You’re taking out the time to grow your own tomato garden instead of buying vegetables from the store. It should at least provide sufficiently for the family, if not for the neighbours and relatives. Grow to few or lose some young plants to frost and you will only end up with enough for a small salad. You will still have to make a trip to the farmer’s market if you plan on making salsa or tomato soup.
So how many tomato plants should I plant for a family of say, 4? How many tomato plants will suffice for an individual’s requirements? And how many tomato plants can go in your vegetable plot without crowding the space? You’ll need to consider all of these factors if you want to be self-sufficient in tomatoes!
How Much Does A Single Tomato Plant Yield?
The question isn’t an easy one to answer since the yield depends on multiple factors. The type of variety you are growing, the environmental conditions and whether or not it’s trellised will all affect the size of the harvest.
Determinate VS Indeterminate Tomato Varieties
Indeterminate varieties generally produce more than the determinate ones. That’s because the determinate varieties only set the flower clusters once. They set all the fruits at once, after which the growing season ends. The indeterminate varieties, in contrast, keep producing fruits until frost kills the plant. You’ll generally find a much greater yield from indeterminate tomatoes than you would with determinate varieties.
Trained Or Staked
The way you grow your tomatoes also affects its yield. Training tomato plants will maximize their exposure to the sun and prevent soil-borne diseases. By staking your tomato plants, you can expect a yield of 8 to 10 pounds per plant. When trained expertly by a trellis or a cage, you can even get a 15 to 20-pound harvest per plant.
Tomatoes are sun-loving cultivars. If you plant at a suitable time of the year in nutrient-rich soil and water them just enough to keep the soil consistently moist, you can expect a bigger yield. Plants growing in warm soil with warm surrounding air can yield up to 20 to 25 pounds per season, provided it’s supported suitably.
How Many Tomato Plants Should I Plant?
So now you know how many pounds of juicy tomatoes should you be expecting from a well-maintained tomato plant. But the question that remains unanswered is “How many tomato plants should I plant?”
How Many Tomato Plants Per Person?
It really depends on your use. If you’re planning to prepare several quart jars of marinara sauce or salsa to consume for the rest of the year, you may even need up to 15 tomato plants in your garden. It will take around 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes to prepare 7 quarts of sauce, so plan accordingly.
If you only plan on using fresh tomatoes for regular everyday meals, a small tomato garden is enough. Plant 2 tomato plants per person. So if you have a family of four to feed, 8 healthy tomato plants are good enough. I would say to also consider more in case you lose some young seeds to pests. Many times year on year I have lost tomato plants to the slugs. Always grow a few more than you need.
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Size of garden
Once you’ve decided on the number of tomato plants you’ll need, don’t squeeze them all in a tiny garden plot. Competing for sunlight, nutrients, space and water, they won’t be able to thrive or produce to their maximum capacity.
Square foot garden
Square foot gardening is an excellent technique for growing tomatoes. The spacing is relatively simple since, for most varieties, one tomato plant per foot square would do perfectly. Early Girl, Black Cherry, and Brandywine are excellent options for such type of gardening since they tend to grow vertically, taking little space along the grid square. Bigger varieties, like “Roma” and “Celebrity”, might take multiple squares per plant in your square foot garden.
Gardening in rows
For most varieties, 18 to 24 inches spacing between the plants in a single row should do fine. Smaller varieties of tomatoes can be planted closer together, with about a 12 inches gap between the individual plants. Space the rows about 36 inches apart.
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4×4 raised bed
If you don’t have too much free space in your garden, don’t give up on your dream of fresh homegrown tomatoes. For a small family of 3, or even 4, a compact 4×4 raised bed will do well. For most varieties, 5 plants will easily fit into a raised bed of this size, with a plant in each corner, and one in the center. For most determinate varieties, you can even squeeze in 6 plants per 4×4 raised bed, spacing them about 24 inches apart. However, do remember to trellis them so they can grow vertically.
So did you find your answer to “how many tomato plants should I plant“? If not, start thinking in terms of what recipes you’re planning for this season’s harvest, size of your family and the size of the garden plot where you’ll be growing them to come up with a solid answer.