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Tomato Plants Too Crowded – Good Or Bad?

Tomato plants are a favorite of gardeners everywhere, for there are many varieties, sizes, and colors of tomatoes to choose from. It can be daunting to pick just a few, but planting only what you have room for is essential to yield the best results. Packing in as many tomato plants in one area is hardly advisable and will often lead to unsatisfactory results and wasted time and effort. So, what is it that happens when your tomato plants are too crowded?

When planted too closely together, tomato plants are at a higher risk for disease, lack of development, and other issues affecting quality and yield. 

If space-saving is a reason for wanting to overcrowd your garden with tomatoes, you may find that sacrificing some more space for your plants will pay off in the long run. Continue reading to learn more about the impacts of overcrowding your tomato plants and the benefits of giving your plants ample space to grow. 

What happens if tomatoes are planted too close together? 

There are many risks involved in planting tomatoes too close to each other and almost no reward. Disease is a real possibility when plants are too close to each other, as is a small, unproductive yield thanks to competition for resources and space. 

When plants are grouped too closely, this impacts the airflow between the plants and leaves. Moisture can sit for an extended period, and many diseases and fungi thrive in moist environments. Crowded plants don’t typically get all the light they need, which impacts growth and can also prevent the drying of any water splashed onto the leaves.

Essentially, these conditions make your tomato plants a breeding ground for pathogens. Treating these pathogens can take a lot of extra time, effort, and money depending on the disease and does not always work. Adequate spacing between plants to allow for circulation is an effortless way to prevent many common plant illnesses such as mildew, blight, and wilt diseases. 

Another side effect of planting your tomatoes too closely is the impact on the developing root system. This will lead to competition for space and nutrients, so while you may have one plant doing fine, the other plants around it will likely get crowded out for both space and nutrition. As the healthy tomato plant grows, it will probably shade out the other plants too. 

Poor root development and insufficient light will undoubtedly affect the yield. Fewer fruits will be produced, and they likely will be much smaller than they should be compared to a tomato plant that has been given ample room.

Giving your tomatoes adequate space gives them a fair chance of sun, water, and nutrients with a lower chance of contracting and spreading diseases. There is no benefit from planting tomatoes too close together, and there is a lot to lose. 

How much space is needed between rows of tomatoes? 

Planting tomatoes at least two to three feet apart generally is accepted as enough room for a productive, healthy yield. A tomato plant’s root system can grow up to two feet deep and a foot wide on either side, so keep this in mind when growing in containers or raised beds. 

If you are planting tomatoes in the ground, you will likely need at least 3 feet of space between rows, with about two feet between each plant within the row. This will give your tomatoes plenty of room to spread out their roots to get the water and nutrients needed for healthy, productive growth.

Using a cage or trellis can also help support the growth and further protect against diseases and poor development. These implements can also help save a bit on space without sacrificing the health or quality of the tomatoes and can make maintenance a bit easier. 

When using containers choose ones that are at least 12-24 inches in depth and 24 inches in width, which is sufficient for a single tomato plant. Avoid the temptation of planting more than one tomato in a container of this size. 

There are many benefits to giving your tomatoes all the room they need. You will have a much easier time preventing illness and disease because your plant has sufficient nutrition access, leaving them less susceptible to diseases and pests.

If you do encounter either of these issues, they are less likely to spread to other nearby plants because they are not packing on top of each other. Another benefit of adequate spacing is the ease of monitoring each plant’s health, so you can take action when needed.

A good yield is the most notable and important benefit of proper spacing. Your plants will not compete for resources, meaning you can get a bountiful yield off your plant throughout the growing season. This is reason enough for giving a good amount of room between plants! 

Why is my tomato plant growing tall but not producing fruit? 

Tall growth but a lack of fruit production can mean your plant is not getting the correct amount of sunlight. Tomatoes are full sun plants, meaning they need at least 6 hours of direct light daily. Not enough spacing between plants can cause one to shade out the other, or even shadows cast by tall buildings can affect your plant’s growth. 

Insufficient water can also lead to a lack of fruit development. Plants may need twice-daily watering in hot weather, especially if rainfall is inconsistent or drought-like conditions exist.

Watering in the morning hours before it gets too hot is an excellent way to ensure your plants have enough hydration to start the day. Water splashed onto the leaves will get dried up by the sun, making it less likely that your plant will develop foliage diseases such as powdery mildew. 

Final Thoughts

Overcrowding your tomato plants will lead to less than optimal growth for little to no gain. What you are saving in space by crowding your plants will be sacrificed in the quality and abundance of the yield, not to mention the potential diseases or pests that can arise from poor circulation and the complications added to treat these issues. 

Have a plan for your garden when selecting what plants to grow, and ensure there is enough room for each plant to stretch out to reach its full potential. Your diligence and care will be rewarded when it is time to harvest your tomatoes that have reached their full potential.

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