How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

How far apart should you plant tomatoes? That's a great question and we're here to give you that information. Why? Because we don't want you to squeeze your tomato plants together or leave too much space for weeds to grow.

There are different ways to space tomatoes. You can either space them by plant type or by garden type. We'll look at these two different types in detail.

How Do You Space Tomato Plants?

1. Spacing by Tomato Plant Type

The general rule of thumb is to plant tomatoes 1.5-2 ft apart. However, this rule doesn't take into account the type of tomato or garden type you're dealing with. We're going to start off with spacing based on plant type and then look at garden type later.

The two main types of plants when it comes to spacing are determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes. In addition to spacing your tomatoes based on plant type, it's also important that you check the spacing guidelines on the plant tag or seed packet you're using.

Let's look at the two plant types in detail.

a) Determinate Tomatoes

Determinate tomatoes are a bush-type of plant. The interesting thing about this tomato plant is that it doesn't grow past a certain point, affecting how you space it.

Nonetheless, a distance of 2 ft should be sufficient enough.

However, if you are dealing with smaller versions of this tomato plant, you can space them at 1 ft. This is especially the case for dwarf tomato plants.

Let's now look at the other type of tomato plant.

b) Indeterminate Tomatoes

Unlike determinate tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes can continue growing until they can't anymore. For example, you can find that your indeterminate tomato plant continues to grow until frost kills them.

However, the irony is that they don't need as much space as the determinate tomatoes because they mostly grow upwards instead of sideways. Therefore, 1.5 ft between plants should be enough.

Now that we've covered that, let's look at how to space tomato plants based on garden types.

2. Spacing by Garden Type

Whether planting tomatoes on the ground, in containers, or in a raised bed, you should space them accordingly for the best results.

Let's look at the different garden types.

a) On the Ground

When planting tomatoes on the ground, you need to consider the fact that you'll need space to walk around. Therefore, the amount of space you leave should allow you to move around your tomatoes without trampling on them.

For this reason, about 1.5-2 ft between each plant should be sufficient. When it comes to the distance between the rows, 3 ft should do the trick. With this amount of space, you'll have more than enough space to walk around.

b) In Containers

When using containers, the one thing to remember about tomato spacing is that you shouldn't have more than one good tomato plant in a container. This is to ensure that the tomato has sufficient space to grow well.

Another thing to ensure is that the containers you choose are 1.5-2 ft wide and deep for maximum support. Only if you feel like there's so much more space left, can you combine the tomato plant with a companion plant.

We'll look at companion plants later on in this article.

c) Raised Bed

Planting tomatoes on a raised bed is almost similar to planting them on the ground. Therefore, 1.5-2 ft between each plant should be sufficient.

If you can get a raised bed container that is 1 ft deep or more, the better. This will give your fresh tomatoes enough proper nutrients to grow well. The roots of your plants will also be happy with the extra space.

Now that we've looked at how far apart to plant tomatoes let's look at the different types of tomatoes.

This information will give you a clearer idea of why we recommend the spacings we did above.

Types of Tomato Plants Based on Spacing

1. Determinate Tomato Plants

These are tomato plants that form a cluster of flowers at the top of the stems, stopping further growth. For this reason, you'll find that determinate tomatoes are easier to grow and control.

Another distinct feature that separates them from the indeterminate tomatoes is that they are bushier.

After several pickings, you can remove these tomato plants to give way to new fresh plants.

2. Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Indeterminate tomato plants are said to be perennial plants and can grow all season. Also, this tomato plant type grows best on trellises or stakes, thanks to their vine nature.

However, note that you'll need to prune them every once in a while because they can grow quite tall. Nonetheless, you can be sure that you'll be enjoying tomatoes for a long while before the frost sets in.

Now that you have a better understanding about these two types of tomato plants, let's look at some companion plants. These can come especially handy when you want to use containers to plant your tomato plants.

What Are Some Good Companion Plants for Tomato Plants?

Companion plants are good because they keep a host of plant issues such as pests, fungal disease, and more at bay. But, how do you know which companion plants are best for tomatoes?

You may know the best time to plant tomatoes, but this may not always be enough. You also need to know what fertilizers to use and some good companion plants to grow along with your tomatoes.

Let's look at a few good examples.

a) Low-growing herbs

Some popular low-growing herbs include leaf lettuce and thyme. These herbs are great to grow alongside tomato plants because they act as a sort of "living mulch." This is because they're underneath the tomato plants.

By being underneath the tomato plant, these low-growing herbs prevent weeds from growing and shade the soil for your tomato plants.

Therefore by planting these herbs, you get to protect your tomato plants while still having easy access to some fresh herbs to use in your kitchen.

b) Basil

First of all, basil and tomatoes taste amazing when made together. In addition, planting basil protects your tomato plants from thrips. Thrips are insects notorious for spreading plant diseases.

c) Carrot-family Herbs

Here are other herbs that will help you keep insects away from your sweet tomatoes. Some good carrot-family herbs you can try include dill, cilantro, and fennel.

Some pests that these herbs help keep at bay include tomato hornworm and other caterpillar pests.

They do this by producing flowers that attract parasitic wasps. These parasitic wasps then feed on any caterpillar pests and hornworms on your tomato plants.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how far apart to plant tomatoes based on the type of tomato and garden type, are you ready to get started? Remember that even using the best fertilizer for tomatoes is not enough to give you a great yield if the plants are not spaced properly.

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.