Tomatoes are one of those classic crops that many people love growing in their gardens. And what’s not to love? Juicy, red fruit that you can harvest all season.
It might not be time to plant tomatoes in your area, but you can easily learn everything you need to know about when to plant your vegetable garden, so you don’t have to take a chance.
By following some tips for growing tomatoes, you’ll have healthy tomato plants that will produce fruit right up until your first frost. However, one of the most important things you need to get right is spacing your plants.
Discover how far apart to plant your tomatoes and why it matters.
The variety of tomatoes you’re planting does, in fact, make a difference. First, You’ll need to identify if the variety of tomatoes is determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes should be planted at least 2 feet apart. Dwarf varieties of determinate tomatoes can be spaced closer together, but don’t go less than a foot apart.
Also known as ‘bush tomatoes’, determinate varieties of tomato form compact bushes about 3-4 feet tall. Determinate tomatoes will grow just fine without any support. Although, like everyone, a little support goes a long way, and they can be held upright with a sturdy stake or tomato cage.
Determinate tomatoes all ripen at the same time, a factor that many home gardeners don’t take into account. If you plant only one cultivar of determinate tomatoes, you’ll spend most of the season without tomatoes, and then suddenly have a glut of tomatoes. This is excellent if you plan on preserving your tomatoes in some way for future use.
If you’re more interested in extending your harvest throughout the season, plant a mixture of early fruiting and late fruiting varieties.
Or, on the other hand, plant indeterminate tomatoes.
When it comes to indeterminate tomato varieties, space them 18-24 inches apart. This number only rings true if you’re staking these plants, and depends on your method of staking. If you’re leaving your indeterminate tomatoes to sprawl on the ground, space them 3 feet apart.
Also known as ‘vining tomatoes’, indeterminate tomatoes do best when grown up with a sturdy support system, like a stake, trellis, or tomato cage.
Indeterminate tomatoes don’t stop growing until the plant is killed by frost which means they can grow over 8 feet tall in a season. For this reason, indeterminate tomatoes should be pruned throughout the season. This pruning, if done correctly, can also increase your yield significantly.
One of the best things about indeterminate tomatoes is that they start producing fruit early, and continue producing fruit right up until that first frost.
So if you’re looking for a slow drip of homegrown tomatoes all season long, choose an indeterminate variety. However, according to legend, indeterminate varieties don’t taste quite as nice as determinate varieties.
Although one might dispute this as old information. There are so many new varieties of tomato being bred every year that lack of flavor has definitely been bred out of most cultivars today.
It’s also nice to be able to harvest a few tomatoes when you need them for a meal, instead of harvesting pounds and pounds of tomatoes that you need to process before they go bad.
Why Spacing Matters
What’s the big deal with spacing? Well, if you get it right, it can have a big effect on the health of your plants and, ultimately, your harvest.
Correctly spacing your plants will help with disease prevention. It enhances airflow, meaning the many diseases that tomatoes are susceptible to will have less chance of establishing themselves. Insufficient airflow can be a major problem for healthy tomato plants.
Not crowding your tomatoes will also mean that all the plants have adequate access to light. Tomatoes are heat-loving plants, and most plants need sunlight to grow, so space those plants correctly so they all get what they need.
Spacing them too far apart wastes valuable growing space and gives weeds a chance to get established. So don’t plant them too far apart either.
Wrap It Up
Ready to get planting? The first step would be to identify whether the tomatoes you’re planting are determinate or indeterminate.
From there, decide whether or not to stake your tomatoes and which method you’ll use to do this. You can now follow the guidelines above for your specific situation.
Remember that planting them too close together may lead to disease and a poor harvest, and planting them too far apart will lead to weed pressure and a reduced harvest. So getting the spacing right is a good start to having a growing season full of homegrown tomatoes.