Roma spacing

bluedevilfan78June 16, 2008

Hi all. I'm a newbie to this gardening stuff, so I have a novice question. I planted 10 Roma VF tomato plants 18" apart in a row, with concrete reinforcing wire cages around every other plant. Didn't have enough space to put one around every plant. Now, all the plants have sort of grown together to form a tomato hedge! Next year I think I will change spacing to at least 24", but am I ok with the 18" for this year? I'm worried about disease because the foliage is so thick. Please advise.

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I did them a foot apart last year in a raised be with potting soil(1/3 peat 1/3 compost 1/3 vermiculite). I had a steady 5-10 per day for about a month per plant. If you have rich soil 18" is great. I would say 18" is best for these. You are fortunate because Romas pack in together rather well. if you are concerned your soil is poor top dress it with compost. The Romas are determinate and goof(VF) disease resistance. Even if they did not resist late blight well by the time disease could even affect your crop your plants are done for the season anyway. If its your first year the soil is probably tomato pathogen free and most tomato problems are soil born . I would say you are looking good. Do you see any yellowing at the bottom? If not there is nothing to worry about. I had two good crops so after the first wave wait another few weeks and you should get a second wave.
These are big producers so be ready for a heap of tomatoes.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 12:36PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I would agree with you that if you are going to use CRW cages, 24" would be better for next year, more for the cages than anything. Staked or trellised 18" will work but it does get over-crowded. It all depends on how much space you have.

But for this year to improve air circulation a little you can trim some of the leafy branches (not the suckers - they will be your fruit production) just branches of leaves. You don't want to get too carried away as it can expose the fruit to sun scald and reduce photosynthesis energy, but a conservative thinning of a few leaf branches here and there can open up the "wall hedge" a bit.

Good luck with your tomatoes. ;)


    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 1:38PM
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Here we go beyond the anecdotes.

Field study was conducted at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching and Research Fadama Farm, Sokoto, with the objective of evaluating the effects of staking and spacing on Roma VF cultivar of tomato. Treatments consisted of factorial combinations of four rows spacing (40, 60, 80 and 100 cm) and two staking (staked and unstaked) laid out in a randomized complete block design (RCBD), replicated three times. Results showed significant (p Nigerian Journal of Horticultural Science Vol. 10 2005: pp. 94-98

40cm = 16" row
60cm = 23.5 " plant

You are nearly optimal now. That is a mean space of about 20". They did not do a study under 40cm rows so the minimum row spacing was the highest yield without even trying sub 40" tighter rows. I would keep the tighter plant spacing east-west and a wider row north-south because sun exposure may impact plants to the north in especially in northern zones late season. My instincts for Romas would be 12" plant spacing and 18-24 inch rows depending on the dimensions and zone. 12" inches in my zone 5 looked like they shaded my north row for the second September crop if I had let it.In which case 24" would certainly help the north row. I used a portable light diffusing green house in September however so I tended not to have this issue.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 2:34PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

solanaceae - Could you explain how this study from Nigeria is relevant to the original question please? Even the article itself says it is applicable only under Sokoto conditions.

"Thus under Sokoto condition, farmers can use 40 cm row-spacing (60 cm plant-spacing) to obtain a good yield of Roma VF cultivar."

First, the OP isn't staking his plants, nor is he sprawling them. He is using CRW cages. That changes the spacing required. And his primary concern is preventing disease because of the overly thick foliage not to mention the pests and the high humidity we have to deal with in this zone. His concern is not how to achieve optimal production of fruit in Nigeria which has a totally different climate, pests, diseases, and topography.

Also if Plants with a row-spacing of 100 cm recorded significantly higher mean fruit weight (188 g) and diameter (5.48 cm) than other row spacing. which is 39 inch spacing, how could planting at 18 inches be "optimal" when it produces smaller fruit and increases the risk of disease and pest problems?

I would also argue that what you call "anecdotal" information from the same growing zone would be at least as relevant as info from a study done in Nigeria.

As we often say, all gardens are not the same so experiment and discover what works best for you in your particular garden.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 6:49PM
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Hello digdirt ,

I don't know what to say to you. In my opinion other than certain matters on space I think you give very good advice especially for open space gardens and from the pictures it is very well done but you seem overly generous with space when intensive methods are considered and I can see why you don't feel the need. I am just explaining what can be done with space limitations what is possible if this or that. In sfg for example they found that twice as much poor soil did worse than half good soil etc. I also said I can much more easily control disease as I explained. I know my soil is better than X 2 top soil or what ever they use commercially outdoors typically.

Roma Paste Tomato Lycopersicon esculentum 1-2 oz. Tender Annual

"An early-maturing paste tomato for short-season bioregions. Ideal for canning and sauces. Determinate. (70-75 days)

Planting Depth: 1/2" Soil Temp. for Germ.: 70-85F Days to Germ.: 10-14 Plant Spacing: 18-24" Days to Maturity: 85 Full Sun Moderate Water"

How many sources do you want? Its 18-24 inches. I assume top soil in this estimate, not compost, peat and vermiculite so I figured I could do less than 18" as I have done.

Here is another that suggests even tighter spaces.

"15-18 in. (38-45 cm)"

"ROMA VF- compact vines, midseason plum tomato developed by USDA for high solids and sweetness (4.7-5.2 brix), one of the most grown garden variety plum tomatoes since they yield well under a variety of conditions and can be used for canning whole or cooked into sauce or chunked into salads. More extended harvest than CHICO."

The typical range given for determinates is 12-24" and why would a plant described as compact plant take the maximum space especially with intensive methods?

I don't have disease or pest problems with Toms and Romas in particular. Rotate soil, use compost and drip water. If I get any then the soil goes into black plastic garbage bags on the drive way for the summer and rotated back in and mixed with compost. Growing up my brother had to dust his cucumbers probably because they were in the same place every year. I never dusted anything because I rotated. Squash bugs got me once even in a new bed so its not fool proof nasty thing can find you. Romas are particularly adept at close quarters which I have repeated several times and have actually grown for years more so in the past with lots of space. When I was young I was no big fan of raw tomatoes( I am now) and did Romas exclusively because I loved the sauce. Did I notice a difference in yield or disease? No. I actually did the research as I typically do when I do anything. Now I have experienced both. Using heavy duty cages with Romas just wastes space. As to 100 cm space it was with about half total output. I am trying to make sauce with these fruits. If you want bigger individual fruit then this study indicates 100 cm at a cost of much lower production. If I want bigger fruit I just grow a beef steak.
Sokoto , Nigeria is in the tropics and if they were to grow more "prolific" in any north American zone I would be extremely surprised.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 11:37PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Relevancy to the question posted is the issue. My point is that the original question was about spacing using CRW cages, not stakes and about preventing disease problems in an overcrowded planting area not about intensive or sq. foot gardening.

Since it is impossible to space plants at 18" using CRW cages (as the OP pointed out in his question) and a minimum of 24" is required because of the cage diameter - that is what I advised. That is assuming his cages are 20" diameter ones. If larger than even more spacing is required and he indicated that was no problem as he planned to do that next year.

So how does lengthy details about 12"-18" spacing using stakes in a study from Nigeria address the question posed in any way?

but you seem overly generous with space when intensive methods are considered and I can see why you don't feel the need. I am just explaining what can be done with space limitations what is possible if this or that. In sfg for example...

Fine, but then why the "Here we go beyond the anecdotes" comment when the question didn't even ask about "intensive methods" or "square foot gardening"?

Quoting multiple references, regardless of their source, doesn't accomplish anything IF those references are not relevant to the question that was asked so I am not asking for even more references, only relevant ones.

I don't have disease or pest problems with Toms and Romas in particular. Rotate soil, use compost and drip water.

I'm happy for you. Unfortunately that is not the case for most of us and it is especially problematic in the southern portions of the country from Zone 7 on down. That is one reason why many growers living here generally recommend much greater spacing of tomato plants whenever possible and numerous scientific studies also support that reasoning.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 1:05AM
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Hello digdirt,

You assume the anecdotes was aimed at you. I typically address people specifically if it is not the OP. My comments are also anecdotal evidence without references so I provided them and is why I phrased them as plural or "anecdotes", which is what they are. Apparently you believe I am speaking directly to you. I am not. When I do speak to you, I will address you with "Hello digdirt" specifically and you may expect me to politely address you as such. You are so far the only one in this forum who seems to take general comments personally. Such posts as these are dual purposed to answer an individual question as well as provide general information else this would be email.
I told him that it is unlikely to have a disease problem based upon the facts I presented because growing them 18" is standard practice with experience Roma growers. Using CRW for Romas is completely unnecessary and overkill for such a small plant.
The recommendation for Romas is typically staked at 18" for maximum yield which is the goal for paste tomatoes. He is essentially asking if they are ok to have them according to the recommend space in which case it would be a yes. If ones priority is to have nice cages then by all means one could even add a yard gnome if they wish. I should have added go in and stake them. Texas cages or CRWs are for large indeterminate plants that one does not wish to prune or low maintenance.Lastly as I have said Roma VF has excellent disease resistance in general.

If you have a reference specific to Romas or paste type tomatoes I would be glad to read it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 2:03PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No, I'm not quite egotistical to think that your comments are directed at me personally, merely that they are directed to all who have posted on the question prior to you.

That is why I take issue with your oft critical or sarcastic opening comments. If you do not intend criticism of what has already been posted by others then those comments serve no useful purpose.

It is quite easy to post your opinion on an issue without first belittling the opinions of all who have addressed the question before you. Simply state your opinion as the rest do and do try to make it relevant to the question asked. That way the OP and the rest who read the post are free to choose from the opinions offered or to ignore them.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 3:03PM
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Hello digdirt,

I said nothing in the spirit of sarcasm at all in this thread. It appears that the first comment that offended you in another thread was the "row gardener" comment and I amended that statement as being too blunt. As I stated row gardening space requirements are not generally applicable or desirable when maximizing space. People with experience in row gardening do not have the same goals as the space restricted and was not addressing you at all. You did however proceeded to explain my results without understanding the context such as true soil depth not knowing I used a weed blocker. Why not just ask a polite probing question? You also seemed to ridicule me about the watering which is applicable to all SFG gardeners BTW. You have also expressed incredulity at SFG gardening methods about 6 inches of soil and you did not merely state you opinion and move as you suggest I do. I don't rate your responses as particularly delicate any more than mine. It is the consistent pattern that you have directed every comment at me while I have only responded to you in defense. I have never addressed you except in this context. You also state, in error, that I was arguing for intensive or SFG methods. What I cite was standard practice that one my find on the back of a seed packet of Romas that goes from 15" to 18". I do not even know what you mean? You have assumed much so far. That is my current assessment. Am I in error on this assessment?

I fail to see how it is offensive to identify anecdotes as anecdotes unless one is anticipating a hostile context.

- a short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical.

I provided my own anecdote of my experience and at which point no one provided any actual technical or referenced point of view. My first post was the anecdote and my second post was the research behind it. Opinions basically are anecdotal evidence. You happened to add your own anecdote.

It is a shame actually because you do make great points and I actually agreed with you with the transparent containers or the indoor tomato forest our new friend had grown and simply tried to build on it. You did not choose to notice that for example just the bad. If you want my advice ask for clarity instead of summarizing the results prematurely. I did like your pictures and you have a great example of how it can be done when you have space as a resource. The initial exchange seems to have colored everything that has followed and I do not think the situation is what you have laid it out to be. But its seems that you find it an insult when I disagree with you... or even when we agree . May we move on?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 5:14PM
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Thanks for the info guys. I really didn't mean to start a war. The cages might be overkill, but these plants are filling them up nicely. I also have some of my garden in SFG, but thought it would be a waste of space because tomatoes grow so well in our NC clay. I think for now, I'll just leave these plants alone. I've got loads of green fruit. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 10:43AM
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Thanks solanaceae! Your fact-based answer really helped me when considering spacing. I'll have to use stakes due to space issues, but regardless of the type of support thanks for concisely answering the issue of spacing!

I could only space them at 18", but feel better knowing that will work well.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 9:24AM
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Thanks solanaceae, your informative post has benefited many more (including the original poster). Most people forget that these posts are search-able vis google, and has much larger reach than just posters on this forum.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:53PM
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