How to Adequately Space Tomato Plants

When I started gardening, one of the first things I decided I would learn was how to plant my tomatoes. I do not trust industrially produced tomatoes; besides, nothing beats the taste of fresh tomatoes, especially if grown in your garden. 

Knowing the right spacing for planting tomatoes is an important aspect of growing a tomato. Whether planting your tomatoes in a pot, raised bed, or garden, this article will teach you all you need to know about spacing your tomato seeds right. 

How Far Apart to Space Tomatoes 

Tomato Plant

The best way to space your tomatoes is at least four feet apart in rows. You should note that staked tomatoes will usually take up more space, so they should be planted two feet apart per plant in the rows. If you are planting an unsupported indeterminate tomato, it will require more space. For unsupported indeterminate tomatoes they should be planted at least four feet apart per plant. 

The growth of determinate tomatoes is more contained, so they will not require as much space as the indeterminate ones. The rows for determinate tomatoes should be two feet apart from the plants. 

If you are planting your tomatoes in traditional rows, you can plant the tomatoes deeply, which will ensure that the root system of your plants is healthy. The traditional rows also allow you to plant your tomatoes on their sides. If that is the case, you should ensure two feet of space between either side of the stem. The space you left will eventually become the stem of your tomatoes, so ensure that you do not plant anything else on that available space. There are some plants, such as pepper, that grow well alongside tomatoes. So, if you have extra space, you can plant them.

If you prefer to plant your tomatoes using a raised bed, you must plant them on either end of the bed. It would help if you also caged the tomatoes to have enough space to grow because they are big plants. You can space the tomatoes as you would if you planted them on a traditional bed. Also, when planting in a raised bed, you should plant the roots like in a traditional bed. 

How about for those who may not have a raised or traditional bed? You can plant using a container. Tomatoes will need a lot of room to grow outwards and downwards if you’re planting in containers so they can develop a strong root system. Only plant one tomato per container to ensure they have everything they need to thrive.

When planting your tomato, measure the length of your plant and dig a hole approximately two-thirds that length deep. Instead, create a trench up to two-thirds the length of the plant. Lay the plant on its side in the trench and fill it with soil, or insert it into the hole, making sure to bury as much of the stem as you can.

Spacing Tomatoes by Types

Tomato Types

Now that you know how to plant tomatoes, the next step is to choose which one you want to plant. There are two growth habits of tomatoes which are determinate and indeterminate. When buying your seed packet, you can look for any of those words( determinate and indeterminate) before buying. 

Spacing Determinate Tomatoes

Determinate tomatoes grow about three feet tall and are very compact. The determinate tomatoes are also called “Bush tomatoes’. Some larger determinate tomatoes can grow up to four feet. These tomatoes are usually the first choice for gardeners who like to can their tomatoes because their fruits usually grow simultaneously. The determinate tomatoes will usually not need any support, but they can also be staked. Because the determinate tomato is compact, it benefits from being caged as a way of control and support. 

Spacing Indeterminate Tomatoes

The indeterminate tomato is also called the vining tomato. Unlike the determinate tomatoes, the indeterminate can grow as much as eight feet tall and require support to keep them growing vertically. The space you need for either of these types of tomatoes can be seen on the seed labels. The indeterminate tomato can be caged if it is a bit smaller. Caging will allow the tomatoes to be planted about two feet apart, allowing growth to be contained within the cages. 

If the indeterminate variety is larger, it should be staked instead of caged. The minimum space requirement for staked tomatoes is at least 2 feet, and large indeterminate tomato varieties should be planted in rows. 

Don’t Plant a Single Tomato Seed Without Considering These Factors

There are factors that you should consider before planting a tomato. Factors such as climate and even something as simple as choosing the right seeds can be the difference between success and failure in your tomato planting venture.

1. Purchase The Right Seed 

The first thing you want to do before planting a tomato is to choose the right seed. Spacing would only be effective if you put a good seed in the ground. There is a kind of seed you should get if you want to eat your tomatoes fresh, and there is another kind of seed you should get if you plan on canning them. So, the purpose should always be at the back of your mind as you set out to purchase seeds. 

Also, you should know if you are going with determinate or indeterminate species. As mentioned earlier, determinate varieties are short, and their fruits mature simultaneously. Determining varieties is important if you are going to can your tomatoes. On the other hand, indeterminate species need to be staked, and they flower throughout the season. 

When it comes to seed selection, there are three options before you. You can either choose the open-pollinated, hybrid, or heirloom. 

Hybrid seeds developed through the cross-pollination of two parent varieties to produce a new variety with desired traits like disease resistance or plant height. You cannot save the seed from a hybrid and expect to get the same traits in the following generation because the seed must always be produced through cross-pollination. 

In contrast to hybrid tomatoes, open-pollinated plants will nearly always grow true to seed, making them perfect for seed storage. Although they won’t be the same as the seeds you harvested the previous season, you can still store seeds from those plants. 

Additionally, heirlooms are open-pollinated, meaning that pollination happens naturally in the field instead of being artificially induced by humans, such as with cross-pollination.

2. Check Soil Quality 

Before planting and spacing, you must check the quality of your soil. You can check using a soil test kit, which provides a lot of information. Avoid trying to determine the soil quality through “observation,” even if you are from a family of gardeners. 

Before planting season, it is a good idea to put in some compost and manure. This is because tomatoes are heavy feeders; without deep manure, they will not grow. The PH levels of your soil should be between 6.2 to 6.8. The nitrogen levels should also be balanced so that you don’t have a tomato plant with lush leaves but little fruit. 

3. Location 

You need to find the best location before planting your tomatoes. Tomatoes like to be in the sun, but there should also be a limit to how much sun exposure they get. You see, tomatoes need a minimum of six hours of sunlight every day, and the size of your harvest will get bigger if they are exposed to longer hours of sunlight. 

It is a false assumption that tomatoes need the sun to ripen; on the contrary, tomatoes need heat and ethylene gas to become ripe. If you are trying to ripen your tomatoes using sunlight, you are killing them because the sun will instead scald your plants. 

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