Growing tomatoes in a limited garden space is nothing but easy. No wonder they’re so popular in American vegetable gardens. Not everyone has a large backyard to grow rows of tomatoes. If you have a small garden, all you’ll need is a little bit of calculation and some planning to make the most out of the space and pull out loads of fresh homegrown tomatoes.
One of the most important things you’ll need to figure out before getting started is how many tomato plants to grow without getting them too crowded. How many tomato plants per square foot is recommended for healthy growth? Continue reading and you’ll learn all about spacing tomato plants before you can grow yourself a thriving tomato garden!
How Far Apart To Plant Tomatoes
Tomatoes come in several different varieties. Different varieties grow differently; some have a more compact and bushy growth, while some can grow into extensive vines. As a general rule, space them anywhere between 18 to 24 inches apart, depending on the cultivar you’re growing.
How Many Tomatoes Per Square Foot
According to the spacing guidelines you learned above, you can grow a single tomato plant per square foot. Square foot gardening is a popular technique to grow vegetables in urban gardens. If that’s what you have in mind, you’ll be allocating one grid square to each tomato plant.
However, since some varieties can extend beyond the square space, it’s important to choose compact tomato plants for square foot gardening. Early Girl and Brandywine varieties are perfect choices since they grow compact and taller, extending to a smaller width.
If you’re growing standard varieties, however, you may need to allocate four grid squares (4 square feet) to each plant. As for the larger varieties, including beefsteaks and slicing tomatoes, grow a single plant per 9 square feet for best results.
Best Varieties For Square Foot Gardening
As already mentioned, different tomato varieties have different growing habits. Determinate tomatoes grow short and bushy, while indeterminate tomatoes have a more vining growth. For square foot gardening, you’ll need to look for compact, bushy determinate tomatoes that don’t take too much width. Alternatively, you can go for vining tomatoes and stake them vertically to reduce their footage.
Cherry tomatoes are one of the best varieties to grow in a square foot garden. No matter which cultivar you choose to grow, as long as it’s a cherry variety, it won’t require more than a square foot of growing space.
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Here are some popular varieties that will work great for square foot gardens:
- Sun Sugar
- Green Grape
- Black Cherry
- Early Girl
Tips To Growing Tomatoes In A Square Foot Garden
If you want to keep the growth compact so the tomato plants growing in your square foot garden don’t interfere with each other’s sunlight or nutrient supply, there are some practices to follow.
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Staking the tomato plants helps them grow vertically so they take little horizontal space and there’s ample air circulation between the plants even when growing close together. You can install a pole next to each tomato plant and tie the branches to the pole as the plant progresses. Alternatively, you can use a trellis or a wire fence to achieve the same benefits. As for determinate tomatoes with bushy growth, you can use a tomato cage to keep them from expanding beyond their horizontal space.
Tomato plants will need frequent pruning to keep them from overcrowding each other, especially when grown in limited space. Without pruning, tomato plants can easily overcrowd each other, lose their vigor and result in smaller and less tastier tomatoes. Instead, prune the plant periodically in an attempt to maintain the main stem and at most one side branch. Continue pinching out suckers as soon as they appear from the joint made by the main stem and the side branch.
If allowed to progress, these suckers grow into new branches, weakening the plant and overcrowding the neighboring plants. Pruning the suckers allows the plant to focus their energy on flowering and fruiting instead of growing more stems and foliage. With more energy going towards fruit production, you can expect a bigger and tastier harvest.
If you want to make the most out of limited space, you’ll have to protect your tomato plants from pests and diseases. Keep track of where you grow which crops each season. Don’t plant tomatoes on the same spot where you grew them last year. Additionally, avoid planting tomatoes at locations where eggplant, strawberries, potatoes or peppers have been growing in the last three years. Rotating your tomatoes to protect them from diseases will ensure that each square foot of your growing space is productive to its maximum potential.
Even with the tips, it’s important to realize that most of the varieties will grow best when allocated 4 square feet for each tomato plant.
How Much Can A Square Foot Yield?
A single healthy tomato plant can produce up to 20 pounds of tomatoes. If you’re growing small cherry tomatoes spaced a foot apart, you can expect over 160 to 400 tomatoes from a single tomato plant!
So you know how many tomato plants per square foot is a good idea if you want a productive garden with lots of red, juicy tomatoes at the end of the growing season. Remember that if you want to grow a tomato plant in each square foot of your garden, only go for small cherry varieties. If you want standard or large tomatoes in your garden, you’ll have to allocate at least 4 to 9 square feet to get a good yield.