Confused about spacing

lamd(6a)May 15, 2008

The books I have suggest spacing tomato plants 12-18" apart ("Burpee Complete Veg & Herb Gardener", "Veg Gardener's Bible"). I'm growing indeterminates and running them up twine. I searched the forum and most suggest 3'+ spacing, but opinions vary greatly. Does stringing them allow me to plant them that much closer? Can anyone help me learn from their experiences? Thanks!

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Even with caging I won't go less than 4 feet apart. The plants have root systems don't forget and potential disease is cut back. I want the biggest production I can get. Your goals may differ.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 2:45PM
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hercules(PA 6a)

I agree with bigdaddy on spacing, and also that it depends upon your goals. My goal is always heavy production and healthy plants, and I succeed with 4+ foot spacing. This allows for vigorous plant growth, and also provides adequate air circulation. Crowded plants won't dry as well, even in brief wet spells, and diseases love damp plants.

At the risk of sounding unbelievable and my having my credibility challenged, I'll share with you that I averaged 65lbs. per plant last season. (yeah, I'm a nut....I actually weighed them) ~grin~ I don't normally go to this length, but I had a reason for doing experiment I won't go into here.

Anyway, good luck...and don't crowd. Your tomatoes will thank you.

Cordially offered,
Hal in Pa

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 5:15PM
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I space my caged plants at 36" and my sprawlers 44-48". I have had great results since I've done this. If you prepare the holes well when you plant you should be fine. Of course we don't have much rain here and lots of wind so don't have the disease problems or lack or air circulation that many areas do. Also very low humidity. Another reason why sprawlers produce more pounds than those caged. The more space the better. I found that production increased till I reached the spacings I mentioned but that they tended to remain the same if I increased them anymore. JME JD

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 5:36PM
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Thanks for the help! If I go with the wider spacing, would you prune the suckers or train them up as well?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 6:09PM
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bluemater(z5 IL)

lamd...I also use the stringing up method and I plant 6 tomatoes 18" apart in my 3X5 raised bed...

Since I'm going for flavor and not yield, I sucker the plants allowing only for 2 or 3 stems to mature and I get, on average, 25 to 30 big tomatoes per plant...

Here are some pictures of my raised bed, one taken yesterday and the other from last year (when I used the FL weave method of staking)

I hope this helps...

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 9:20AM
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I just wanted to share this:

Several years ago, I had about 5 or 6 extra tomato plants, but not enough cages for them. I had already spent toooo much $ so I really couldn't go out and buy more.

But, I had some old wood slats laying around so my husband build me a large wooden cage. It was probably about 4'w x 4'l x 5' high. I thought what the heck, and planted all of them within that box. I wanted to see how they would do and I didn't want them to go to waste.

That summer, those 6 plants took off and although they were certainly crowded, boy did they thrive, producing lots of yummy tomatoes. My husband called it the mutant tomato plant because it was this massive shrub of tomatoes. They were falling on the ground and I couldn't keep up with them.

I think it's proof that you CAN get a good production at times even if plants are closer together. I think weather, soil, and how you care for them also factor in, not just spacing. We had a perfect climate that year for tomatoes.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 9:46AM
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bluemater can you post more photos and info about your 3x5 box.

I've got a 4x5 box going with 6 tomatoes also and am wonder more about your pruning methods.

Also how deep is your box, what kind of soil do you use and what type of fertilizer, how often do you water?


    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 12:11PM
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You can plant as densely as 12". I did so last year and got pretty good results. Didn't weigh anything, but I probably got a dozen fruit off the brandywine, 30 or so from a green zebra and tonnes of sweet one hundreds. I even got great production off of Mr Stripey -- lots of gorgeous, near flavorless bicolors...

If you opt for this method you definitely have to ruthlessly prune to a single main stem and use netting or twine or some other method to grow vertically.

In theory, while the yield per plant may be lower, the total yield will be higher per square foot. More plants also means you can plant more varieties.

The demands on the soil are pretty high so you definitely want to dig down deep and amend the soil with lots of organic matter so the roots are happy.

I went with this method due to very tight space requirements. If I had a lot of space, I would probably cage them, plant further apart and do a lot less pruning.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 1:13PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

My planting scheme is tomato/cage, basil plant, tomato/cage, basil plant with onions all around. I get lots of tomatoes and basil. You wouldn't believe how big the basil plants get......I mean they're huge. And of course the tomatoes are just as happy. I have very little in the way of bug problems but I do have a running game going with this mockingbird that likes to taste test things.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 6:20PM
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shelbyguy(z5 IL)

If you prune to a single stem and grow vertically up that hanging string, you can go as close as 10" centers without issue. Its how most commercial greenhouse tomatoes are grown. Three to a 3-foot slab of rockwool or a 3-foot bag of perlite or sawdust, and the bags or slabs are usually in double rows.

Its also how I grow my hydroponic tomatoes. I don't have much square footage of growing area but I am not limited by height. Prune to a single stem, train them vertically, and pack them in tight. It maximizes my yield-per-square foot.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 11:13PM
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