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Tomato plants too close together...

Posted by winstella 10b los angeles (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 3:03

I planted 2 tomatoes in a 2x2ft box. They're now super close together. Should I prune all the branches that are touching (essentially only having half my tomato branches on each?) or just leave them be? I don't think I'll go through the trouble of digging one out and replanting.

One is Roma, the other is yellow brandywine.

First year gardening... Won't be growing so close together again next time. Guy at the gardening center said I could fit 3 in this box :/ lies!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

What kinds of tomato varieties are they ?
Determinat or indeterminat ? Bush,?

This post was edited by seysonn on Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 15:37


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

You said Roma and Yellow Brandywine in your OP so we know the name of the varieties.

The YB will quickly over-shadow the Roma and the YB could really use the room. If you are willing to sacrifice the Roma (which is a blah tomato anyway IMO) that is what I would do. Just cut it off at the soil line and let the YB - a MUCH better tomato - have the box.

But the important thing is you have learned the lesson about avoiding over-crowding and using 1 plant per container.

That particular nursery sure have given you some weird advice on several issues. Might want to keep that in mind for next year. :)

Dave

PS: You are going to need stakes or cage for that YB and get it in now to avoid root damage.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I'd be more inclined to dig down and see if I could salvage some roots on the Roma and put that in another pot.

Linda


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Dave- yes, I realized that a long time ago but unfortunately got all that advice at the same time. I try to avoid that place when possible and only go now for emergency supplies since it's close to my house. I never ask for advice anymore! The funny thing is, if he had just told me I need one container per plant, I would have just bought more containers from them.

Sigh. I might just pull out the Roma. I think even if I tried to dig out the Roma, I'd probably end up damaging the brandy wine because they're so close together.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

That is a very nice looking planter box.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Thanks! Hahaha


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I think after this season I'm gonna put a dwarf mandarin in it, or perhaps move my Meyer lemon into it. Seems like a little too much space for just one tomato plant a year.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Don't pull the plant and don't dig you will only damage the BW roots in the process. That's why I said just cut it off at soil level. If you want to save the Roma then take a cutting or two off of it to root and then cut off the mother plant. Plant the rooted cutting elsewhere.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Not too much space for one tomato. You'll learn soon enough that it's barely sufficient.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

.......that it's barely sufficient....

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

I don't thinks so. That planter has over 30 gallons of capacity. Normal recommendation per plant is 10 to 15 gallons.
( 2*2*1.5*6.45* 0.85 = 32.90 Dry gal.)
The reason for not to plant TWO is not because of the soil volume, but because it does not have enough surface area to accommodate the top. Most tomato spacing requirement is to accommodate the top not the roots.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 18:44

I'd be curious as to who's 'normal recommendation' for
a tomato plant is 10 to 15 gallons.

I'm adding a link that discusses tomato plant roots. At one
point they say

the plant drew its nourishment from a circle about 4.5
feet in diameter or from an area of about 16 square feet.
'

Not exactly the size of a 10 to 15 gallon pot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato root development


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 20:18

I'd be curious as to who's 'normal recommendation' for
a tomato plant is 10 to 15 gallons.

That isn't a "normal recommendation" merely the common response to those who want to use 5 gallons or less containers instead. And yes, you'd be amazed how many think they can grow an indeterminate tomato plant in even less than 5 gallons. :)

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

the plant drew its nourishment from a circle about 4.5
feet in diameter or from an area of about 16 square feet.'
(gaguy)
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So, you think this should be the "Norma Space recommendation "? That is 20 square feet of real estate.

I have built a 4ft by 5ft raised bed (=20 sqr-ft). By your account I should plant Just ONE tomato plant in it !!. But I will plant SIX (6) plants in it.

Some roots might go that far(not all) but then the plants can share a common space next to each other and co exist peacefully. Tomato is an annual for most of us and it has a life span of about 5 months in the garden.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 1:24

Did I say that normal space recommendation should be
20 square feet? I did not. I submitted a statement from a study that said that a
tomato plant can have roots that big. And it was 16 square
feet, not 20. A bit of a difference there. I made no recommendation
that you should use that as normal.

I use a raised bed that's 30 inches wide and space the
plants every 3 feet. That's about 7.5 square feet per plant.

I'd put 3 plants in a 20 square foot bed. But that's my
choice. You can put as many as you'd like, but in my
opinion, they'll be a bit crowded with 6 plants.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Did I say that normal space recommendation should be
20 square feet?
%%%%%%%%%%
You suggested it by quoting and saying that .

And 4.5 ft in diameter translate to 4.5f by 4.5f ( = 20.25 sqr-ft). We garden in units of squares.

Anyway, you choose to give more elbow room to your plants, That is fine. I have no problem with that. I am talking about OPTIMIZATION of resources.

Our judgment often is based on what we see (Visual). We see the plant's top, not what is going on in the ground.

The main purpose of plant's roots is to search for nutrients an moisture. In rich medium, they don't need to go too far. They have intelligence too. We have heard that if you water and fertilize in "SHALLOW" fashion, the roots will become lazy. But actually roots do the right thing, to go/grow where their needs are.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I'm not to sure that I would be too fussed... I routinely grow tomatoes in smaller spaces than that(1). There are lots of articles on "Intensive Agriculture" and even a Gardenweb forum on square-foot gardening. What it basically comes down to is that you can substitute care and attention for space. Plants need an extensive root system for (among other things) moisture and nutrient uptake, if you provide enough of both artificially then they wont have to compete with each other. The other space limiting issue is the vegetative canopy, in your case the Brandywine is likely going to outgrow the Roma unless it is pruned regularly (it will also want a trellis of some sort). If you can keep on top of the pruning and provide enough sun to both plants I don't see why you need worry.

In fact, treat it as a learning opportunity, if you have the time it could be fun.

(1)in 10"X10"X24" boxes I have 1 Tomato, 1 Pepper and 1 Basil plant, it is a lot of work but it is possible.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

If there's sufficient root development and food, the plant will do well, even if full root growth is curtailed.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I notice ajames is in zone 5. Assuming the growing season isn't very long, ajames's plants probably wouldn't grow as large as in warmer/longer-season areas. So smaller plant size might explain why the smaller containers work in that situation?


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 13:44

And 4.5 ft in diameter translate to 4.5f by 4.5f ( = 20.25 sqr-ft). We garden in units of squares.

If a circle is being discussed, you use the following:

The area of a circle is A = pi X r squared.

Therefore in the example I quoted, 3.14 X 2.25 squared
or 3.14 X 5.0625

or 15.884

The calculation above is for the area of a square or
rectangle, not a circle.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Hm. I just got back from a 2 week vacation, was about to go out and cut the Roma but It looks like Mother Nature may have taken care of my problem for me? The brandy wine is now growing straight up, whilst the roma is now growing out and over to the side! Yes I know I need to cage them soon, I left my cages at a friends house and haven't picked them up yet.

Perhaps they can coexist in this container after all. I'll let them be and see how they do.

I do prune suckers religiously but all of my tomato plants have split into two main stems. Should I cut off a stem on each, or let them be and just continue to prune suckers?


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 15:31

That's your call.

Pruning cuts production for sure.

On the other hand, in such a small area, you might be
better off with one stem. It will be easier to control later.

I prune to 4 stems and it's a lot of work to keep them under control.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

missingtheobvious wrote:

"I notice ajames is in zone 5. Assuming the growing season isn't very long, ajames's plants probably wouldn't grow as large as in warmer/longer-season areas. So smaller plant size might explain why the smaller containers work in that situation?"

I don't know that the season is all that short (sure go ahead rub it in why don't you!) I try to only grow determinate plants in the containers, since they are on my deck and I do have to keep them pruned to between 3.5 and 4 feet but I have done both Red and Black Zebra. In the garden the real monsters like Paul Robson, Jaune Flamme, Black Krim and the other big indeterminate's quickly get 5-6 feet tall and I'm pruning them by mid July (though I doubt that will happen this year). I'm not sure if that is good for a warmer area but I do do better than most others around here.

Anyway I'm not claiming it is easy, just that it is possible. I tend to think about it and treat it more like hydroponics with dirt as a growing media...


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 17:26

I do prune suckers religiously

Why? It sure isn't required for any reason.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

winstella, I was raised to prune tomatoes to a single stem. After several years of doing so, I noticed that production was way too low and some of the fruit suffered from sunburn -- which they wouldn't have if there'd been a few more leaves to shade them. The year my parents moved away (and I lost my garden space), I had intended to be daring and leave the bottom-most sucker unpruned for a total of 2 -- count them, 2! -- stems.

Now I'm retired and out of the city and have my own garden, and other than the bottom several inches, I don't prune tomato suckers at all.

L I B E R A T I O N !


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I agree with ajsmama.
It has nothing to do with zone. Tomatoes in general have a short life span, be it in CT, TX, FL, CA. or WA. Probably 6 months is about max. After that either cold kills them or they would just get tired,

You provide care , as ajsmama said (that is nutrients, moisture, sun air circulation, disease control ) that is what plants need. Of course, I am not suggesting to grow them in a cup, but 15 to 20 gallon of in ground root space should be enough. The spacing requirements mostly is to accommodate the top and gardener's convenience, not so much for the roots system.

I plant them in 18" square with over 18" depth. that is that is over 18 dry gal. of root space. Then I stake and do pruning to keep main plus two laterals. At the end of season I end up with tons of green small tomatoes, just good for pickling.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 22:23

Yeah you have reiterated it over and over so it isn't really necessary to repeat it again. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

Some focus on optimizing their available space, others prefer to focus on optimizing their plants' health and production.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%
That is just fine. We don't have or need to convince anybody.

As far as optimizing : By optimizing the space usage, I also optimize production. I can get more fruits out of 3 plants than from just one planted in the same space.

THE MATH:
3' by 3' = 9 sqr-ft

3* (20" by 20" )= ~ 8.5 sqr-ft


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Fortunately, vegetable gardening as opposed to citrus or other gardens where the initial outlay is costly and errors aren't easy to correct, is an annual learning process.
The forum here is a good place to hear what others have experienced with their tomato adventures.
Of course, sometimes there are a few tall tales woven in, but if you read enough, you can get enough info to make a good choice. And you can always try again, different, next year.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Wait... So I don't have to prune??? Just let them grow????!!!


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Winstella,

Pruning decreases production.

Last year I pruned some branches that were hanging over the pathway. This year I sited the plants with their full size in my siting plan, I will not prune at all.
I want to harvest tomatoes, and the leaves (and roots) produce those tomatoes. Shorting either one, leaves or roots, means less for me, so I won't do that.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 10:20

Seriously? Of course you don't have to prune. That is why I asked you why you do it.

Removing what some people call "suckers" is optional, not required for any reason. And it costs you production.

That they supposedly suck energy from the plant or because they never produce fruit is just an old wives tale.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

What is called "sucker" is just branching out and new growth.

The reason they are called "sucker" is probably they grow in multitude and most of them grow too late to have enough time to bear rip fruits before the end of season. So in this case, they are wasting the pants' resources, as far as THE GARDENER is concerned.
It has been widely believed that pruning the "suckers" can result in bigger fruits and can hepl the fruit ripen faster.

Look at it this way: A new branch out/sucker is like an investment that the plant is making for its future down the road. The tomato plant has no idea about limitation in season and weather condition. So then the investment it makes most often does not have a payback. This is true in TX (heat kills them) true, in CT cold kills them.

The opponent of prunnin say that it(pruning) is not REQUIRED.
Well, nobody has claimed that it IS. By the same logic "NOT PRUNING" is NOt required either. At this point call both methods OPTIONAL.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Seem to be a lot of old wives around this year.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I'm late to the discussion here, but I' ll add another consideration for toato plant spacing: foliage diseases. Your plants need enough room for good air flow through the leaves. That means, if you stake or cage them, you can plant them closer. If you let them sprawl, like I do sinse I plant a lot of tomato plants and have the room, they need to be farther apart.The laves from one plant shouldn't overlap another.

But this also means you have to take into consideration the types of plants you are growing before you plant them. Determinate plants are more compact, but are hard to stake, and caging makes them grow too dense for good air flow. But for a few notable exceptions such as Celebrity
or the Mountain series, determinate tomatoes are usually on the small side, like Roma.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I'm late to the discussion here, but I' ll add another consideration for toato plant spacing: foliage diseases. Your plants need enough room for good air flow through the leaves. That means, if you stake or cage them, you can plant them closer. If you let them sprawl, like I do sinse I plant a lot of tomato plants and have the room, they need to be farther apart.The laves from one plant shouldn't overlap another.

But this also means you have to take into consideration the types of plants you are growing before you plant them. Determinate plants are more compact, but are hard to stake, and caging makes them grow too dense for good air flow. But for a few notable exceptions such as Celebrity
or the Mountain series, determinate tomatoes are usually on the small side, like Roma.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 12:39

Sucker got that name because of the old belief that they suck energy from the plants. What they actually are are lateral branches.

No, most of them do not grow too late to have enough time to bear ripe fruits before the end of season. Maybe for you but not for most of us. Lateral branches begin developing from the day of plant out and on some
varieties they are the primary source of fruit - even for folks in TX and CN and WA.

It has been widely believed that pruning the "suckers" can result in bigger fruits and can hepl the fruit ripen faster.

Widely believed? No. Argued, maybe but proven? No. Thinning of blooms in a truss will often result in bigger fruit but faster ripening is merely an unsubstantiated claim.

Well, nobody has claimed that it IS.

Ahhh if only that were true. The claim that someone read somewhere that it is required or that someone's neighbor or cousin or great grandma said it is required comes up here almost weekly. Not to mention all the youtube videos and blogs that claim it is required.

No one ever says you cannot prune or even that you shouldn't prune for some reasons. But there sure are many folks out there you claim you are required to prune.

Dave


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Your plants need enough room for good air flow through the leaves. (terry)
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

That is partly true. A huge indeterminant, if not pruned won't allow much air flow within itself If you don't prune it, it can grow so thick that not much air can flow through its foliage, thus air stagnation and being prone to airborne and soil borne diseases, especially in wet and rainy climates.

So here is another potential benefit of pruning .


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

Posted by lucille Houston (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 11:30

Seem to be a lot of old wives around this year.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
That is a classic logical fallacy in the absence of a presenting a view point.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

  • Posted by qaguy Sunset 21/LosAngeles (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 1:34

Also not mentioned is the fact that when the plants
get really big, the sunlight won't get to the center of
the plants.

Sometimes with really big plants, fruit gets 'lost' inside
all those leaves. I've heard it called the 'jungle factor'.

I'm a pruner and I do it because I have a small area in
which to grow and I like to grow a number (9 this year)
of different varieties. I still get more fruit that I can eat
or process.

I would love to have the luxury of a huge garden and
putting up great big CRW cages or letting the plants
just sprawl all over. But I don't. So I use cages and
prune heavily.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

This is what my 15gal galvanized bucket has in it:
1 part peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1 generous part compost
(square foot gardening style)
And in it is 1 red cherry tomato, seems to be a determinate variety
1 Super Sweet 100 tomato (this guy will be climbing right out of his cage and over the side before the season is out)
5 top bunch collards (I pluck a little from each to eat and they don't reach full size, but if they somehow do fill in too much I'll pull a few)
And 2 small marigolds for companion plants. If they get too big I'll pull them.
Here is the Pot and next post is the red cherry's productivity.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

I should also note, the red cherry was sending up lots of suckers from the dirt line and before the main stalk had a chance to grow well or establish a good root system. So I pinched off the dirt line suckers and clipped several of the lowest leaves that were crowding the container. I also pinched the blossoms off when I bought it from the nursery. Now that it is established, I'll let it have it's way. Same goes for the younger SS100 tomato.


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RE: Tomato plants too close together...

So my response to the original poster would be: Do what floats your boat. I like your idea of making it a grand experiment to see how they do that close. And it sounds that, like me, you may be short on dirt real estate not trellising power. I think that changes how a person chooses to grow their plants.

Also, if there was just one, right, good, proven true method for growing tomatoes, there wouldn't be so many varied opinions on the matter.

And hey, maybe my tomato bucket will not reach it's full potential, I certainly know what a fully grown, fully productive SS100 tomato looks like, so if it doesn't work this time, I will know. But isn't that the fun of gardening? Trying new things, experimenting and finding a personal favorite method for growing things?


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