How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

Last update: August 8, 2022

You will be rewarded with wholesome, disease-free, and delectable tomatoes from properly spaced tomato plants. Do not undervalue the significance of correctly spacing and planting your tomatoes, even if you have a tiny garden. It might be challenging to pinpoint the formula for tomato spacing because there are many variables, including the type of tomato you’re planting and the supports you employ.

You might be tempted to plant many tomatoes near one another, especially if growing in a constrained area like a container or raised bed. However, this might be a prescription for garden catastrophe. Tomatoes planted too tightly together can result in a variety of problems, including illness and decreased growth. Fortunately, placing plants appropriately in space is simple.

plant tomatoes
plant tomatoes

Some Interesting Facts About Tomatoes

For optimum growth, tomatoes must be planted in the garden when the soil and surrounding atmosphere have reached 60 degrees F (16 degrees C). The distance between tomato plants can impact the plants’ growth in addition to the temperature.

The tomato is not only the most widely cultivated crop in backyard gardens but is also arguably the food with the most applications, including stew, roasting, pureeing, fresh, drying, and even smoking. Lycopene, identified as a potential cancer preventative, is found in tomatoes, which are also high in vitamins A and C and low in calories.

The common tomato color is red, but other colors include orange, yellow, dark burgundy, purple, black, vibrant green, and even white. Many of these hues can be found in fruit like beefsteak, plum, or cherry, as well as determinate or indeterminate plants. If color is your main deciding factor, start by looking for it before focusing on the other elements.

Although flavor would seem to be the most important factor, aficionados have only recently begun discussing the subtleties of tomato flavor. While some tomatoes are deep and showcase that mysterious fifth flavor, umami, others are sharp and acidic. You’ll be astounded by the variety of flavours tomatoes may offer, much beyond the local supermarket kinds, which are designed more for consistent size, shape, and easy handling, than flavor, as you start to produce your own and test out other varieties.

How To Space Tomatoes

Tomato plants should generally be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart, although plant spacing varies a lot on the tomato variety you’re growing. Follow the spacing instructions on the seed packet or plant tag, or research the variety.

Tomato plants of the indeterminate variety are vining plants that keep growing until they are clipped or until a frost kills them. These plants can be planted as close as 18 inches apart but may benefit from the extra room since they generally grow more up than out, at least in comparison to determinates.

Indeterminate tomato types can grow up to eight feet tall, as opposed to determinate tomato plants, which only reach a set height before stopping. They only cease expanding once the final frost kills the plants for the year. They are also known as “vining tomatoes” and do best when planted on strong supports like trellises, stakes, or tall wire cages because they produce their crop over an extended period of time.

Plant determinate tomato varieties are 18 to 24 inches apart because they are bush-type plants that only grow to a specific height before stopping. As a result of selective breeding, some determinate tomato types can be grown closer together; cultivars designated as compact or dwarf can be spaced as little as 12 inches apart.

Although some larger types can reach heights of four feet, determinate tomato plants create compact plants that reach a height of approximately three feet. They are also known as “bush tomatoes.” Determinate tomato varieties are popular among gardeners who enjoy canning or preserving their harvest since their fruits ripen at around the same time. Although determined tomatoes are frequently left standing alone, they can also be kept upright with the use of robust tomato cages.

The determinate or indeterminate nature of the tomatoes being produced as well as the types of supports being utilized, will determine how far apart they should be planted. Compared to plants permitted to sprawl on the ground, trellised plants on solid cages or supports can withstand a closer planting. In addition, trellising your tomato plants has additional advantages. They won’t be as susceptible to illnesses brought on by the soil.

Despite the fact that these are the two primary growth patterns, innovative breeding has expanded the potential of plant form and structure to either new heights or, in the case of the tomato, new lows. In order to meet the needs of gardeners with limited area and those who grow in pots, new types keep getting smaller and smaller.

Compact plants have short, densely-foliated branches that remain very small and are determinate. Though not all compact types produce fruit, many do. They thrive in containers, don’t require staking, and go by the name “patio tomatoes.”

Tumblers are excellent for containers, much like compact varieties, but they also have the attractive visual advantage of a trailing habit, allowing you to utilize them to flow over the sides of pots and hanging baskets.

Tomatoes Planted In The Ground

You could have more room and plant in rows if you are planting straight in the ground. In that scenario, leave a row of tomatoes 18 to 24 inches apart, but leave a row of tomatoes approximately 36 inches apart. You will have ample space to operate in between rows as a result. Follow the 18–24 inches recommendation if you’re planting more densely in the ground rather than in rows, but take into account how you’ll get to the plants without trampling them.

Tomatoes Planted In Raised Beds

The 18-24 guide’s intense planting instructions are identical to those for planting in the ground. Your raised bed’s depth will also be important. In deeper soil (12 inches or more), you might be lucky to escape with slightly closer spacing because there are more nutrients available for your tomato plant and more room for the roots.

Tomatoes Planted In Containers

Tomato plants should be cultivated one per container in big containers at least 18 or 24 inches wide and deep, with the exception of the very compact container tomato plants that can be grown in containers as tiny as 12 inches wide and deep. Although it may be tempting to grow multiple tomato plants in a single container, each tomato plant needs its own room to grow. Other low-growing plants that won’t be competing with your tomatoes, such as lettuce or marigolds, can be used as a supplement.

Importance Of Spacing

The spacing between your plants affects their general health, the quantity of light they receive, and your access to your plants. Too many tomato plants together increase the risk of pests and diseases that are easily transmitted from plant to plant. That’s because the soil and bottom leaves’ protection from the sun promotes damp environments, which are ideal for pests and diseases to flourish.

In addition, airflow is an often discussed preventative measure for dealing with diseases and pests. Correct tomato spacing enhances airflow within and between plants, lowering the likelihood of infection or infestation.

On wet leaves, several plant diseases thrive. Tomato plants are more likely to contract deadly diseases if they are planted too closely together, preventing air and sunlight from drying off the leaves.

In your garden, plants fight with one another for resources like water, soil nutrients, and sunlight. Because tomato plants need a lot of these nutrients, they will compete and probably all lose if they are planted closely together.

Even if tomato plants that are too near to one another survive, they might not yield as many tomatoes as they would have if they were given enough room to grow.

Close tomatoes may compete with one another for soil resources. Tomato plants that are undernourished are weaker and more prone to pests and illnesses. Lack of growth reduces yields because weak stems can no longer support the fruits.

Furthermore, properly spaced tomatoes allow light to penetrate not just the tops but all of the leaves as well. As all gardeners are aware, photosynthesis depends on sunshine, and the more photosynthesis is promoted, the better the plant growth. Additionally, it improves the overall fruit yield and plant health.

Too many plants together make it harder to manage, check, and harvest the plants. You may inspect your tomato plants for diseases and pests, treat them, prune them, and harvest them without worrying that you’ll harm them.

You should also think about allowing space to allow for future additions of beneficial companion plants if you intend to place them between or around the tomato plants. Marigolds are a great companion plant that won’t take up much space, but you’ll need to leave enough space between them so that light can reach the lower marigolds.

Maintenance

Don’t forget to prune after you’ve properly spaced your tomatoes. While staked indeterminate tomatoes require constant pinching to eliminate suckers, determinate tomatoes do not require pruning. This encourages the growth of strong, fruitful plants. Pruning tomato plants is simple, but it needs to be done every 7 to 10 days.

Suckers are vegetal shoots that grow between the main stem and a branch in the crotch. While leaving suckers may result in more tomatoes, the average fruit size will be smaller. Suckers do produce blossoms and fruits. In essence, the plants suffer from a lack of airflow and turn into a tangle of foliage.

The suckers are simple to detach with your fingers when they are 2 to 3 inches long. You could use a pair of pruners to carefully remove suckers if you let them become bigger.

When they are ripening, provide your tomatoes with a consistent supply of moisture: 1 to 2 inches of water every week. It could be necessary to water tomatoes in containers every day or two. Blossom end rot is one issue that might result from inconsistent irrigation. Generally, the best recommendation is to water less frequently yet deeply.

Hybrid Seeds

Cross-pollination between two parent varieties has been used in hybrid breeding to produce a new variety with favorable traits, including resistance to disease or plant height. You cannot keep the seed from a hybrid and hope to acquire the same combination of features in the following generation; the seed must constantly be created by cross-pollination, a kind of human meddling, in an effort to keep those desired qualities.

Heirloom Seeds

Over the course of at least 50 years, heirlooms have been passed down while largely maintaining their original qualities. They frequently have intriguing origins, colors, and flavors in addition to being suited to particular locales, yet occasionally only have a limited level of disease and insect resistance.

In addition, heirlooms are open-pollinated, or OP, which refers to pollination that happens naturally in the field as opposed to being managed by humans, like cross-pollination. Because a variety may be open-pollinated yet not have the heirloom’s historical ancestry, some seeds will be marked as OP but not heritage.

Effects Of Climate

Although tomatoes may grow practically anywhere, not all tomato types do so successfully.

Finding types that develop and yield fast and can withstand chilly temperatures is crucial for gardeners in chilly, short-season zones, like zones five and above. You can look at the “days to maturity” statistics or look up terms like early, short-season, or cool-climate cultivars to further identify these. Consider tomato types on the faster end of the spectrum if your growing season is limited. Tomatoes mature in a range of about 60 to 100 days.

Since most tomato illnesses thrive in moist environments, cultivars with disease resistance are probably your best bet if you reside in a very humid climate. If you live in a hot, dry area, seek cultivars that are praised for their heat tolerance; in several instances, the name—for example, Heat Master and Solar Fire—will be a clue.

Many heirloom cultivars are well-liked and known to thrive in specific areas of the country. If you’re keen on heirlooms, seek seed offered by smaller, local seed businesses that focus on local selections.

How to Avoid Tomato Disease

Last update: August 8, 2022

All gardeners place high importance on keeping their tomato plants safe and free of viruses that can infect the plant’s leaves. You would like the best tomatoes you can get after spending all that time and effort, correct?

You will even have to address issues brought on by cold weather, pest garden insects, and diseases that affect tomato plants. Knowing what to look out for is vital because tomatoes aren’t the simplest plants to grow from seed to harvest.

tomato disease
tomato disease

More About Tomatoes

It is possible to grow tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicum) on practically any relatively well-drained soil. A sufficient supply of organic matter can improve production issues and boost productivity. On the same land, tomatoes and closely related vegetables like potatoes, peppers, and eggplants shouldn’t be planted more than once every three years.

Any crop used as a cover crop or planted before tomatoes should belong to the grass family. Because it provides significant amounts of organic matter and inhibits the growth of disease-causing organisms that attack tomatoes, corn is a great crop to grow in rotation with tomatoes. It is advised to utilize certified seeds and plants wherever possible.

Pathogens that cause tomato diseases can range from bacterial to viral to fungal. Different tomato diseases impact other geographical areas, and infection rates rely on a variety of elements, including but not limited to weather, humidity, and plant health.

To ensure your tomato crop has enough moisture and good, nutritious soil, it’s crucial to keep in mind that healthy, well-cared-for tomato plants frequently have more resilience to tomato plant disease.

How To Maintain Health And Hygiene

Cut back on irrigation. Interestingly, tomato plants require very little water, and overwatering might encourage disease. Water once the top three inches of soil dry, and the leaves appear limp in the sweltering sun after the fruit has begun to emerge.

Get Rid of Dense Foliage. Tomatoes frequently develop more densely than is necessary, which restricts airflow and causes them to produce more leaves than their immune systems can handle. Once the fruit has started to develop, remove any new sprouts from the main stems and teach the plants to take on an open, spreading shape.

Keep Neighboring Vegetation Low. The humidity at ground level is kept high by a weed patch, a tall area of corn, or beans next to your tomatoes that obstruct airflow. Tomatoes should ideally be planted in the open, surrounded only by mulch, turf grass, or other small-stemmed plants (like basil or garlic).

Although there isn’t much that can be done about falling water, avoid giving your tomatoes the sprinkler treatment because fungus only spreads when the plants are moist. To irrigate at ground level instead, use a soaker hose or drip irrigation.

The primary way fungal spores spread to plants is when showers hit the ground and spray contaminated water onto the foliage. Fungal spores overwinter in the soil. When conditions are moist enough, blight advances up the plant from that point. Mulching is helpful because it hides the fungus spores. Mulching also helps the soil retain moisture, requiring less watering overall. Tomatoes can be mulched with straw or dry leaves.

Clear away any infected leaves. If you notice any spots or deformations on leaves, don’t hesitate to clip them off because doing so could prevent the illness from spreading to the remainder of the plant. Keep these clippings far from your tomato plants while disposing of them.

Because they consume a lot of food, tomatoes will be more resistant to disease if they receive a few fertilizer boosts during the growing season. Administer a high phosphorus fertilizer every three weeks after the fruit has set.

Clean up the tomato tools. Before using it on or near healthy tomato plants, anything used to prune sick tomato plants or amend the soil surrounding them should be cleaned and disinfected. It works well to soak the instruments in a 10% bleach solution or full-strength rubbing alcohol.

Pest insect management. Though insects seldom destroy tomatoes, they routinely attack them on a modest scale, weakening the plants and increasing their susceptibility to disease. Certain insects are also involved in the transmission of diseases. Natural insecticidal soap can be used to get rid of small sucking insects. Larger bugs can be manually removed. If you notice insect damage, examine the leaves’ stems and sides.

Try making a habit of watering in the morning. In this manner, moisture will swiftly evaporate from the soil’s surface, providing the roots with the water they require while reducing the humidity around the plants.

Why Is Disease Prevention Better?

Once established, the majority of tomato illnesses are difficult to eradicate. Fungicides and bactericides can be useful, however they work best when used as a prophylactic measure. There are organically derived substances yet quite hazardous that are approved for use by organic farmers.

One such substance is copper sulfate. Organic farmers are only permitted to use those drugs in extreme circumstances where they can prove that no other treatments have worked. They would suffer considerable financial losses if the sickness worsened.

There seems to be little evidence to substantiate the assertion made by some amateur gardeners that piercing the tomato plant’s base with a strand of copper wire endows it with antibiotic capabilities that ward off illnesses.

Other DIY treatments include spraying the affected area with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, spreading a slurry of skim milk, or giving the plants chamomile tea. While some of these strategies may have some use, fighting tomato illnesses is rarely fruitful, thus prevention is always preferable to treatment.

Prevention

Rotate your harvest. Plant tomatoes in a different location in the garden every year since many tomato diseases lurk in the soil. To prevent an illness from spreading, remove any diseased leaves right away and throw them in the trash. Don’t forget to allow enough air to flow around each plant.

As the season begins, mulch your tomato plants thoroughly. When it rains, a layer of two to three inches of compost, or hay prevents soil-dwelling fungi from splashing up onto the lower leaves.

When feasible, make sure to keep the foliage dry. You can direct water to the root zone with hand irrigation or soaker hoses. Wet foliage encourages fungal problems, and the spray from rooftop sprinklers can spread illness.

When the leaves of tomato plants is damp, avoid working in the garden because you risk accidentally spreading viruses from plant to plant. When deciding which varieties of tomatoes to cultivate, choose disease-resistant ones.

At the conclusion of the growing season, remove any sick tomato plant waste and either burn it or throw it away. Do not compost any foliage that has illness. If you plant tomatoes in containers, clean the empty pots with a 10 percent bleach solution at the conclusion of the growing season, and replace the used potting soil with a fresh blend each spring.

Some Common Diseases To Look Out For

Your garden may occasionally become infected with tomato diseases despite your best attempts to keep them at bay. Here is a rundown of the most prevalent tomato plant diseases, along with details on how to recognize, avoid, and treat each one.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum), which may wipe out entire fields of tomato plants, is typically more prevalent in warm, southern climates. Dropped leaf stems are one of the symptoms. Often a whole branch will wilt, frequently beginning at the bottom of the plant and moving up until the entire plant collapses. Cut the plant’s main stem open, and then examine for dark lines that go through the stem lengthwise to confirm an infection. Occasionally, the plant’s base will also have dark cankers.

This tomato plant disease’s spores can thrive for many years in the soil. Equipment, water, plant detritus, even people and animals can disseminate them. When you’ve had Fusarium wilt previously, planting resistant types is the best form of defense. Additionally, every season at the conclusion, sanitize tomato cages and stakes with a 10% bleach solution.

Early Blight

On a plant’s lower leaves, this widespread tomato plant disease manifests as brown spots with a bulls-eye shape. The tissue near the spots frequently turns yellow. Infected leaves will eventually fall off the plant. Most of the time, even though the disease symptoms spread up the plant, the tomatoes will keep ripening.

This pathogen (Alternaria solani) resides in the soil, and once the early blight fungus has started to exhibit symptoms in a garden, it will likely stay there because it can readily survive the winter in the soil, even in extremely cold locations. Fortunately, even with somewhat severe incidences of early blight, the majority of tomato plants will continue to produce.

Immediately after planting, mulch tomato plants with a layer of newspaper, then cover them with straw or finished compost to prevent this fungal disease. By creating a barrier of defense, this mulch stops soil-dwelling spores from splashing up out of the ground and onto the plant.

Late Blight

One of the diseases that affect tomato plants the most severely is late blight (Phytophthora infestans). Fortunately, it’s not very prevalent, particularly in the north where the cold temperatures of winter make it impossible for it to grow without a host plant. A fungus called late blight produces splotches with erratic shapes that are sticky and wet.

The topmost leaves and stems frequently show the splotches first. On the vine, entire stems ultimately decay, getting black and slimy. On the undersides of the leaves, there could also be areas of white spores. The pathogen spends the winter in hidden potato tubers in the north. It easily endures the winter in the south.

This disease’s spores spread quickly and travel great distances on the wind. A void bringing potatoes and tomatoes from the south into your garden if you are in the north, since you can unintentionally spread late blight spores.

Even though late blight is a rare infection, there isn’t much you can do to stop the disease from spreading because the spores move so quickly. In order to help prevent the virus out of your area, only plant locally cultivated plants.

Verticillium Wilt

Several soil-borne pathogens are responsible for this fungus disease (Verticillium spp.). They obstruct the vascular tissue of the tomato plant and make the stems and leaves wilt when they are present.

Slowly and typically, a single stem at a time, symptoms develop. The entire plant eventually turns yellow and withers. Cut through the plant’s main stem and examine the interior for dark brown discoloration to confirm the diagnosis. Late summer is the most troublesome time for verticillum wilt.

Once verticillium wilt appears, there isn’t much you can do to stop the infection from happening this year. Rather, concentrate on avoiding this disease from affecting tomato plants in the future. The fungus spores in the top couple inches of soil will be killed with the aid of soil solarization.

Utilize crop rotation for at least four years following the infection, avoid planting any additional members from the same plant family in the very same planting area.

Southern Bacterial Wilt

The tomato plant disease known as southern bacterial wilt is highly contagious and quick to spread. The bacteria that cause this disease are soil-borne, but they can also spread through soil, water, plant debris, clothing, equipment, and skin. It naturally occurs in tropical climates and greenhouses, but it can also enter gardens through diseased plants that have been imported.

Early signs include a plant’s few withering leaves although the rest of the foliage still seems healthy. Eventually, all of the leaves will wilt and become yellow, but the stem will continue to stand upright. The sliced stems thread with slimy slime, and when they are submerged in water, milky streams of bacteria emerge from the wound.

Southern bacterial wilt is a soil-borne disease that can persist for a very long time on plant waste and roots. It prefers hot, humid weather, like many other tomato diseases do. The easiest approach to avoid contracting this illness is to buy and plant only plants that are cultivated nearby, or to cultivate your own plants from seeds. Although Massachusetts and other northern places have also been reported to have Southern bacterial wilt, warmer regions seem to see more of it.