Gardening is as wonderfully relaxing as it is rewarding. Creating a fruit, or vegetable, from nothing but a seed, some dirt, and a bit of water can elicit incredible feelings of pride. A vegetable garden is also a great way to manage household expenses. It is much cheaper to grow your own produce than it is to purchase it at a grocery store, plus you will know exactly what chemicals were (or were not) used. It is possible to grow all sorts of vegetables in a backyard garden, from cabbage to zucchini. One of the most popular backyard garden vegetables is the humble tomato.
Growing good tomatoes is relatively simple, but growing excellent tomatoes takes a bit more skill. One of the most important things you can do to yield a healthy crop the next time you plant your garden is to space your plants properly. Many people overlook this vital detail when planting tomatoes in their garden.
Why is Proper Spacing Required?
One of the biggest reasons why you should make sure your tomato plants are properly spaced is to ensure that each plant can get enough sunlight. When tomato plants are overcrowded, they do not receive the sunshine that is essential for their growth. Tomato plants that are too close together grow far too tall in an effort to reach more sunlight, which results in weak branches. Inadequate sunlight also leads to a smaller yield.
Sunlight isn’t the only thing that tomato plants need to grow. They also need water and nutrients. When tomato plants are too close together, they compete for and therefore take, the nutrients from their neighboring plants. This can also lead to lower yields and less healthy plants overall. Be sure that you plant your tomatoes close to a water supply to be sure that your garden hose will easily reach your planting bed.
Finally, proper spacing can also prevent diseases and pests from damaging your plants. Caterpillars, for instance, love to eat tomato leaves and need to be removed by hand. Leaving adequate space between the plants allows you to access each leaf easily. Spacing also allows for better air circulation, which can prevent fungal growth from diseases like late blight.
Spacing Indeterminate Tomatoes
Tomatoes that grow for the entirety of the growing season are known as indeterminate tomatoes. They are taller than other tomato varieties, and, as a result of their immense size and constant growth, you will need to support them with either cages or stakes. The method you choose determines how much spacing is required.
If you use cages to grow your tomato plants, each plant should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, and each row should be spaced 4 to 5 feet apart. Cages do not need as much attention or maintenance as stake-grown plants, but they do require greater spacing. Cage grown tomatoes do not need to be continually tied and re-tied, which is a great advantage, as long as you have the necessary space.
When using stakes to grow your tomato plants, it is important to remember to tie your plants to the stake every time they grow a couple of inches. Otherwise, they will grow out of control. Stake-grown tomatoes have the advantage of requiring less space. If you have limited space to work with, this is definitely your best option. You can space stake grown tomatoes as close as 1 ½ to 2 feet close, and rows can be spaced as closely as 2 to 3 feet.
Spacing Potted Tomato Plants
If you don’t have a garden, you may be considering growing tomatoes from a flowerpot. It is important to purchase pots that can accommodate a stake or other support system. A single tomato plant should be planted in a pot no smaller than 14 inches in diameter and 5 gallons in volume. Getting a pot a bit larger than that is an even better idea.
Filling in the Spaces
It can be a bit disappointing, knowing that you have all this empty space in your garden that you can’t use. The good news is that you CAN use it. You just need to find a fast-growing plant that will be ready to harvest before the tomatoes start to take over. Spinach and lettuce are particularly good options when it comes to filling in the spaces between tomato plants.