You can plant more tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) in a garden when you support them with stakes or wire cages than if you let them sprawl on the ground. Because tomatoes require a soil temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit to plant from seed, most gardeners transplant nursery seedlings. How far apart you space plants also depends on the type of tomato, because some varieties need more space.
Spacing and Tomato Varieties
Determinate tomato varieties eventually form a cluster of flowers at their tip and stop growing taller. They are easier to grow and control and their tomatoes ripen earlier. Indeterminate tomatoes, including nearly all older and heirloom varieties, grow larger vines with a larger, more flavorful crop of late-maturing tomatoes. Indeterminate cultivars need to be planted farther apart than determinate or dwarf cultivars. Most people treat tomatoes as annuals but they will technically grow as perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.
Spacing Staked Tomatoes
If you train your tomatoes to grow on stakes you’ll get larger tomatoes and they’ll ripen earlier, but you’ll get fewer of them and they’re more likely to suffer from sun scald. Plant staked tomatoes 2 feet apart in rows spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. Dwarf tomatoes will only need 12 inches between plants. To give yourself enough room to harvest tomatoes, space vigorous indeterminate cultivars 4 feet apart and space rows 5 to 6 feet apart.
Spacing Caged Tomatoes
Plant caged tomatoes 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart in rows separated by 4 to 5 feet. Determinate tomatoes are best suited to cages. Prune the plants so that they will have from three to five stems. Especially vigorous indeterminate tomatoes will require larger cages, fewer stems in each cage and more space between plants and rows.
Spacing Tomatoes in Intensive Gardens
Plants in intensive gardens are spaced so their centers are an equal distance from one another. Tomatoes are especially suited to intensive gardening because they can be trained to grow vertically on stakes, cages or trellises. Space tomatoes 12 to 18 inches apart in an intensive garden.
- University of Arizona: Vegetable Gardening: Intensive Gardening Methods
- University of Missouri Extension: Growing Home Gardening Vegetables
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Tomatoes
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Tomato
- Old Farmer’s Almanac: Tomatoes
- The Ohio State University Extension: Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
- Horticulture Magazine: Side Dressing Fertilizers
- University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
- Floridata: Lycopersicon Lycopersicum
- University of Maine: Pruning Tomatoes
- Photo Credit coramueller/iStock/Getty Images
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