Tomatoes are one of the most popular avenues to begin gardening. Nothing you could find in a grocery store compares to the taste of a homegrown tomato, warm from the sun, fresh off the vine. With popularity comes options, however. There are so many tomato varieties out there that it is difficult to provide a clear-cut answer for how far apart to plant tomatoes. Here’s how to determine what is best for your tomatoes.
How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes
As a general rule of thumb, each tomato plant should be planted about 24” apart from one another, with tomato rows spaced 36” apart.
The biggest factor in determining how far apart to plant tomatoes is whether it is a determinate or an indeterminate tomato.
Determinate tomatoes produce one crop in a short period. Most of these are bush tomatoes that stay stocky and branch out. They’re great for containers and can reach up to 5 ft tall, but most average about 3 ft. Determinate and bush varieties should be spaced 18-24” apart.
Indeterminate tomatoes will continue to produce tomatoes for weeks. These are most often vining types, which get leggier and have a substantial amount of growth.
These can grow up to 12 ft in optimal conditions but reach about 6 ft more often. Indeterminate and vine varieties should be spaced 20-30” apart.
Indeterminate tomatoes seem like they need more space because of how big they get, but they can easily be pruned and staked to grow upwards rather than outwards.
Tomato Spacing for Popular Types of Tomatoes
Different varieties will have wildly different spacing requirements depending on their growth habits and also how you plant them. Here’s a general guideline for some of the most popular types of tomatoes.
While the tomatoes themselves are small and circular, the plants can get quite large. Most types of cherry tomatoes are vine plants and indeterminate. Space them 4 ft apart without any support and as close as 18” if you stake them to grow vertically.
Beefsteak produces some of the largest tomato fruits, which are good for burgers and Caprese salads. Most beefsteaks are indeterminate and should be planted about 3-4 ft. apart.
Due to the size of the tomatoes, stakes, and wire cages will be necessary to keep the plant from toppling from the weight.
It’s common to find grape tomatoes as either a determinate or indeterminate variety. They’re often mistaken for cherry tomatoes, but the fruit tends to be slightly smaller and more oval-shaped. Following the general guideline of 24” spacing is a safe bet for grape tomatoes.
Roma tomatoes are one of the most popular tomatoes for making sauces. A Roma tomato will be determinate, meaning its length won’t extend too much. Space them 24 inches apart.
Square Foot Gardening Tomato Spacing
For those wondering how far apart to plant tomatoes in a raised bed, another option for growing tomatoes is using square foot spacing. This is a system of growing to maximize smaller spaces and raised gardening beds. Separating your beds into squares allows you to grow more and plan out a garden more easily.
For tomatoes, you will need 1 square foot for a vining plant, but you will have to use a stake or trellis. For bush varieties, you can grow 1 per 4 sq. ft. As you can tell, these take up a lot of room, so people tend to grow them in containers rather than a square foot garden.
Intensive Planting With Tomatoes
Tomatoes can take up a lot of space in the garden, but you can try out intensive planting to help you reclaim some of that space back. As the tomato plants get taller, it’s a good idea to prune the lower branches to prevent pests and diseases.
Afterward, you’ll have lots of space underneath these tomato plants to grow smaller plants that don’t mind a bit of shade, like beets, radishes, lettuce, and mustard greens.
The Importance of Proper Spacing for Tomatoes
When the tomatoes are little, it can be tempting to space them closer than recommended. Avoid doing this, as this will encourage more pests and diseases and less fruit production. Air circulation is essential for keeping plants healthy, and since tomatoes can be affected by many different pests and diseases, you want to follow the guidebook on this one.
So, there you have it! Now you can know with confidence how far apart to plant your tomatoes for the best yield and flavour possible.