You have prepared your raised bed. You have gathered all the correct materials and tools. You bought the best topsoil, edging material, vegetable safe fertilizer, mulch, garden hose, tomato cages etc. But all of this preparation may go to waste if you don’t put your tomato plants in a favorable distance from each other. Let’s learn more about tomato plant spacing in a raised bed.
Being the juicy, tangy, umami-flavoured red fruit, tomato goes into cooking almost anything. Tomato pulps and sauces work as a great condiment.
Tomatoes give the food a little bit of extra color, depth and richness. Adding tomatoes in salads increases its nutritional value by a great deal. But eating tomatoes mass-produced in farms and processed in factories can be very harmful considering the number of chemicals that goes into them.
It is always better to grow your vegetables on your own if you have the means. All you need is a little bit of space in your backyard. You can also use containers to grow vegetables inside your apartment or home. However, it is always the best option to grow vegetables in a raised garden bed.
You can build your own DIY raised bed in your backyard or you can have them built according to your budget. In both cases raised beds are always a creative solution to a lot of gardening problems. It gives the plants to spread their roots deeper than normal gardens or containers. It also protects your garden from weeds and infections.
The most important aspect of gardening in a raised bed is the solution to the drainage problem. Raised beds have excellent drainage. So it helps your plants get sufficiently hydrated. Also raised bed gives you the option to easily customize the soil that you put in it.
It becomes easy to change the soil or mix new soil into the old one. Always remember to use good wood or synthetic materials for the walls of your raised beds. If the walls start to rot then the quality of the soil will be compromised.
Also Read: Is Peat Moss Good for Tomatoes?
First, Let’s Look into the Basics
Before getting into ‘how far apart to plant tomatoes in a raised bed’, we first need to take a look at the basics. You first need to confirm that you have done everything right before it comes to planting the trees.
First talk about the tools and materials required for raised bed gardening. The tools that you will need are – mulch, spade, garden hose, tiller, spading fork, tomato cages, hard rake etc.
The materials that you will need are water, topsoil, compost, cow manure, edging material/flour, tomato plants, vegetable safe fertilizer etc. The things that you need to do next are mentioned below –
- First, you have to choose the right spot for building a raised bed. You have to confirm that it is level and free of excess debris.
- You have to choose a spot that is close to a water source. Remember, you also have to form your raised bed in a place where your plants can receive almost 8 hours of daily sunlight. Sunlight is a crucial thing any more or less than required will ruin your tomato plants.
- You have to get rid of any sod. Get the tiller and use it to turn and loosen the soil. If the tiller is not enough use the spade. Turn the soil enough time so the deep-rooted plants can penetrate and go deeper. Tomato plants have very deep roots and a bushy texture.
- Now it’s time to fill the raised bed. But before outline the raised bed with edging material properly. Calculate the amount of topsoil that will be needed.
- The most important part of your raised bed is the soil. You have to create the right mixture of soil that is rich in nutrients. Tomato plants need heavy feeding soil to grow properly. You can also buy a good mix of topsoil from a local farmer. Always prefer rich organic soil. For the top one-third of the topsoil mix and apply two to three inches of cow manure and compost.
- Fit the garden hose on your raised bed. If you have any other watering method, fix that properly before beginning. Water the bed regularly. Don’t let it dry or it can cause blossom end rot in future.
Now it is time to plant the saplings.
Also Read: How to Keep Birds Away from Tomatoes?
How Close can You Plant Tomatoes in a Raised Bed?
Before determining the distance between tomato plants you first need to set the rows. If you have enough space width-wise on your raised bed you will be able to fit more than two rows.
Remember to leave space between the walls and rows too. Do not plant your tomato seedlings close to the wall. It will result in uneven growth of the plant. Ideally, you should leave about four feet distance between your rows.
If fitting more than two rows compromises the right space between the plants and walls, don’t do it. Your plants and the roots will need breathing space. It also provides you with enough gap to work on your plants.
Also Read: How to Control White Lines on Tomato Leaves?
How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes in a Raised Bed?
By now you must have gotten in a pretty good idea about all the preparations you need to grow tomatoes in a raised bed. All of the preliminary steps are very essential before you start planting. So without further adieu, let’s get into how to space the tomato plants in your raised bed garden.
The amount of space needed in between two tomato plants especially in a raised bed is totally dependent on the type of tomato you are growing.
Tomatoes can be grown on bushy plants or plants that grow like a vine. While one of these can easily be grown close to each other, the other type needs a lot of space in between to grow properly.
There are two types of tomato plants regarding the spacing. You can find both in any supermarkets or nurseries. Below you can find more details on the types and how much space they will need to grow and borne fruit –
#1 Determinate tomato plants
- The more popular variety, ‘Determinate tomato plants’ are also popularly known as ‘bush tomatoes’. This type of tomato plants can grow about 3 to 4 feet tall depending on different genetic factors. You will find all the details on the package of your seeds.
- Or the nursery will provide you with the exact details. This type of bushy shape helps the plant to grow and ripen all the tomatoes simultaneously. Therefore you will end up with all the ripe tomatoes at once when the time comes.
- In case of determinate tomatoes, you will have to preserve the tomatoes after harvesting. Determinate tomatoes are usually bred to be smaller. They can be left without any support provided.
- But to support a heavy grow you can put up a cage around the plant. This dwarf variety of tomato plants should be e planted 18 inches apart. But since they are small and bushy they can be planted as close as 12 inches apart. But any more closer than that will affect the harvest.
#2 Indeterminate tomato plants
The variety of determinate plants grow and stop. But indeterminate tomato plants will not stop until they are pruned or killed by Frost. This type of tomato plants is taller than the bushy dwarf determinate tomato plants. Indeterminate tomato plants can grow up to 6 to 8 feet if enough support provided.
They are called ‘vining tomatoes’ because they create vines as they grow. Sturdy support like wire cages, trellises and stakes are used to grow these plants. Otherwise, they tend to stack on each other. Stacked plants will neither grow tall nor bourne a good amount of fruits.
These plants usually grow upwards. They produce tomato over a long period of time. That is why it is ideal for households that don’t have the perfect preserving facility.
Indeterminate tomato plants need more than 18 inches of space between each other to breed and grow perfectly. The ideal space between two indeterminate tomato plants should be around 24 inches. They need a lot of airflow and sunlight between each other.
Pruning is Important
Now you have got your tomato saplings planted in an ideal distance from each other. If you give a proper amount of water and fertilizer you will get a decent amount of growth on your plants. Growing plants will need pruning to give you to the perfect amount of fruits of great size. Pruning will keep the health of your plant in a good condition and provide all the nutrients for the fruit.
Determinate tomato plants will not need any pruning. But indeterminate tomato plants that grow vines on stakes may need regular pinching to remove suckers.
Suckers drain your plant’s resources and affect the production of fruits.
Suckers are little sprouts that grow in the tight corners between branches and the main stem. If you leave a sucker unattended it will grow bigger. Eventually, it will become another branch. It may grow more flowers and fruits on it.
But it is best to pluck them if your plant already has a sufficient amount of branches that can bear big fruits. If suckers are left on the plant then the overall number of flowers and the size of fruits will decrease.
That is why it is best to keep pruning regularly. Spacing and Pruning both are very important for your plants’ growth.
What Happens If You Plant Tomatoes too Close Together
It is very easy to idly plant tomato seedlings closer and hope for more fruit. You may think more trees will bear more fruit. But you are wrong. Tomato plants that are grown in closer than recommended space will also invite many other problems. Such as,
- Deadly Diseases: If plants are left in close proximity they barely can breathe. Very little airflow contributes to a very humid surrounding. Sprayed or condensed water will form little drops under the leaves and on the stem.
This will be the doom of many plants as it will easily nurture bacterial colonies and pests that thrive in humid situations. Leaves will start to discolor and curl. Fruits will be attacked by viruses. Your tomatoes will rot before they are ripe.
- Stunted Growth of Plants: Agriculture is the process of growing more food with lesser resources. If you think more precisely it is the way to minimize a whole ecosystem of plants with your help.
Your plants compete with weeds for resources. That’s why you need to remove them before they can grow. If you plant too many plants your plants fight with each other for resources. Thus they stunt each other’s growth by becoming each other’s weed.
- Sufficient amount of Sunlight:
Tomatoes are summer fruits. They need a decent amount of sunlight. While heat can harm your fruit ripening process, less than eight hours of sunlight cannot provide enough photon rays for your plants to help them grow.
Tomato plants will not get enough light in close proximity. Only the top parts of the plants will stay green. Bottom branches and leaves shadowed by each other will become pale.
- Lesser Fruits: They great amount of plants in close proximity will result in lesser fruits. Because unhealthy stunted plants will not be able to produce bigger fruits with more flesh. Rather the plants may start to bear lesser fruits. Some plants decrease the size of the fruits. Fruits grown in these crowded conditions are known to have lesser flesh and rot faster.
Suitable Space Enables the Plants to:
- The appropriate amount of sunlight to reach the bottom ends of plants.
- Sufficient airflow between neighboring plants.
- Perfect distribution of resources such as water and fertilizer.
- Proper maintenance of plants with support from stakes, cages or trellises.
- Enough space for the gardener to work in between and easily harvest fruits.