When we start our gardening journey, we focus mostly on what type of soil to use, how much water and how much sunlight or what temperature the tomato plants need. However, there is one more essential aspect that needs to be on your list, and this is: tomato plant spacing.
So, here comes the question: how far apart to plant tomatoes? But the question is not that straightforward. My answer is: it depends.
A correct spacing of tomato plants ensures healthier plants and even a larger harvest than those that are planted too closely or too far apart.
Spacing tomatoes depends on the type of the plant – determinate or indeterminate – and where you are planting them – ground, raised beds or containers/growing bag/bucket.
But generally speaking, you should space your tomato plants between 18-36 inches/ 46-91 cm.
Why Spacing Tomato Plants is Important?
Spacing correctly your tomato plants is important because of four reasons, and these are:
- Prevention of diseases: Tomato plants can grow bushy and may lack airflow. This can lead to different diseases, such as anthracnose, black mold, early blight, late blight, etc.
- Light: Tomato plants are sun-loving plants. Therefore, by spacing them correctly, you can help them in getting enough sunlight between the branches and in ripening tasty fruits.
- Maximum Yield: By spacing tomatoes correctly, you can maximise the harvest. If planting too widely, you will waste valuable growing space and you leave space for unwanted weeds.
- Healthier plants: By healthier plants, I mean that they will have enough space for root and even foliage growth. The plants will not compete for essential nutrients or water; therefore, they can grow strong and healthy.
How Far Apart to Plant Determinate Tomatoes?
Determinate tomato varieties grow compact and bushy in size and they mostly reach 1-4 feet/30-121 cm (depending on variety) in height. Also, another thing to remember is that once they reached their full size, they will stop growing.
Therefore, the spacing recommended for determinate tomatoes ranges from 18 to 24 inches/ 46 to 61 cm. If your tomato variety is a dwarf one, 12 inches/30 cm could do it as well.
How Far Apart to Plant Indeterminate Tomatoes?
Indeterminate tomato varieties or ‘vining tomatoes’ will grow tall to an “indeterminate” size. Depending on the variety, these can grow quite large, from 6 to 20 feet/1,8 m to 6 m.
Indeterminate tomatoes will grow until the end of the season or until you prune them heavily.
Therefore, indeterminate tomatoes should be spaced between 24-36 inches/46-91 cm. Larger varieties may need even more space, but this is up to you how big you leave the plant to grow.
How to Space Tomato Plants According to Garden Type?
Depending on where and how you grow your tomato plants, spacing can also differ.
Spacing Tomatoes in Containers
You don’t need a large garden to grow tomatoes. You can use containers for this in your backyard, patio or even front yard.
When you choose this type of growing, you should plant one tomato in a 5-gallon container/bucket/growing bag. No more than this, otherwise, the plants will be too crowded and will struggle.
You should get a container of 14-18 inches/ 35-46 cm both in depth and width for smaller varieties (determinates) and 18-24 inches/ 46-61 cm for indeterminate varieties.
Later on, if you think they need more space, you can easily move the containers further apart.
Spacing Tomatoes in Raised Beds
Raised beds are usually deeper than the containers; therefore, the spacing between the plants will be easier.
Spacing the determinate varieties at least 18 inches/46 cm apart and the indeterminate varieties at least 24 inches/61 cm apart will be enough. If the raised bed is deeper than 12 inches/30 cm, you can plant the tomatoes even closer to each other.
Spacing Tomatoes in Ground
Tomatoes planted in the ground will get their nutrients and water supply much easier than in containers or raised beds.
Therefore, their spacing rule is quite standard: space determinate tomatoes 18-24 inches/46- 61 cm and indeterminate tomatoes will need 24-36 inches/61-91 cm spacing. Depending on the space available, try to leave AT LEAST 32-36 inches/ 81-91 cm between rows.
Make sure you leave some space for yourself to work around your plants.
How to Use the Extra Space?
Now that you learned how far apart to plant tomatoes, you might feel a little disappointed and think about that wasted space.
However, that space left between the tomatoes can be used for other beneficial plants such as:
- Sage, etc.
These plants are all beneficial for the tomato plants and your kitchen as well. But will talk about this more deeply in another article.
In this article, we discussed how to space tomato plants in different situations. Spacing depends on the tomato plant variety and also on the garden type.
If your tomatoes are determinate varieties, they will need less space between one another than the indeterminate varieties which will grow bigger.
Also, when planning the spacing, you should take into consideration where you want to grow the tomatoes: in the ground, in a container or raised bed.
After the spacing is solved, you still have to prune your tomatoes regularly. Because even if the spacing is correct, your tomatoes should be pruned to protect them from overcrowding and diseases. You can read more about how to prune tomato plants here.