One of the most popular tips for growing tomatoes is to make sure that you provide them proper spacing. Proper spacing is essential as it gives your plants the room to grow and ensures they can get enough nutrients. With that in mind, many gardeners ask what the proper tomato plant spacing is. We’re here to help, and will be answering that exact question along with some other care tips that will help you grow big, healthy tomatoes this season.
How Far Apart To Space Tomatoes
For those looking to get an answer quickly, here it is, note that spacing varies a bit between the different types of tomato plant.
Space these tomatoes around 2 feet apart. They’re fairly compact and don’t trail so you will usually have minimal maintenance.
Properly staked, you can plant these as close as 18 inches together. This does require frequent pruning, if you’d like them to trail on the ground give them closer to 3-4 feet of space. This gives the trailing vines room to grow without inferring with nearby plants.
There may be some variation in the above, but those are the general guidelines. For those looking for a more in-depth answer continue reading as we’ll get more into the specifics of each variety.
Why Spacing Is Important
Most gardeners know that tomato plant spacing is important, but most don’t know why that’s the case. It’s important to understand the reasons as it can help you make better decisions with your own crop.
It’s important to note that this spacing applies to both other tomatoes and non-tomato plants. The details below assume you’re planting multiple tomato plants, but also apply to any other nearby plant as well. You’ll need to use your best judgment for non-tomato plants though, depending on the size you may be able to plant them closer, or further, than recommended.
Here are 4 key reasons why tomato spacing is important.
Tomatoes are nutrient hungry plants and need enough of their own soil to draw nutrients from. When you plant them too close together you can force them to compete against other plants for nutrients. This can lead to a lackluster harvest as your plants aren’t getting enough nutrients to fully grow.
Tomatoes are very light hungry plants, and need hours of bright light per day to produce fruit. When you plant your tomatoes too close together you risk them casting shade onto their neighbors. This reduces the amount of sunlight your plant gets, and slows down their growth. A happy tomato plant is one that is in full sun and doesn’t have any other plants casting shade on it.
Airflow is another key for good tomato growth. Proper airflow helps to prevent disease, but also helps your plant better absorb nutrients. Plants that are too close together don’t allow proper airflow, and this can put your plants at risk for disease and slowed growth.
Of particular interest for outdoor growers, properly spaced tomatoes help prevent weeds from growing near them. The tomato plants’ large leaves help block the sun from reaching the soil, and this can stop weeds from being able to grow. This isn’t completely necessary, but it can help reduce maintenance.
Vining Vs Bush Tomato Plant Spacing
When it comes to spacing you have a few differences depending on the variety of tomato plant you’re growing. Tomatoes are loosely grouped into two categories, the vining variety and bush variety.
Bush Variety (Determinate)
The bush variety are smaller, more compact plants that generally grow to about 3-4 feet in height. Bush varieties are fairly easy to contain, and generally don’t grow much outside of their immediate area. For that reason, you can give them about 2 feet of space between each plant. This gives them enough room to grow out, but still maximizes your growing space.
Vine Variety (Indeterminate)
The vine varieties are ones that keep growing throughout the season and require staking or similar support. These grow much higher, and in proper conditions can get over six feet tall, but can be constrained to less spread with active pruning.
Due to their trailing nature, these varieties have different spacing needs. If you’re actively pruning them you can plant them as close as 18 inches to their neighboring plant. However, if you’re allowing them to trail on the ground look to give around 3-4 feet of space. This ensures that the trailing vines won’t interfere with other nearby plants, especially if those ones also have long, trailing vines.
Dwarf tomato varieties are specifically grown to be smaller and more compact than their larger counterparts. In these cases, you can plant your tomatoes as close as a foot to each other. The smaller space needs of these varieties also mean that they will crowd neighboring plants less.
Spacing Tomato Rows
If you’re growing lots of tomatoes, particularly outdoors, you’ll likely be following standard advice and planting them in rows. This helps keep things neat and tidy, and also helps maximize your grow space.
Look to keep each row roughly 4 feet from other rows. This ensures that each row has enough space to grow and acquire nutrients. You can go about half this distance if you’re exclusively growing dwarf tomato plants.
Continued Tomato Care
Once you’ve planted obviously you’ll want to keep up with continued care of your tomato plants. Getting them in the ground is only the first part of growing and harvesting your tomato plants.
We have a full guide to growing tomatoes (tips are good for both indoors and out), but here’s a brief overview of what it takes to grow a tomato plant.
Tomatoes are bright light plants and need at least 8 hours of bright sunlight per day. More is often better, so pick a bright spot that gets a lot of sun and stays warm. If indoors, get some grow lights to help. It’s very difficult to get enough light indoors without them unless you’re in a specialized grow room like a greenhouse.
Tomatoes enjoy soil that is consistently moist but not soaking wet. General advice to check the top inch of soil, and water once this is dry. You can water a bit more outdoors, but take care not to overwater indoors. Prolonged exposure to overly moist soil can lead to root rot.
Look to harvest just before the tomato is fully ripe; around the time the fruit is around 3/4 red. This will give you a few days where the fruit will finish ripening. To harvest, gently twist the tomato off the plant, you shouldn’t need to use a lot of force to do this. Done correctly it won’t harm the plant, and it can continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season.
Tomato Plant Spacing
Getting the spacing right is a big part of growing tomatoes and one that can spell failure from the start if ignored. Tomatoes need their room to grow and secure nutrients, so make sure you’re giving it to them. Get the spacing right and you’re setting your garden up for a successful harvest.