Row Garden
  • Raised Bed Garden

a). Container Gardening

If you are going to plan determinate or dwarf tomatoes, then container gardening is the best option to go with. Container gardening supports the individual growth of plants in separate pots such that they do not scramble for nutrients. You can also place the containers close to each other and save space.

You can also access the plants easily as you only need to move the containers to cater to them. You can always put tomatoes in containers if you do not have enough space or a garden. If you use containers in planting tomatoes, ensure they are at least 5 gallons in size and have 14 inches diameter to provide better sprawling.

b). Square Foot Garden

In a square foot garden, you space the plants in one section instead of rows. It would be best if you spaced the plants' unequal portions. For instance, if you are planting determinate tomatoes and spacing them in terms of 2 feet spacing between plants and 4 between rows, each plant will require about 8 feet square feet to grow.

You can plant each tomato in 8 square foot sections instead of stressing over the distance in rows and feet. This garden is advantageous since it eliminates overcrowding and promotes healthy growth. The only downside to this gardening type is you are limited to access the plants since the square foot sections are close to each other.

c). Traditional Row Gardens

If you have the traditional row garden, you must plant tomatoes in rows. You will space the tomato plants from 12 to 48 inches apart, putting the factors that may boost growth in mind—space the rows 4 feet apart to give easy accessibility and allow air circulation. You will need more space to plant tomatoes using this gardening style.

d). Raised Bed Garden

If you are looking for a way to plant while saving space, the raised bed garden should be your first option. Build a 4 by 4-foot frame and fill it with quality bed soil. The raised bed garden provides your tomato plant with enough nutrients, so they don't scramble for nutrients.

You can use the corners of the bed to plant different herbs to promote inter-cropping. For support purposes, include a strong stake or cage at each corner. It is better to stake the tomato plants to allow them to spill over the edges of the garden without competing for space.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.