Space between tomato plants

Tomatoes are the quintessential garden crop…but they can also be one of the most confusing! With determinate and indeterminate varieties, there’s no absolute right formula for tomato plant spacing.

Your selection of tomato variety along with your garden soil, light, and growing conditions all give clues to answer the question, “How far apart do you plant tomatoes?”

Good Products for Maximizing Tomato Spacing:

  • Vertex Tomato Cage
  • Tomato Support Clips
  • Elastic Cord (for vertical trellising)

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Creating Your Tomato Spacing Plan

You should first establish whether the tomato you’ve chosen is a determinate or indeterminate variety. This will help you plan your plant spacing to suite your particular tomato crop.

The type of tomato you’re growing and the method you use to trellis will help determine how to space your tomatoes. Source: Egan Snow.

Determinate tomatoes are generally small, compact, stout-stemmed bushy plants. This type of tomato plant grows to a certain height, flowers, and fruits all within a short period of time.

Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow, flower, and fruit until the first hard frost. In temperate climate zones, indeterminate tomato varieties will produce fruit over a 2-3-month period.

How do Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes
Differ?

Determinate Tomatoes

Tomatoes are classified determinate if they eventually form a flower cluster at the terminal growing point that causes the plant to stop growing in height.

The first determinate varieties developed had inadequate foliage cover and taste, but they ripened very quickly. (Remember those dense, thick skinned, flavorless early hybrids? Even their color was washed out!)

Newer determinates produce better foliage, may grow taller and ripen fruit of similar quality to modern indeterminate varieties.

Most determinate tomato varieties ripen their fruit over a shorter period of time. Successive plantings may be desirable with determinates to keep the harvest coming through the entire season. Determinate vines are easier to control and support during the growing season. Some of the extreme dwarf varieties are determinate and dwarf, producing some truly tiny mature plants.

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes spaced about 2′ apart at Prema Farm in Reno, Nevada.

Plants that never set terminal flower clusters, but only lateral ones and continue indefinitely to grow taller are indeterminate.

Heirloom tomato varieties are almost all indeterminate. These produce abundant foliage and flavorful fruit, but they typically take longer to mature.

Tomato Spacing Recommendations

Traditionally, tomatoes are grown in rows that are spaced based on the projected growth scale of the plant variety and plant support system used. For all varieties, rows should be spaced about 4 feet apart. Recommendations for plant spacing within rows varies as shown below:

  • Indeterminate varieties that are grown using a vertical tomato trellis can be placed 1.5-2′ (0.46-0.61m) apart in a row. This is because you’re taking advantage of vertical space and can squeeze them in tighter.
  • Indeterminate plants that are grown in wire cages should be spaced about 2.5-3′ feet (0.91-1.22m) apart to allow for more horizontal spread of the foliage and fruit.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes allowed to spread over the ground will need a 3-4′ foot (0.91-1.22m) spacing between plants.
  • Determinate tomatoes can be planted 1.5-2′ (0.48 – 0.61m) between tomato plants, and space rows 2-3′ (0.61-0.91m) apart.
  • Container tomatoes can be planted in pots that are a minimum of 5 gallons (19l) in volume and 14″ (.36m) in diameter, and placed just about side-by-side if you’re trellising vertically.

Tomatoes grown in containers can be spaced to the size of the container! Source: thebaron03.

An alternative scheme for spacing tomatoes uses an equidistant square grid plan (like Square Foot Gardening) that averages the recommended space between plants and rows.

For example, a recommended plant spacing of 18″ (46cm) apart with row spacing of about 48″ (122cm) apart, can be planted in 56″ (142cm) square grids.

If you have the space, the square grid layout tends to give each plant an equal share of light, air, moisture, and soil nutrients.

Tomato Spacing If Planting Different Varieties

If you’re saving tomato seeds, plant different varieties far apart from one another.

If you’re planting different tomato varieties, you should separate the distinctive varieties of tomato plants by at least 8 feet (2.44 m) to avoid any cross-pollination if you want to let your tomatoes ripen, ferment, and save seeds for next growing season.

What To Do With The Extra Space?

If it physically pains you to leave so much space between your tomato plants, fear not! You can do some creative interplanting to maximize your output from your garden. After your tomato plants are established and start growing upwards, you’ll likely be pruning off some of the lower growth to prevent pests (like the annoying tomato hornworm) and disease access from the soil surface.

Once you do this, the under canopy of your tomatoes will be free to plant with a variety of amazing crops. Try out lettuce, spinach, radishes…anything that doesn’t require a ton of light and grows fast. You need to get these crops in and out before you hit your plants with a high-quality tomato fertilizer and they start to bush up like crazy and block sunlight completely.

This is a fantastic way to squeeze even more harvests out of a small space garden.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Laurie Ruberg
Master Gardener
Kevin Espiritu
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  • Plant with the right spacing. Make sure you follow the correct spacing we recommended above. This will help prevent your crops from acquiring disease during its growth process.
  • Use a Cardboard. Extend it to one inch above and below the soil and wrap the tomato stems around it. This will protect the plant from becoming infested by cutworms. Use a stapler to attach the cardboard together. After 3 to 4 weeks, the cutworm will no longer be able to affect and damage the plant.
  • Use a fertilizer. Apply a slow-release fertilizer during the planting stage to help provide the tomato with the nutrients it requires.
  • Use a plant protector. During the planting stage, use a plant protector to reduce the transplant shock while keeping the warmth the plant. This will prevent the plant from drying.
  • Water the plant. Tomatoes require the right amount of water for it to grow properly. Start by watering the plant twice a week and do this early morning so that the plant will dry off before night time. Use a soaker hose irrigation to prevent the leaves from getting wet. This also prevents any disease from spreading among plants.
  • Add mulch. As previously mentioned above, mulching can improve the development of the tomato by protecting it. It also provides enough moisture the plant needs in order to thrive well. Use 5 to 10 sheets of newspaper and insert it between the rows. Water and soak the newspaper first before you lay it down. Then top it off with grass clippings and bark mulch. These ingredients can add warmth to the soil and help increase the production of tomatoes.
  • Use growing tools. Using growth activators or enhancers can help your plants grow healthier and abundant. Some products allow the plant to increase its number of yields and produce bigger fruits.

Roma tomatoes are the traditional paste tomatoes. With their dense and meaty flesh, low moisture content, and few seeds they are the ideal tomatoes for processing into sauces and pastes. Roma tomatoes have a cylindrical or plum shape, and feel heavy for their size. Their colors range from pink to orange to deep red. Veeroma, La Roma, and Sam Marzano are among the many popular Roma varieties.

New varieties of Roma are both flavorful for eating and meaty for cooking. These include Roma Napoli, Martino’s Roma, and Rio Grande Roma. Cherry Romas are small and sweet, perfect for snacking.

Growing Roma Tomatoes

You can start Roma tomatoes from seeds indoor two months before the last frost date for your area. Or, you can purchase seedlings (also called starts) from a local nursery or garden center and transplant them after the danger of frost has past.

Romas need the same conditions as other tomatoes—well-drained soil high in organic matter, full sun, and plenty of water. Plant them about 14 to 20 inches apart. They’ll be ready to harvest in about 75 to 80 days. Because Romas are determinate plants all the fruits ripen at about the same time, which is a big advantage if you’re making sauce.

Learn more details about how to grow tomatoes.

Harvesting Roma Tomatoes

Harvest your Roma tomatoes when the fruit is firm and evenly colored. If the temperature reaches 90 degrees F it’s best to pick the fruit when it’s just started to color to ripen indoors at about 70 degrees F. Tomatoes won’t survive a frost, so if frost is predicted bring in the unripe fruits and ripen them in paper bags at 60 degrees or so.

Roma Tomato Pests and Diseases

Many Roma tomatoes are resistant to early blight, fusarium and verticillium wilt, diseases that plague tomatoes. Always choose seeds or seedlings that are VF resistant.

If you see a water-soaked area near the blossom end (bottom) of the fruit, your tomato may have blossom end rot, which is basically a calcium deficiency. To help avoid this problem don’t plant your tomatoes until the soil has warmed up and keep the soil evenly moist.

Tomato hornworms are big green caterpillars that camouflage themselves along the stems of tomato plants. The best thing to do is to pick them off—if you can find them!

To maximize productivity and minimize insect and disease problems select varieties that grow well in your area. Local nurseries and Cooperative Extension can give you that information and help you identify plant problems. You can find your local extension office from this web site: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/.

What’s the difference between roma tomatoes and regular tomatoes?

Roma tomatoes are just a variety of tomato. There are many types! Roma tomatoes are best known as paste tomatoes. That means they are great for making tomato paste, and used in many well known Italian recipes. But you can eat them as regular tomatoes too, and they’re still delicious.

Are roma tomatoes bush or vine?

Roma tomatoes are bush tomatoes. They are determinate. Here’s a more detailed explanation of the difference between bush / determinate tomatoes and vine / indeterminate tomatoes. Bush (or determinate) means that all the tomatoes will ripen at about the same time, rather than continually through the season.

Should you prune roma tomatoes?

Since roma tomatoes are a bush variety, they do not need to be pruned.

How tall do roma tomatoes grow?

Roma tomatoes are a bush (determinate) type of tomato plant, which does not grow as big as a vine (indeterminate) type of tomato plant can grow. A roma tomato plant will probably only grow as high as 3 feet, or 36 inches.

Want to know more about How to Grow Roma Tomatoes?

Find out more about growing Roma tomatoes and what to do with your bountiful crop from these informative websites.

From The University of Illinois: Grow Them. Watch Your Garden Grow: Tomato.
Preserving Roma Tomatoes: Canning and Freezing

Tomato Plant Spacing 101: How to Calculate the Optimal Spaces

Tomatoes are some of the best plants you could grow in your garden. They’re delicious, nutritious, full of vitamins, low on calories, and they help you save money as well. Not to mention the fact that they’re easy to grow. All of these things considered, it’s no surprise so many people plant tomatoes in their garden. However, planting them the right way is crucial. One of the things you have to pay attention to is tomato plant spacing. If not spaced properly, tomatoes won’t develop as they should. Today, we’re going to tell you all about tomato plant spacing and why it’s important.

Tomato Plant Spacing 101: How to Plant Tomatoes for the Best Results

How much space you should leave between your tomato plants depends on the type of tomatoes you want to grow and the place where you’re going to grow them. As a result, we’ve divided today’s guide into several parts, according to these factors.

1. Tomato Plant Spacing for Determinate Tomatoes

Determinate tomatoes are those types of tomatoes that only grow up to a certain point and then stop growing altogether. They grow faster than indeterminate tomatoes, blooming and setting fruit quite soon. They’re also smaller, which means you can plant them closer together than you would indeterminate tomatoes. The ideal space for the plants would be of 1 and a half to 2 feet apart, while the optimal space to leave in between rows would be of 2 to 3 feet. These measurements allow you to easily place cages around the tomatoes, use stakes in order to support them, and harvest them when the time is right.

2. Tomato Plant Spacing for Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes grow all throughout the growing season. They flower and fruit continuously, and they might reach a height of 8 feet or more. Due to their continuous growth, you’re going to have to provide them with a support system that will keep them under control. The support system you decide to go with also tells you how much space you have to leave between the tomato plants.

If you’re going to use a stake, the optimal spacing for the plants would be of 1 and a half to 2 feet, while for the rows 2 to 3 feet would be perfect. The stakes should be made of wood and extremely sturdy, about 6 feet in height and 2 inches wide. You’ll have to drive them into the soil at a depth of about 1 foot, at a distance of between 4 and 6 inches from the tomato plant. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the plant starts growing, you might have to tie it to the stake every couple of inches. Strips of cloth or some twine will do the trick.

If you decide on cages, the spacing between the plants should be of 2 to 3 feet and the spacing between rows should be of 4 to 5 feet. The reason why many people choose cages over stakes is because they require less maintenance and attention. The tomatoes grow naturally and you don’t have to worry about tying them to the cage. Even if you can find tomato cages for sale (like the Lifetime Tomato Cages you can order here), you can also build your own with some wire fencing. Just remember that you should leave a distance of 6 inches between every wire. This will allow you to easily harvest the tomatoes without removing the cage. The perfect dimensions for a tomato cage are 18 to 36 inches in width and 6 feet in height.

There’s also another option of growing indeterminate tomato plants. That involves allowing them to sprawl without adding any support system. However, we wouldn’t recommend it, since due to their excessive growth, the tomatoes tend to grow in a snarl. This will make it extremely difficult for you to harvest them. Not to mention the fact that since they’ll be lying on the ground, they’ll be more susceptible to decay. If you really want to grow them like that, remember to add some mulch or landscape fabric on the ground. This might help keep them safe. In terms of spacing, you should place the plants 3 to 4 feet apart and the rows 4 to 5 feet apart.

3. Tomato Plant Spacing for Container Plants

A lot of people grow tomatoes in containers. Especially if they don’t have a proper garden where they can grow them. Still, growing them in containers can represent more of a challenge. That’s because you still need to consider spacing, and most containers don’t provide you with extensive space. A stake or a tomato trellis can really help your tomatoes develop, so you should consider containers that allow you to use some sort of support system.

In terms of the right spacing for growing tomatoes in containers, just one tomato plant requires a pot with a 14-inch diameter and a 5-gallon volume. However, in order to make sure your plant will have enough room to grow unencumbered, we recommend a pot of 17 to 20 inches in diameter, and that can hold up to 20 gallons. The great thing about growing tomatoes in containers is that you can also grow them in winter.

Why Is Tomato Plant Spacing Important?

1. The Plants Receive Enough Sunlight

Overcrowding your tomato plants is going to lead to them receiving less sunlight than they actually need. Tomatoes love sun, so it’s important for you to provide them with enough if you want a rich yield. They should receive full sun for the most part of the day. This is why planting them too close together is out of the question. If you do that, they’ll grow excessively tall in order to reach more sunlight. As a result, their branches will be scrawny and weak. Moreover, the leaves will be small and the flowers will have a hard time developing. Ultimately, you won’t get as many fruits as you would have if you were to allow plenty of space between the plants.

2. You Improve Their Nutrition

Apart from sunlight, tomatoes also need water and nutrients in order to develop properly. You should provide them with some fertilizer periodically, ideally a slow-release one. The problem with tomato plants that are planted too close to one another is that they will compete for water and nutrients. As a result, they’ll rob each other of these elements. This will cause them to grow smaller and have light green leaves, which will eventually compromise the quality of the fruits as well. You’ll end up harvesting smaller and fewer tomatoes. By leaving the appropriate space between your tomato plants, you’ll ensure each of them will get just the right amount of water and nutrients.

3. You Prevent Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are two of the main concerns of anyone growing tomato plants in their garden. In terms of pests, the most common one is the caterpillar. These pests eat the leaves of the plants. In order for you to get rid of them, you’re going to have to pick them by hand. Since they live on the underside of the leaves, you’ll need room around the plants to properly pick them. If the plants are placed too close together, this task is going to be arduous.

When it comes to diseases, late blight is the most common one. This is a fungal disease that will create spots on your leaves and lead to rotten fruits. Close tomato plant spacing decreases air circulation. This means the leaves will take a while to dry after it rains, which tends to promote fungi growth. If you want to avoid this, make sure you stick to the tomato plant spacing dimensions we provided above.

How to Fill That Space Up?

If you dislike the fact that you have to space your tomato plants so far from one another, and if you consider this to be a waste of space, you’ll be happy to know that there are plants you can grow in that empty space between two tomato plants. The best options are spinach and lettuce, or any other type of fast-growing plant. Why do you need a fast-growing plant? Well, because you’ll get a chance to harvest it before the tomatoes start growing as much as to get in the way. With this strategy, you get to make the most of the space between your tomato plants, as well as manage to grow a second type of plant that you can enjoy in a short amount of time.

Summing Everything Up

If you’re thinking of growing your own garden, tomatoes are a great way to start. They’re low-maintenance, delicious, and they provide your meals with a vitamin boost. We hope today’s guide on tomato plant spacing has told you everything you wanted to know about how to properly space your tomato plants. As long as you stick to the dimensions above, your plants should have no issues developing and bearing fruits. Don’t forget to alternate tomato plants with lettuce, spinach, or other great plants, and you’ll be on your way to a lovely vegetable garden. If you want to buy some tomato seeds, you can do that here.

This post was originally published on everythingbackyard.net and has been republished here with the kind permission of Bonnie Enos, everythingbackyard.net.
Photo credits for the following images: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide

Tomatoes

Although tomatoes can be direct-seeded into the garden, most gardeners use plants either grown by themselves or purchased from a reliable plant dealer. Many varieties are available, but the ones recommended below have been found to do well in most parts of Illinois. To have tomatoes throughout the season, grow both early and main crop varieties.

Allow suckers to develop two leaves, then prune. Remove all tomato suckers that develop below the first cluster of fruit. Above the first cluster, let the suckers grow two leaves before pruning.

To stake a tomato plant, tie a string tightly around the stake and loosely around the plant. Tie a knot just below a branch so that the plant cannot slide down.

When setting the plants into the garden be sure to transplant them properly and use a starter solution. Space plants so that you have about nine square feet of space per plant if they are not staked or caged. Staked or caged plants may be spaced more closely.

Tomatoes can be grown successfully either on the ground or staked, but plants grown on the ground require less work, produce more per plant, and are less susceptible to blossom-end rot. The advantages of staking are cleaner fruits, no loss from soil rot or anthracnose and, sometimes, easier picking. If you grow tomatoes on the ground, mulching will reduce anthracnose and fruit rots, and help to keep the fruits clean. Also, the mulch will conserve moisture and control weeds.

There are several methods of staking and pruning tomatoes. A modified system which has been found to do well in Illinois is suggested here: Shortly after transplanting, drive a stake about 6 feet long and 1½ inches in diameter into the soil 8 to 10 inches deep and 3 inches away from each plant. When the plants are 12 to 15 inches high, remove all but one main stem and tie it loosely to the stake, using soft twine or cloth. As the plant grows, remove the shoots or “suckers” which develop between the main stem and the leaves, up to the first fruit cluster. Above the first fruit cluster, let the shoots develop two leaves and then pinch off the tips. Tie the plant loosely to the stake every 10 to 12 inches (Fig. 6). Diseases in tomatoes can be greatly reduced by good cultural practices and carrying out a fungicide dust or spray program.

Harvest the fruits when they are pink except during periods when the daily mean temperature is above 70° F. At such high temperatures pick the fruits just as they are turning color and keep them at 68° F. for further coloring. These fruits will be firmer and have better flavor than those ripened on the vine when temperatures are high. Fruits exposed to direct sunlight will reach a temperature 20 degrees higher than that of shaded fruits.

In the fall just before the first frost, pick the large green fruits as well as the riper fruits. Ripen these fruits at about 60° to 70° F. in the dark. By sorting them out every 2 or 3 days you will have a gradual supply for about a month.

Crop Amount for 100
ft of row
Variety recommended for use in Illinois Days to harvest Resistant to
Tomatoes 35-75 plants or 1 packet seed Early
Early Girl 60 VFNTA
Champion 65 VFNT
Main Crop
Celebrity 70 VFNT
Better Boy 72 VFN
Mountain Pride 74 VF
Burpee’s Big Girl 78 VF
Supersonic 79 VF
Beefmaster 81 VFN
Brandywine 80
Paste
Veeroma 72 VF
Roma 75 VF
San Marzano 80
Viva Italia 80
Small Fruit
Super Sweet 100 70
Sweet Million 65
Yellow Pear 70
Large Red Cherry 70
Dwarf Container
Tiny Tim 45
Patio Hybrid 65
Small Fry 72
Husky Gold 70
Vegetable Hardiness Recommended planting period for central Illinois (b) Time to grow from seed to field (c)
For overall
Use
For
storage
weeks
Tomato Very Tender May 10-June 1 May 15 5-7
Vegetable Spacing in row
Seed to sow per foot Distance between plants when thinned or transplanted Distance between rows Planting depth
inches inches inches
Tomato ….. 18-36 36-60 (d)

Spacing Tomato Plants: How To Space Tomato Plants

Tomatoes must be set in the garden when the weather and soil has warmed to over 60 F. (16 C.) for optimal growth. Not only is temperature an important growth factor, but the spacing for tomato plants can affect their performance as well. So how to space tomato plants for maximum growth potential in the home garden? Read on to learn more.

More About Tomatoes

The tomato isn’t only the most popular crop grown in the home garden, but is arguably the most versatile culinary uses whether stewed, roasted, pureed, used fresh, dried or even smoked. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, low in calories and a source of lycopene (the “red” in tomatoes), which has been tapped as a cancer fighting agent.

Typically, the space requirements for tomatoes are minimal, with the fruit being easy to grow and adaptable to many climates.

How to Space Tomato Plants

When transplanting tomato plants, set the plant’s root ball a little deeper into a hole or trench dug into the garden than originally grown in its pot.

The spacing of tomato plants is an important component for healthy productive plants. The correct tomato plant spacing is dependent upon which variety of tomato is being grown. Generally speaking, the ideal spacing for tomato plants is between 24-36 inches apart. Spacing tomato plants any closer than 24 inches will reduce air circulation around the plants and may result in disease.

You also want to enable light to penetrate to the lower leaves of the plants, so proper spacing is crucial. Large vine producing tomatoes should be spaced 36 inches apart and rows should be space about 4-5 feet apart.

Tomatoes and peppers both belong to the Solanaceae, commonly referred to as the nightshade family. While tomato belong to genus Solanum, which includes crops such as potato and eggplant, pepper belongs to the genus Capsicum which includes both sweet and hot peppers. There are various myths and old wives tales regarding the planting of peppers and tomatoes together and perhaps you have had the misfortune to have heard one of them. The fact of the matter is that YES the plants are related and YES they share some common diseases but most people do not have the space in their garden to separate them. The reality is that because the two have similar growth requirements, they can in fact be grown quite successfully together.
Diseases common to both tomato and pepper include Verticillium wilt and bacterial spot. You can limit the likelihood of diseases emerging and spreading simply by following some good gardening practices.
Don’t overcrowd plants. It makes it easier for diseases to spread.
Don’t over or under water. A stressed plant is more susceptible to disease
Don’t water foliage. Wet foliage promotes spread of fungi and bacteria. Instead, water plants at the base.
Avoid working in the garden when plants are wet. Your movements can transfer fungi and bacteria between plants through water splash.
I would advise you to have a look at the disease pages here on PlantVillage to get yourself familiar with things to look out for. You will find a helpful table at the bottom of the plant info pages for both pepper and tomato here:

I have also included some images of the disease symptoms for some of those common to both pepper and tomato
Finally, in addition to diseases, another thing to be careful of when planting is that as tomato plants will likely grow much taller than the pepper you should be careful to position them in a manner that will not result in the peppers being shaded out.

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