Tomato Plant Spacing 101: How to Calculate the Optimal Spaces

22 May

tomato plant spacing

Tomatoes are some of the best plants you could grow in your garden. They’re delicious, nutritious, full of vitamins, low on calories, and they help you save money as well. Not to mention the fact that they’re easy to grow. All of these things considered, it’s no surprise so many people plant tomatoes in their garden. However, planting them the right way is crucial. One of the things you have to pay attention to is tomato plant spacing. If not spaced properly, tomatoes won’t develop as they should. Today, we’re going to tell you all about tomato plant spacing and why it’s important.

Tomato Plant Spacing 101: How to Plant Tomatoes for the Best Results

How much space you should leave between your tomato plants depends on the type of tomatoes you want to grow and the place where you’re going to grow them. As a result, we’ve divided today’s guide into several parts, according to these factors.

1. Tomato Plant Spacing for Determinate Tomatoes

Determinate tomatoes are those types of tomatoes that only grow up to a certain point and then stop growing altogether. They grow faster than indeterminate tomatoes, blooming and setting fruit quite soon. They’re also smaller, which means you can plant them closer together than you would indeterminate tomatoes. The ideal space for the plants would be of 1 and a half to 2 feet apart, while the optimal space to leave in between rows would be of 2 to 3 feet. These measurements allow you to easily place cages around the tomatoes, use stakes in order to support them, and harvest them when the time is right.

2. Tomato Plant Spacing for Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes grow all throughout the growing season. They flower and fruit continuously, and they might reach a height of 8 feet or more. Due to their continuous growth, you’re going to have to provide them with a support system that will keep them under control. The support system you decide to go with also tells you how much space you have to leave between the tomato plants.

If you’re going to use a stake, the optimal spacing for the plants would be of 1 and a half to 2 feet, while for the rows 2 to 3 feet would be perfect. The stakes should be made of wood and extremely sturdy, about 6 feet in height and 2 inches wide. You’ll have to drive them into the soil at a depth of about 1 foot, at a distance of between 4 and 6 inches from the tomato plant. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the plant starts growing, you might have to tie it to the stake every couple of inches. Strips of cloth or some twine will do the trick.

If you decide on cages, the spacing between the plants should be of 2 to 3 feet and the spacing between rows should be of 4 to 5 feet. The reason why many people choose cages over stakes is because they require less maintenance and attention. The tomatoes grow naturally and you don’t have to worry about tying them to the cage. Even if you can find tomato cages for sale (like the Lifetime Tomato Cages you can order here), you can also build your own with some wire fencing. Just remember that you should leave a distance of 6 inches between every wire. This will allow you to easily harvest the tomatoes without removing the cage. The perfect dimensions for a tomato cage are 18 to 36 inches in width and 6 feet in height.

There’s also another option of growing indeterminate tomato plants. That involves allowing them to sprawl without adding any support system. However, we wouldn’t recommend it, since due to their excessive growth, the tomatoes tend to grow in a snarl. This will make it extremely difficult for you to harvest them. Not to mention the fact that since they’ll be lying on the ground, they’ll be more susceptible to decay. If you really want to grow them like that, remember to add some mulch or landscape fabric on the ground. This might help keep them safe. In terms of spacing, you should place the plants 3 to 4 feet apart and the rows 4 to 5 feet apart.

3. Tomato Plant Spacing for Container Plants

A lot of people grow tomatoes in containers. Especially if they don’t have a proper garden where they can grow them. Still, growing them in containers can represent more of a challenge. That’s because you still need to consider spacing, and most containers don’t provide you with extensive space. A stake or a tomato trellis can really help your tomatoes develop, so you should consider containers that allow you to use some sort of support system.

grow tomatoes in containers

In terms of the right spacing for growing tomatoes in containers, just one tomato plant requires a pot with a 14-inch diameter and a 5-gallon volume. However, in order to make sure your plant will have enough room to grow unencumbered, we recommend a pot of 17 to 20 inches in diameter, and that can hold up to 20 gallons. The great thing about growing tomatoes in containers is that you can also grow them in winter.

Why Is Tomato Plant Spacing Important?

1. The Plants Receive Enough Sunlight

Overcrowding your tomato plants is going to lead to them receiving less sunlight than they actually need. Tomatoes love sun, so it’s important for you to provide them with enough if you want a rich yield. They should receive full sun for the most part of the day. This is why planting them too close together is out of the question. If you do that, they’ll grow excessively tall in order to reach more sunlight. As a result, their branches will be scrawny and weak. Moreover, the leaves will be small and the flowers will have a hard time developing. Ultimately, you won’t get as many fruits as you would have if you were to allow plenty of space between the plants.

2. You Improve Their Nutrition

Apart from sunlight, tomatoes also need water and nutrients in order to develop properly. You should provide them with some fertilizer periodically, ideally a slow-release one. The problem with tomato plants that are planted too close to one another is that they will compete for water and nutrients. As a result, they’ll rob each other of these elements. This will cause them to grow smaller and have light green leaves, which will eventually compromise the quality of the fruits as well. You’ll end up harvesting smaller and fewer tomatoes. By leaving the appropriate space between your tomato plants, you’ll ensure each of them will get just the right amount of water and nutrients.

3. You Prevent Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are two of the main concerns of anyone growing tomato plants in their garden. In terms of pests, the most common one is the caterpillar. These pests eat the leaves of the plants. In order for you to get rid of them, you’re going to have to pick them by hand. Since they live on the underside of the leaves, you’ll need room around the plants to properly pick them. If the plants are placed too close together, this task is going to be arduous.

When it comes to diseases, late blight is the most common one. This is a fungal disease that will create spots on your leaves and lead to rotten fruits. Close tomato plant spacing decreases air circulation. This means the leaves will take a while to dry after it rains, which tends to promote fungi growth. If you want to avoid this, make sure you stick to the tomato plant spacing dimensions we provided above.

tomato late blight

How to Fill That Space Up?

If you dislike the fact that you have to space your tomato plants so far from one another, and if you consider this to be a waste of space, you’ll be happy to know that there are plants you can grow in that empty space between two tomato plants. The best options are spinach and lettuce, or any other type of fast-growing plant. Why do you need a fast-growing plant? Well, because you’ll get a chance to harvest it before the tomatoes start growing as much as to get in the way. With this strategy, you get to make the most of the space between your tomato plants, as well as manage to grow a second type of plant that you can enjoy in a short amount of time.

Summing Everything Up

If you’re thinking of growing your own garden, tomatoes are a great way to start. They’re low-maintenance, delicious, and they provide your meals with a vitamin boost. We hope today’s guide on tomato plant spacing has told you everything you wanted to know about how to properly space your tomato plants. As long as you stick to the dimensions above, your plants should have no issues developing and bearing fruits. Don’t forget to alternate tomato plants with lettuce, spinach, or other great plants, and you’ll be on your way to a lovely vegetable garden. If you want to buy some tomato seeds, you can do that here.

This post was originally published on and has been republished here with the kind permission of Bonnie Enos,
Photo credits for the following images: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3