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.

Complete Guide To Companion Planting with Tomatoes

Last update: August 8, 2022

Companion planting in a vegetable garden is all about attracting beneficial insects (natural predators of garden pests like aphids and caterpillars), encouraging growth, and optimizing overall output. It’s a delicate balancing act between providing a suitable environment for insects like beetles and ladybugs and making the most of a growing season.

tomato companion planting
tomato companion planting

Most tomato companion planting knowledge is anecdotal rather than scientifically verified, but it is a case of using common sense and discovering what works well when creating a kitchen garden.

Tomato companion planting with specific surrounding plants and flowers can provide a variety of advantages. These can include enhancing and increasing soil nutrients, attracting pests away from tomato plants, and attracting important pollinators like bees and butterflies to tomato plants. These are all beneficial to permaculture gardening and will assist you in creating a sustainable garden.

Companion plants can also help to improve the growth environment by providing shade, support for developing plants, ground cover, or by breaking up the soil.

Tomatoes pair well with a variety of popular garden vegetables. Some companion plants are said to improve tomato plant health and vigor, while others are said to improve tomato flavor and repel and deter insect pests and diseases. You’re probably going to grow some of these plants anyway, so why not experiment and use some of them as tomato companion plants?

 

Companion Plants to Grow With Tomatoes

Many plants are marketed as increasing tomato health, vigor, and flavor. All of these characteristics are difficult to quantify because there is little scientific evidence to back up the assertions, and many other factors may be at play. Still, it’s fun to experiment with them in your own garden. Companion planting tomatoes with natural defenders will help to protect them from becoming the feast of pests, and is also a good method for a wildlife garden.

Amaranth, asparagus, basil, beans, borage, calendula (pot marigold), carrots, celery, chive, cleome, cosmos, cucumber, garlic, lemon balm, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, sage, and squash are all good companion plants for tomatoes.

 

Basil and Amaranth

On and off the plate, basil and tomatoes are soulmates. This lively, pungent herb repels insects, particularly flies and hornworms, and is said to increase production.Amaranth draws predatory beneficial insects, which deters pests.

Asparagus

The reciprocal nature of effective companion planting is demonstrated by asparagus: With the help of a substance called solanine, tomatoes repel asparagus beetles, and asparagus aids in removing root-knot nematodes that are drawn to tomatoes from the soil.

Squash and Borage

Due primarily to timing, tomatoes, borage, and squash are a frequent trio in companion planting. The blue star-shaped blooms of the flowering herb borage are a huge favorite of pollinators in general, and it also deters tomato hornworms. In addition to safeguarding tomatoes and enhancing their growth and flavor, it also serves as a beautiful, eye-catching garnish. Then, the groundwork has already been done when late-summer squash, which needs pollinators to ripen, is prepared to bloom.

 

 

Winter Rye

Our cover crop is included on this list of tomato companion plants because of its capacity to control weeds around tomato plants. Winter rye has 16 distinct allelochemicals (compounds produced by some plants that restrict the growth of neighboring plants). It is one of the most well researched and used examples of a cover crop that can aid in weed control.

 

Winter rye contains allelochemicals that hinder weed seed germination but do not affect transplants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other vegetables grown in the residue left behind after chopping down the cover crop. Sow rye as a winter cover crop in the fall for this plant relationship.

 

When spring approaches, trim the plants back to the ground just as they begin to bloom (don’t cut them too soon or they will re-sprout, and don’t wait too long or they may drop seeds). Leave the leftovers alone and plant your transplants through it. There is no need to till the soil.

Carrots

Carrots placed alongside tomatoes assist to soften the soil. If the carrots are planted too close together, they may not grow as large as they should, but they will still taste fine.

Nasturtiums and French marigolds

Marigolds (not to be confused with the delicious, ornamental calendula or pot marigold) and nasturtiums are especially good tomato companions. Marigolds have been demonstrated to repel root-knot nematodes, parasites that feed on the nutrients in a tomato’s root system, while nasturtium functions as a general pest repellent due to its peppery, bitter oils—but don’t get too close. Nasturtium spreads quickly and can engulf other plants if not kept in check.

Radish

To deter flea beetles, put radish around the base of your tomato plants. Because flea beetles don’t travel far, these tomato companion plants must be planted right next to your tomatoes. Flea insects prefer radish foliage over tomato foliage and will gnaw ragged holes in radish leaves rather than kill immature tomato plants. Mature tomato plants may resist some flea beetle damage, but immature transplants can suffer greatly. Pac choi is another great sacrifice crop for flea beetles.

Lettuce and Garlic

When the weather warms up, lettuce likes some shade. It benefits not only from being placed in the shade of larger tomato plants, but it also acts as a live mulch, keeping the soil cool and moist. Red spider mites are repelled by garlic. Garlic sprays aid in the control of late blight.

Parsley and Chives

Parsley is another popular pairing: it promotes development and attracts tomato hornworm predators such as ladybugs, but keeps it away from mint. Chives are a necessary allium in every herb garden because they fight aphids, worms, and mites.

Cowpeas

The southern green stink bug prefers cowpeas. As a result, a neighboring planting of cowpeas attracts green stink bugs away from your tomato crop, preventing serious damage. Green stink bugs are mostly a concern in the southern United States, where they feed on a variety of fruits and vegetables, producing stippling and corking of the flesh. Cowpeas should be planted several feet away from tomatoes (stink bugs are strong fliers), and they should be planted several weeks before tomatoes.

Fennel

Predatory lacewing eggs are frequently found attached to the leaves of my fennel plants. The parasitic aphidius wasps, which exploit aphids to shelter and feed their growing young, are especially significant for tomatoes. Interplanting fennel with tomato plants may help reduce the quantity of aphids, which may be a concern for tomato plants.

Thyme

If yellow-striped armyworms are an issue in your yard, thyme is an excellent tomato companion plant. Researchers at Iowa State discovered that interplanting tomatoes with thyme (or basil) reduced egg-laying by adult armyworms. Thyme works well as a living mulch around tomato plants. Just bear in mind that it’s a perennial, so the plants will need to be relocated each season when tomato plants are rotated to a new garden site.

Oats

The ideal cover crop for beginners is oats. In regions with frequent cold temperatures, they are winter-killed; in the spring, you may grow tomatoes right through the leftovers. By preserving the soil over the winter and early spring and generating an impenetrable mat, oats planted in the fall aid in weed control. In addition, the decomposition of the trash enriches the soil with organic materials.

Squash

Squash, such as zucchini, require the same growth conditions as tomatoes and can be grown alongside them. Squash’s spreading shape and huge leaves also provide effective ground cover, which reduces water loss from the soil.

Cucumber

You might be shocked to hear that cucumbers also create a number of allelochemicals that limit growth, with cinnamic acid being the most researched. When planted as a dense ground cover of living mulch around taller crops, such as maize, tomatoes, and okra, cucumbers can be utilized as a weed-management technique. They also prevent weed seeds from germinating by shading the seeds. However, since you’re starting with transplants rather than seeds, they make excellent tomato companion plants. Avoid using them if you’re starting your partner crops from seeds.

Red Clover

Bumble bees also like red clover as a nectar source. Use it as a living mulch to increase pollinator populations. It has also been demonstrated to sustain a wide range of other beneficial insects. Not to mention clover’s capacity to fix nitrogen. Definitely a win-win tomato companion plant.

Coneflowers

Plan to add some coneflowers in and around your food garden to boost pollination of various crops, including tomatoes. Their enormous, broad blossoms make excellent landing pads for fat bumble bees and they are also pretty darn lovely.

Hairy Vetch

A cover crop of hairy vetch, which has been demonstrated to prevent foliar disease in tomatoes more than plastic sheet mulches, is another deterrent for Septoria leaf spot and early blight. Hairy vetch, as a legume, also contributes nitrogen to the soil. Plant it in the autumn and trim it back by hand, or with a mower or weed whacker, when the first seed pods show on the vetch plants in late April. Don’t wait for the pods to swell. Keep the residue in place and plant the tomatoes through it. This also serves to keep weeds at bay.

Plants to not grow with tomatoes

In general, if laying out a vegetable garden, it’s a good idea to consult a companion planting guide: Additionally, it will show what not to plant next to tomatoes, as the growth of the plant will be hampered by cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi (all members of the Brassicaceae family).

The correlations aren’t always logical: whereas fennel, a related carrot, does not benefit tomatoes, carrots do. Similar to tomatoes, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is vulnerable to early and late blight. The soil will suffer as a result, making it more difficult to avoid the following year.

 

Eggplant, peppers, and potatoes:

These plants, like tomatoes, belong to the nightshade family and are all susceptible to early and late blight, which can accumulate in the soil and worsen year after year. For at least three years, avoid planting them next to or in lieu of each other. Hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata, the larval stage of the five-spotted hawkmoth) feed on the leaves and fruit of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants and can destroy plants swiftly. Although some gardeners recommend eggplant as a companion plant for tomatoes, it can produce disease issues that are extremely difficult to eliminate.

Tomatoes and eggplant are both susceptible to early and late blight.

Early blight attacks tomato leaves, causing brown lesions that destroy the leaf tissue and cause it to drop. While this has no effect on the fruits, it can have an effect on development (fewer leaves means less energy from photosynthesis) and expose the fruits to sun damage.

Late blight begins in the tomato leaves as well, but it can extend to other parts of the plant, including the stem and fruit.

Planting tomatoes near potatoes can also make them more prone to potato blight.

Cabbage (Brassica) family:

All cabbage cousins impede tomato plant development (including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and turnip).

Walnuts:

Avoid planting tomatoes near walnut or butternut trees, which release an allelopathic toxin called juglone, which hinders tomato development (and all the members of the nightshade family). Tomatoes are prone to the illness walnut wilt as well.

Corn:

Corn earworms are the same as tomato fruitworms (Helicoverpa zea). Growing plants that are prone to the same pests in close proximity can lead to tragedy and a destroyed garden.

Dill:

Tomatoes and dill have a more convoluted connection than some of the other plants on this list, while they aren’t strictly enemies.Dill makes an excellent companion plant for young plants. According to some reports, it promotes tomato development and deters some pests, such aphids, which frequently harm tomato plants. However, the association deteriorates as the dill plant ages. Some gardeners claim that mature dill plants produce the opposite effects, stunting rather than promoting the development of tomato plants.

Plant young dill close to your tomato plants then relocate them to a different bed before they set seed in order to make the most of this complicated connection. Or, if that’s too much bother, completely avoid the dill.