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Tomato Plant Spacing – A Helpful Guide

When you are planting anything, it is important to plan out where you are going to plant them and how far apart you are going to put the plants. Each plant needs a different amount of space in order for their plant roots to spread, that way the plant can grow to its maximum potential, giving you the best yield possible. 

Tomatoes can be very picky with their spacing. Each plant needs a good amount of room to grow and the importance of spacing tomatoes is far more crucial than you may think. In general, all tomatoes need anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of space between each other in order to grow properly.

To learn about proper tomato spacing, why spacing is important and more, keep reading!

Importance of Spacing Tomato Plants

You may be wondering, why is spacing tomatoes so important? It may not seem so important, but there are some major reasons to space your tomatoes. Let’s take a look.

1. Growth 

The biggest reason we plant tomatoes at least 1 foot apart is so the plants can grow properly. Tomato plant roots need space to spread out so they can feed the plant growing above them. Planting plants too close together will stunt root growth, which eventually leads to stunted plant growth. 

2. Preventing Disease

Almost like when there are too many people standing so close together, diseases can spread between plants so quickly. Diseases such as leaf spot, blight, and other fungal diseases can spread quickly in tomatoes that are planted too close together.

Not to mention the pests that will be so much worse in gardens with tight-knit plants. Armies of aphids, caterpillars, beetles etc. love plants that are close together because they don’t have far to go for their next food source. It can be easier to get rid of pests and diseases when plants are further apart. 

3. Getting the Right Light

It may not seem like a big deal when the plants are small, but these plants will grow to be much bigger with their leaves growing as well. When plants are so close together, the leaves and the tops of the stronger plants, will suck up all the light and shade the leaves and smaller plants below. Having the right space between plants will allow for the right amount of light. 

4. Air Circulation

Air circulation is something not a lot of people remember when they think about plant growth. Air is super important to the growth of all plants, including tomatoes. When plants are close together, they don’t have a lot of that good air circulation. Getting good airflow also helps control diseases and pests. 

5. Water Competition 

Water competitions happen a lot with plants that are planted too close together. You have to remember that each plant needs 1-2 inches of water a week.

Not just the pot needing that much or the bed. You may feel like you are giving enough water, but the stronger plants with the better roots are sucking up more of the water when they are planted so close together. 

Do Different Tomatoes Need Different Spacing?

While there are hundreds of kinds of tomatoes and whether they are hybrid tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes, all tomatoes fit into two different categories: indeterminate and determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate and determinate tomatoes are very different and all have different requirements, including the amount of spacing they need.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining tomatoes, meaning they stretch out much more and can grow to be much taller. These tomatoes, because they need so much space, need more space between each other, around 2 feet, or more.

The larger varieties of indeterminate tomatoes need up to 4 feet of space. Determinate tomatoes are bush tomatoes, growing smaller and not as viney as other tomatoes. These tomatoes can be planted closer together with about one foot or more between each plant. 

Whats The Ideal Planting Spacing Of Tomatoes

Because each tomato plant is different, its a little tricky giving an exact distance to put them. However, the chart below will help give you a rough estimate of how far to space your tomatoes depending how many you want to incorporate in the space, and whether its in a raised bed, in-ground, or in a container.

Number Of Tomato PlantsIn-Ground Planting DistanceContainer Planting DistanceRaised Bed Planting Distance
212 – 18 inches24 – 36 inches12 – 18 inches
412 – 18 inches24 – 36 inches18 – 24 inches
612 – 18 inches24 – 36 inches24- 36 inches

How To Plant Tomatoes

Now that we have determined proper spacing, it’s time to talk about how to plant the tomatoes. Normally, tomatoes do much better when they are started in seed trays. Once they are about 5 inches tall, you can plant them in their final destination. At this point, hopefully, you have a spot to plant them. There are a few different options you can look at.

Raised Beds

Raised beds are some of the best ways to plant tomatoes. Once your seedlings are ready, make rows in your raised bed. Each row should be 2-4 feet apart and each plant should be 2-4 feet apart. Make small holes first, then pop your seedlings in. Cover with dirt, and water in well. 

Pots

Pots are a good way to plant your vegetables if you don’t have room in your yard, or maybe you don’t have much of a yard at all. It is important to understand what size pot you have to understand how many plants you can plant in each pot.

The basic rule of thumb is- one tomato plant per 5-gallon pot. It doesn’t matter if it’s determinate or indeterminate. If you have a 10-gallon pot, you can plant two tomato plants, or even up to 4, they just may not grow as large. Just make sure they have at least one foot of space between each other for some room to breathe. 

Directly in the Ground

If you plan on planting a lot of tomatoes, directly in the ground in a plot situation is something you should be considering. In this situation, follow the same spacing measurements you would for the raised bed.

If you are directly planting in the ground, you have to make sure you are careful to pull out any weeds that come along. Tomatoes don’t like fighting for root space with weeds because weeds tend to have such strong roots, so pull them out as soon as you see them.

Companion Plants

You may have seen plants under tomato plants at one point or another. These are called companion plants and people plant them for different reasons.

Companion plants can help the overall health of the plant, while also making the tomatoes taste better and even deter away certain pests and diseases that may occur. If you want to plant companion plants, you must really think about your spacing and leave even more room so the sun can reach the smaller companion plants at the bottom.

For determinate tomatoes, it’s around 2 feet, however, if you are planting companion plants, you can leave 3-4 feet between each tomato plant. Wait to plant the companion plant a little after you have planted the tomatoes, so the tomato plant roots can establish themselves. Here are some of the tomato plants’ best companion plants.

1. Basil

2. Marigold

3. Garlic

4. Bee Balm

5. Borage

Final Thoughts

Tomatoes need at least 2 feet to 4 feet of room between each plant. This is so they can grow properly, so they won’t have to battle for things like food, water, and air, and so nasty diseases and bugs won’t get out of control in one garden. When you are planting your tomato plants, just be careful that you are giving each plant a good amount of room for its roots to grow. Happy gardening!