Tomato spacing

michael_in_msMarch 25, 2008

I planted some tomatoes together with some peppers and cow peas in a 4x4 square about a week ago. This will be my first attempt at a vegetable garden. I divided it into 1 foot sections and placed one plant in each square. Now I'm worried that my plants are too close together. What's the disadvantage of placing these plants only 1 foot apart. Will they still produce alright?

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I plant my tomatoes five feet apart and they still grow together from their concrete reinforcing wire cages. I don't plant all the fancy named tomatoes discussed here, mainly, celebritys, jet stars, and beefsteak types. These plants grow tall and wide. 1 foot apart means if each plant grows 6" in diameter they would touch. 1 foot apart is about right for onions. REJ2.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 8:01AM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Michael, plants compete for sunlight and nutrients. Larger growing plants need more of both. When you plant too close the competition generally causes your plants to be stunted and/or greatly reduced production. A closer spacing typically also makes for a better insect habitat. You did not mention how you planted your 4x4 area (16 sq ft). But as an example, a gardening friend of mine has raised beds one of which is 4x4. To give you an idea of his tomato spacing, I'm guessing that he would probably plant somewhere between 4 and 6 tomato plants in your 4x4 area.

I have an open row garden and plant my tomatoes in 4 foot wide rows in wire mesh cages which are about 2 feet apart (center to center). I've done this for many years and have had great success.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 8:57AM
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Are these tomato plants the determinate (bush) variety or the indeterminate (vining) variety?

12" spacing for any tomato is going to reduce yield and increase the probability of disease from dense foliage growing together, but 12" spacing can work with indeterminate plants that are trellised and pruned.

The Sq Ft method uses raised beds and calls for 12" spacing with indeterminate tomatos, but the tomatos are pruned to a single stem and all suckers are removed. A sucker is a branch that grows from the crotch or 'V' between the main stem and a branch. If these are not removed the plant grows into a beast and 12" spacing is too close.

Do not prune a bush/determinate variety as you will get no tomatos, but pruning indeterminate varities as described is fine. Yield per plant is reduced, but in theory you can get more yield per sq ft of growing space this way.

1 plant per sq ft is fine for peppers, but you may want to consider digging up and respacing the tomatos. With only 1 week in the ground you should be able to dig them up and replant without damage to the plant. Just do it in the evening or on an overcast day and water the plants well the day before and again right after transplanting.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 9:21AM
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I planted my tomatoes too close together last year and the disadvantage I found was that harvesting the tomatoes was a real chore but I got terrific yield. The plants were not stunted, they were huge, you could hardly tell one plant from another. The basil and marigolds I planted around the patch got totally smothered. Also, the soil stayed nice and moist because of all the foliage. I had some hornworm issues but only lost a handful of tomatoes to the hornworm.
If your soil prep is good you should be ok. I suggest reading some articles on intensive gardening for a different take on plant spacing.
Happy Growing!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 9:28AM
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Thanks for the responses. My garden is laid out like this:

p S S P
p p p p

P = Pepper
p = cowpea
S = Sunflower
T = Tomato

The three tomatoes on the left are indeterminate, the one on the bottom right corner is determinate (roma I think). The sunflowers I expect to get tall but not too wide. I'll think about moving the two middle tomatoes somewhere else, but I don't have a space prepared yet.

This year is going to be a learning experience, but hopefully I'll get some vegetables.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 10:08AM
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I square-foot garden also! I planted my tomatoes in a square-foot, side by side, and they did AWESOME. I did train/tie them up a bamboo pole, and plucked off the suckers religiously. I too planted my peppers in the same garden box, and they did great also. I have posted pics of my garden in another post, here is the link to that post;

*if I were you... I would transplant my determinate mater in a 10-15 gallon pot, and replace it with another kind of indeterminate mater in its place in the garden bed. Good luck to you and your garden!

Keep Smiling, Amy :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Sharing Photos of my first garden, last season! :)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 10:39AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sq. Foot gardening can be very productive when done correctly. But the so-called "secret to it's success" according to the book's author is the soil mixture used in the raised bed. You can't expect the same results by just planting in a sq. foot layout in any old soil. ;) Plus as others have said, extensive pruning, feeding, and watering is required.

Check out the Square Foot Gardening forum here for lots of tips and tricks to make your first garden as successful as possible.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 11:05AM
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i agree with all the logic in these posts, but for the past 3 years i've planted my tomatoes on 20 inch centers and they are really close together when they're mature. I haven't noticed any decrease in vigor or production. i will admit that i have raised beds and nice soil, heavily mulched with drip irrigation. you do have to be vigilant about insect problems.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 11:18AM
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In my square-foot garden, I didn't follow Mel's (the author of square-foot gardening) soil mix. *blush*
I used garden soil, manure, lots of compost, and mulched after plants were a few inches high. And I think I was pretty successful! But, I did "baby" my garden, by visiting it everyday, not only watering, but checking for any pest, plucking off the suckers on my tomato plants, and just getting to know my plants. *wink* It was my first season to ever garden, last year, so I was excited to watch my plants grow. :)
Keep Smiling, Amy :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Sharing Photos of my first garden, last season! :)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 1:06PM
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