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How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes (With Pictures)

How far apart do you plant tomatoes in your garden? Spacing your tomatoes correctly can say a lot when it comes to controlling certain aspects of production. These aspects include tomato population, pests and diseases, inter-competition and light. Tomato varieties can determine how far apart to plant; from row to row and from one tomato to another in a line.

Our spacing guide entails the benefits or effects of spacing on staking, pest and disease control. How you space tomatoes can have a say in yields.

Classification of Tomato Variety

For purposes of easier identification, tomatoes are classified as either determinate or indeterminate.

Indeterminate tomato plant
OP indeterminate tomato plant

On one hand, determinate tomato plants are usually small varieties that grow to a certain height and then stop. This ‘stop’ in growth is linked to the production of flower clusters.

Ripe and unripe determinate tomato plant with flowers
Determinate tomatoes are smaller and more compact

They tend to grow in a condensed shape as opposed to growing out and up. As a result, determinate tomato plants tend to occupy less space. They also produce fruits within a short harvest period. They can therefore be characterized as compact plants with a short harvest interval.

On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes are plants whose growth and production of fruits go on for up to three months. This means they never have a terminal growth point. As a result, they do not produce a flowering cluster but grow taller up to 10 feet.

Both indeterminate and determinate tomatoes may be planted with varying spacing. Note that our discussion shall dwell much on how to space tomato plants at the transplanting age.

Spacing Tomatoes In Open Production Fields/Greenhouse

Growing tomatoes in well-prepared fields are mainly done on large-scale production. Planting them this way is therefore aimed to give improved yields to maximize profits. Spacing (among other practices) is, therefore, a key feature of successful tomato yield.

You’re likely to have low yields if you plant tomatoes close together. Consequently, poor-quality tomatoes don’t attract fresh market value.

In open fields, there are many factors that are vital to spacing. These include chemical application systems and pest & disease control methods.

Spacing your tomatoes appropriately can improve quality and quantity
Well-spaced tomatoes have better yields

How much space do tomato plants in open fields need for maximum productivity and yields? Here is our simple spacing guide.

Plant Support SystemVarietyPlant-Plant SpacingRow to Row Spacing
Vertical TrellisesIndeterminate varieties  1.5 -2.0 (meters)1.8 to 2.5 (meters)
Wire CagesIndeterminate plants1.5 (meters)1.8 to 2.5 (meters)
Stakes/Poles with stringsIndeterminate plants2.0 to 2.2 (meters)1.8 to 2.5 (meters)

How you space tomatoes will consequently determine their population. Here is a simple tabular breakdown. (The figures in bold indicate population).

Spacing tomato plants properly apart will determine the population

According to ResearchGate, producing tomatoes in open fields is more difficult than in raised beds during the rainy season.

Plant a resistant variety to overcome excessive losses witnessed in fields. Go for ones suited to growing in the conditions where you live. For instance, cherry tomatoes can be a good choice for farmers in Florida.

A Guide to Spacing Garden Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes in garden space are majorly done for household use (mainly consumption). While spacing is an important element of production, the actual available space matters a lot.

If you have a smaller space for gardening, better select determinate varieties that can adapt to closer spacing. For indeterminate tomatoes, “patio variety” cherry tomatoes are a good-to-go-for choice.

Any gardener can grow what they want if there is enough space for vegetables. You can mix varieties. Besides spacing, consider growing adaptability, pests & disease occurrence. These factors may impact the quality of tomato production. More crucial to growth is the resistance of the tomato variety you’ll desire.

Growing and spacing tomatoes in raised beds
Well-spaced tomatoes in raised beds

How far apart should you plant your selected varieties in the garden? After having selected your preferred variety, decide first if you need to support them. Have a look at our breakdown in the spacing guide table below.

Plant Support SystemTomato VarietyPlant-Plant Spacing (inches)Row to Row Spacing (inches)
Vertical TrellisesIndeterminate varieties  1.5 -2.01.5 to 2.0
Wire CagesIndeterminate plants1.52.5 to 3.0
Stakes/Poles with stringsIndeterminate plants2.0 to 2.22.5 to 3.0
Table 2. Spacing guide for garden tomatoes

How Far Apart To Plant Tomatoes in Raised Beds

Prepare raised beds bearing in mind how many tomato plants you need to have in your garden. Therefore, know the dimensions you need before constructing them. Moreover, constructing narrower but longer beds can give you easier access.

Therefore, the size of the beds, how fertile the soils are and the selection of the support system you want to use are all important. Select varieties that grow more vertically. This will help you easily control pests in case of an invasion. Anyway, gardeners can still choose to grow determinate or indeterminate varieties.

Growing tomatoes in raised beds offer an alternative to open fields trenches
Tomato plants grown in raised beds

In terms of spacing, below is a guide table.

Plant Support SystemVarietyPlant-Plant Spacing Row to Row Spacing  
  NoneDeterminate  2.0 (inches)1.0 (inches)
Wire CagesIndeterminate18 – 24 inches3.0 – 3.5 inches
Stakes/Poles with stringsIndeterminate18 – 24 inches3.0 – 3.5 inches

Growing tomatoes in raised beds during the rainy season may cause risks of nutrient deficiency. This is attributed to rain washing nutrients away or soaking them deeper down. The roots may also suffer to probably rotting. So ensure you always check for signs of root stress. Also be cautious to ensure you fertilize appropriately, not infrequently anyhow.

If you intend to grow tomatoes and mix them with other vegetables like peppers, you will need a larger area. You will not be able to move the beds once your tomatoes have established their roots. So select a site with well-drained soils. Avoid trees, shrubs and susceptible disease-host plants such as eggplants.

Spacing Tomatoes Grown in Containers

Growing tomatoes in containers can be easy but tricky for any beginner. Besides spacing, you need to have good knowledge of a few issues including:

Spacing tomatoes grown in containers is he easiest
Growing tomatoes in containers
  1. Fertilizer needs for a particular tomato variety
  2. Is the tomato variety you want to grow determinate or indeterminate?
  3. The number of containers available
  4. The sizes of the containers
  5. How to support them
  6. Whether the tomatoes need to be upright or grow freely on the ground

It is highly recommended to opt for containers measuring at least 14-inch diameter. These containers should hold a 5-gallon (19 liters) capacity. You need not be strict with spacing tomatoes since the size of the containers is a determinant itself. Allow space between each plant at 8 – 12 inches apart for determinate dwarf varieties. For indeterminate tomatoes, plant and space each tomato container 16 – 20 inches apart.

You can grow and space tomatoes in containers or raised beds

When staking is required you can move containers with indeterminate tomatoes to the trellis fence. You may also use cages to support the indeterminate varieties. However, you should have grown tomatoes in larger containers.

Some of the top producers of determinate tomatoes include the Better Bush, Celebrity and Mountain Spring. Other super choices are the indeterminate Cherry tomatoes and determinate Roma tomatoes. Our top picks of cherry varieties for containers include:

The good thing about containers is that gardeners can grow tomatoes in the winter. You have the power to control production aspects well. You can move the young seedling pots under the shade or to a greenhouse.

Tomato Spacing & Yields

Does planting tomatoes far apart have a direct relation to improved yields? Yes. Planting your tomatoes well and far apart is one of the management practices that greatly influence yields.

Generally, planting each tomato far apart with wider row spacing improves the uptake of nutrients. As a result, there is reduced competition for space and light. If you give your determinate tomatoes proper spacing, they will most likely reach early harvest quickly. This gives you better quality fruits in terms of the size and fruit weight of the tomatoes. Depending on demand and growing/production season, you are likely to obtain high marketable yields.

Ripening purple OP indeterminate tomatoes
Properly spaced indeterminate tomato varieties maximize yields

However, this does not mean that wider spacing prevents pest attacks and disease invasions. Neither does it pave the way to neglect or do away with other management practices. So, continue pruning, fertilizing appropriately, watering regularly, and mulching.

Tomato Spacing & Disease Control + Injury

Proper spacing is one among other practices that can help prevent, manage and control certain diseases and pests. Injury due to herbicide spray can also be prevented by properly planting tomatoes far apart.

Below is a list of tomato diseases that can be controlled or better managed by proper spacing.

Growing tomatoes in open fields spaced trenches
Tomato plantation in an open field
  1. Leaf Mold (Passalora fulva) – plant fungal disease
  2. Early blight – plant fungal disease
  3. Tomato Pith Necrosis soil-borne plant bacteria
  4. Pesticide injury

Resources And References

  1. Growth and Yield of three Varieties of Tomato as Influenced by Staking and Spacing. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329216854_Growth_and_Yield_of_three_Varieties_of_Tomato_as_Influenced_by_Staking_and_Spacing. Accessed 22nd Sept. 2021
  2. Cherry Tomatoes. University of Florida. https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/cherry-tomatoes.html. Accessed online 22nd Sept 2021
  3. Amare, Getachew, and Hailay Gebremedhin. “Effect of Plant Spacing on Yield and Yield Components of Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) in Shewarobit, Central Ethiopia.” Scientifica vol. 2020 8357237. 12 Sep. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/8357237
  4. Influence of plant spacing on the growth and yield of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) varieties. Agrosearc. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/agrosh/article/view/189675#:~:text=The%20results%20obtained%20showed%20that,75%20cm%20x%2060%20cm.

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