navajo
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DOES SPACING REALLY MATTER

Yes, I know I have 2 threads going at the moment. I am just too bummed about this year!

When planting indeterminate tomatoes, how much does plant spacing really matter if the soil is rich?

I planted about 16 tomato plants this year (SFG spacing of 1' per plant) and they only grew to MAYBE 2' tall with tiny fruit. I mean, I ammended the beds with composted horse manure and vermicompost in the Spring and watered with ACT a couple times a week.

What gives?

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applestar
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Did you prune? Even with SFG, I believe the recommended spacing is at least 1'x2' block per plant -- I don't recall exactly though -- AND I believe you are supposed to prune to a single vine -- i.e. remove all "suckers" -- per plant.

INDETERMINATE tomatoes usually grow HUGE because they don't stop growing. Even determinates are generally big plants. I did have a one variety that was tiny in comparison -- about 2.5 ft tall at maturity. All the rest of tomatoes grew to the top of their 7 ft trellises and they fell over. They're all piled on top of each other right now because I wanted to see what would happen if I DIDN'T prune.

It will also depend on the physical depth of your soil. If you are planting in solid bottom containers as opposed to native soil, even compacted clay, it will make a huge difference in the amount of root space available for the plants to grow in.

This article is a good reference: [url=https://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch26.html]ROOT DEVELOPMENT OF VEGETABLE CROPS CHAPTER XXVI: TOMATO[/url]

TZ -OH6
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Even with that close spacing they should have gotten much larger than 2 ft. 1 ft spacing would be similar to using 5 gal buckets for container growing.

What variety were the tomatoes? What did the plants look like (thin and scrawny?) What do the roots look like?

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microcollie
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applestar wrote: It will also depend on the physical depth of your soil. If you are planting in solid bottom containers as opposed to native soil, even compacted clay, it will make a huge difference in the amount of root space available for the plants to grow in.
I think this is a good point. I really crowded my tomatoes this year, but made sure to give them very deep soil. When I plant tomatoes, I remove the leaves from the bottom half of the plant, then bury the plant up to the first set of remaining leaves. This gives the plant a good start at plentiful, deep roots and makes for a more drought-tolerant plant. (Tomatoes will form roots all along their stems. In shallower soil, the same thing can be achieved by laying them sideways in a trench and burying most of the stem.) I planted 6 plants this way within a 3' x 3' area and they all prospered and grew to the 7 to 8 foot range.

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The first year I planted tomatoes in 5 gal pots, they grew about 4-5 feet tall. I used 15 gal containers for larger tomatoes and 10 gal for cherries this year. The cherries are all way over 8 feet and sprawling all over the place. The rest were in the 6-8 foot range because I did some pruning to contain the garden.

My neighbors use raised beds and their tomatoes never get larger than 2-3 feet and the tomatoes ripen much later than mine. I truly believe it has everything to do with the depth of the soil (quality as well).

As for spacing the pots, they really needed just a bit more room and I am planning for that next year.

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rainbowgardener
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Aren't you the one in a different post said you planted in 6" of soil, with plastic underneath?

If this applies to the tomatoes too, not nearly enough soil to support them. You can't make up for that with just adding some nutrients. Also, when the tomatoes are done for the season, you should pull some and look at the roots, it will give you a better sense of what was going on. It's possible with the plastic under it, the soil at the bottom was staying too wet, even though the surface dried out. That could cause root rot or just starve the roots, because they can't get enough oxygen.

And yes spacing does matter. The plants need some room to spread out and spread their roots without competing with other roots. I put 5 tomato plants in a 4x8' bed and a lot of people would think that's too close. Yes some people plant closer and get good results. That depends on: experience, soil, pruning, climate. One thing about planting close is that it cuts down air circulation, making conditions more favorable to fungal diseases. In dry climates that's not so much an issue, but in my humidity it is a very big deal.
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navajo
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applestar wrote:Did you prune? Even with SFG, I believe the recommended spacing is at least 1'x2' block per plant -- I don't recall exactly though -- AND I believe you are supposed to prune to a single vine -- i.e. remove all "suckers" -- per plant.

INDETERMINATE tomatoes usually grow HUGE because they don't stop growing. Even determinates are generally big plants. I did have a one variety that was tiny in comparison -- about 2.5 ft tall at maturity. All the rest of tomatoes grew to the top of their 7 ft trellises and they fell over. They're all piled on top of each other right now because I wanted to see what would happen if I DIDN'T prune.

It will also depend on the physical depth of your soil. If you are planting in solid bottom containers as opposed to native soil, even compacted clay, it will make a huge difference in the amount of root space available for the plants to grow in.

This article is a good reference: [url=https://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch26.html]ROOT DEVELOPMENT OF VEGETABLE CROPS CHAPTER XXVI: TOMATO[/url]
Ahhh where to start! :lol:

I mistyped that. I gave them 1'x2' of space per plant and (embarassingly enough) that IS me in the other post with the plastic bottom and 6" of soil. Be nice! I'm still learning here! HA!

Honestly the plants themselves look very nice and green and healthy (well, until lately), just very small. I haven't pulled any yet to look at the roots but probably will this weekend as I am chalking this year up to a "Learning Year". Now that I have been pondering this for a few days, I remember that they produced better the first year, but the plants were quite small then too.

As for varieties, mostly hybrids (celebrity, early girl, early boy, etc) and Rutgers oh and Roma too. None of them have amounted to anything. I did not prune any either. Didn't see the need since they never took off and really started growing.

I'll admit that my garden has been a bit more neglected this year due to personal life changing issues that started in June and are still ongoing. But I have tried to at least water, ACT alomost daily and my son has helped tremendously (you might remember him from the thread doing the growth experiment between big box compost and vermicompost earlier this year).

Also, yes, every time I up-pot in the Spring and when I plant in the garden, I strip off a good portion of the bottom leaves and bury the stem to get more roots.

OK, so for next year, take out the "good soil", rip off the plastic, dig down a good bit (6 or more inshes?), replace the "good soil" add more of the compost mix and try again.

Sound like it might work?

Once again, THANK YOU ALL for the help and understanding!

Tom

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gixxerific
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Don't feel bad we are all learning and we will always be learning. So chalk it up and be ready for the next adventure. :wink:

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applestar
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We all started not knowing anything. This is a good place to get a leg-up. :wink:

Another food for thought: I question this method you described -- "... I strip off a good portion of the bottom leaves and bury the stem to get more roots"

Remember, leaves are the energy factories. You take off the leaves and the plants have less to work with. What is "a good portion"? When I uppot from seedlings, I bury the seed leaves. When I uppot these, I bury the next set of leaves. When I plant them in the ground, I bury the next set of leaves again, *maybe* 2 sets. But I don't go "stripping" leaves off. When I say I "bury" -- I clip them off and put them in the bottom of the hole.

Because I try to get the plants in the ground early, I don't bury the rootball too far straight down where the soil temperature is colder. In my area with the drought, I don't like laying them down sideways either. I like the 45º angle method.

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rainbowgardener
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OK, so for next year, take out the "good soil", rip off the plastic, dig down a good bit (6 or more inshes?), replace the "good soil" add more of the compost mix and try again. "

As noted in your other thread, don't dig down, build your box taller!
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navajo
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[quote="applestar"]We all started not knowing anything. This is a good place to get a leg-up. :wink:

Another food for thought: I question this method you described -- "... I strip off a good portion of the bottom leaves and bury the stem to get more roots"

quote]

Yes, I have learned a lot the past year or so from perusing this site as well as bugging you fine folks with weird questions ( :lol: ).

As for my stripping of the leaves, that is just my writing style I guess. I should be more clear.

I, like you, cut the bottom set of leaves off when up-potting or transplanting. I also plant at about a 45* angle.

Thanks for the help and troubleshooting. I'll get this right one of these days!

navajo
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rainbowgardener wrote:OK, so for next year, take out the "good soil", rip off the plastic, dig down a good bit (6 or more inshes?), replace the "good soil" add more of the compost mix and try again. "

As noted in your other thread, don't dig down, build your box taller!
Gotcha! next question though, since I have NO plans to use any more peat moss what should I use to build up the depth and mix with the compost?

Oh and Gixx, Thanks for the support! If nothing else, I have learned a great deal this year from failures and am better armed (I THINK!) for next year!

tedln
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I always plant crowded. It wouldn't work in a humid climate because you need good airflow between the plants to prevent fungus. I live in a hot dry climate and tomato fungus is rare. I typically plant in cages or rows with about ten inches of space between the plants. I am inhibiting the plants from producing the largest fruit possible, but my philosophy is "The more blooms I can cause to be produced in a given space, the more tomatoes will be produced". I am trading size for quantity. I will also plant some beds with more normal spacing up to eighteen inches between plants for varieties which are genetically predisposed to produce large tomatoes. The only things you need to be aware of are, am I causing some of the plants to be shaded from the sun by other plants, do I have enough support to support the mass of tomato plants, and do I have enough, properly prepared soil and moisture for the dense tomato plants. You really need deep soil with a lot of nutrients available for the plants. You don't want excessive nitrogen available because it will cause the plants to grow a lot of length between bloom sets. You wind up with tall plants with few blooms and fewer fruit.

Ted
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