How Much Space Do Tomato Plants Need?

Not only do fresh garden tomatoes taste great, but they also provide vitamins A and C while being a low-calorie food. Properly spaced tomato plants are likely to be healthier and more productive than overcrowded or spaced tomatoes. Tomato spacing depends on two factors; what type of tomatoes you are growing, and how you plan to grow them. Once you have this key information, it’s easy to know how far to grow tomatoes. So how much space do tomato plants need?

Why Does Spacing Matter?

Tomatoes planted too closely together may be more likely to develop problems, such as:

Diseases: Many plant diseases ravage wet leaves. If tomatoes are planted so tightly that sunlight and air cannot dry out the leaves, the plants are more likely to develop harmful diseases.

  • Stunted growth: Plants in the garden compete for resources such as water, soil nutrients, and sunlight. Tomato plants need a lot of these resources, so if they are planted closely together, they will compete with each other and likely all fail.
  • Shade: Heat-loving tomato plants need full sun for healthy growth. If you crowd your seedlings together, the plants will cast shadows on their neighbors as they grow.
  • Few clearings: spacing your tomatoes too far means you’ll leave room for weeds to grow, lose valuable growing space, and reduce your overall potential harvest.
  • Competition: As mentioned above, when plants are crowded, airflow is reduced, but it also means they are competing for water and nutrients.

While the correct space allows:

  • Proper sun exposure to plants.
  • There is good air circulation around the factory.
  • Ideal allocation of resources including water and nutrients.
  • Properly support plants with stakes, cages, or trellises.
  • Easy to harvest.

Factors Influencing the Spacing of Tomatoes

Factors Influencing the Spacing of Tomatoes

Indeterminate vs Determinate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomato varieties grow and produce fruit throughout the season. On the other hand, make sure the tomato will bloom and bear fruit at the same time. This plant produces all fruit at the same time, but only once per season.

Sure tomatoes are usually smaller, also known as bush tomatoes. On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes are called wine tomatoes. The name is fitting because indeterminate tomatoes can grow up to 8 feet tall and need support to stay vertical. Make sure tomatoes only grow to 3 or 4 feet tall and stop growing.

The size and growing habits of the variety you choose will determine how much space it needs. Check the label – the label should indicate the type of tomato and its potential growth height. Knowing how big a plant will grow will allow you to properly allocate space when planting.

Cages or Stakes

Your tomato variety will also determine how to support the tomato plant.

Determined tomatoes are much smaller but denser than indeterminate tomatoes. They get support and control from the cage.

Smaller indeterminate tomatoes can also be caged. The cages allow tomatoes to be planted relatively close together, about 2 feet apart, as the growth is contained within the spacing of the cages.

Large indeterminate varieties require stake support. Tomatoes staked will require more space – at least 2 feet, but preferably more. These varieties are usually grown in rows.

Smaller determinate types, such as tiny TIM, can be grown in containers without support. However, when planted in beds, they need support to stay upright and away from the soil.

Problems Caused by Overcrowding Plants

Tomato plants need adequate space and proper support to produce good quality fruit. Overcrowded plants have poor air circulation, which can raise humidity levels and cause leaf diseases, such as early blight, to spread quickly in wet conditions. Plants that are too close together will also cause some plants to block each other; if there is not enough sunlight, plants may have problems with falling flowers, falling flowers, and falling fruit.

How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

A general recommendation is to space tomato plants 18-24 inches apart, but plant spacing actually depends a lot on the variety of tomato you are growing. Research varieties or follow spacing guidelines on seed packs or plant labels.

Tomato Spacing by Plant Type

Determined tomato varieties are bush-type plants that grow to a certain height and stop; they should be 18-24 inches apart. Some established tomato varieties are bred to be smaller and can be planted more closely together; varieties marked as compact or dwarf can be planted 12 inches apart.

The indeterminate tomato variety is a vine plant that grows until it is pruned or killed by frost. These plants usually grow much longer than outside, at least compared to other plants, so they can be planted as close as 18 inches apart, but may benefit from more space.

Tomato Spacing by Garden Type

Plant spacing also depends on where you’re planting, whether it’s in the ground, in a raised bed, or in a container.

In containers: In addition to really compact containers tomato plants can be grown in containers 12 inches wide and deep, tomato plants should grow one per container in large containers 18 or 24 inches wide and deep. It’s tempting to have more than one type of tomato in one container, but your tomatoes will benefit from having their own space. You can supplement with other low-growing plants, such as lettuce or marigolds, that won’t compete with your tomatoes.

In the ground: If you are planting directly in the ground, you may have more room to plant in rows. In this case, space the tomatoes 18-24 inches along a row, but space each row about 36 inches. This will leave enough space for you to work between lines. If you’re planting more densely in the ground, rather than in rows, follow the 18-24-inch guide throughout, but consider how to plant without trampling the plants.

In Raised Beds: Following the 18-24 guidelines, the directions for planting in a raised bed are similar to those for concentrated planting in the ground. The depth of the raised bed will also play a role. The deeper the soil, the more room for available nutrients and roots for the tomato plant; in deeper soil (12 inches or more), you may be able to space a little closer.


Properly spaced tomato plants will reward you with healthy, disease-free, tasty tomatoes. Even if you have a small garden, don’t overlook the importance of spacing and growing tomatoes correctly.

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