How Close Can You Plant Tomatoes Vertically?

Tomato plants are perfect for vertical gardens as they tend to climb well. However, you need to get their spacing right to ensure your plants grow healthy and strong and produce the best yields possible. So, what’s the perfect spacing for tomatoes in a vertical garden? 

Tomato plants should be planted 18-24 inches apart horizontally. Vertically, they should be planted 4-6 feet apart depending on if they are determinate or indeterminate varieties. Dwarf tomato plants will require less spacing both horizontally and vertically.

The type of tomato plant and the style of garden you have will affect how much spacing your tomato plants need. I will discuss how much space the different types of tomato plants need as well as what are some good options for vertical gardens.

Vegetables and salad in decorative vertical garden and raised bed.
ID 118139506 © Maximiliane Wagner |

Spacing Tomatoes in a Vertical garden

The spacing of your tomatoes is going to depend on two factors: the type of tomato plant and the style of your vertical garden. You will also need to consider both the vertical spacing of plants and the horizontal spacing of plans

There are two types of tomato plants, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate is also known as bush tomatoes and indeterminate is known as vining tomatoes. Both have different needs in terms of vertical and horizontal spacing.

As for types of vertical gardens, you can trellis your tomatoes to grow upward or you can use a vertical growing tower to grow your tomatoes vertically. Again there are different spacing requirements for the different styles.

Spacing For Indeterminate Tomato Type

Indeterminate tomato plants are vining plants that will keep growing until you prune them. They don’t have a defined “final size”. Even once you have pruned them, they will grow back to the state they were in before you pruned them within a few weeks, as they just keep growing. 

The indeterminate tomatoes tend to grow up rather than out, so these can be planted closer together than other tomato plant types. Indeterminate tomato plants that can be planted as close as 18 inches apart from each other horizontally.

Even though you can plant these tomato plants that close together, it is better to give them slightly more space as they will greatly benefit from having a bit of extra room to grow if needed.

In terms of vertical spacing, it is best to not stack indeterminate tomato plants in a vertical garden. These types of vining tomatoes can grow 6-12 feet tall. Of course, this is dependent on how much you prune your tomato plants. If you do want to plant them vertically above one another allow for at least 5 feet and be prepared to prune them.

Spacing For Determinate Tomato Type

The next type of tomato plant is known as determinate tomato plant. The determinate tomato plants are a bushy type of tomato plants. These tomato plants will grow to a specific height and width and then stop growing. 

Determinate tomato plants can grow up to 5 feet tall but most will be about 3-4 feet. There are some dwarf varieties available as well that will only grow 2 feet tall. 

You can stack your bush tomato plants in a vertical garden as long as you give 4-5 feet of space from the base of one plant to the bottom of the pot above. If you are using a dwarf tomato plant then 3-4 feet should be sufficient.

This tomato plant type will grow in width more than height, so they need to be planted further apart than the indeterminate tomato plant types. With these tomato plant types, you need to plant them at least 18 to 24 inches apart.

The tomatoes labeled as dwarf or compact tomato plants can be planted even closer together, about 12 inches apart.  Check the label on your plants or seeds to see what horizontal distance is recommended and how tall they are expected to grow.

Why Spacing Tomatoes In Vertical Gardens Is Important

Many people don’t understand why it’s important to plant your tomatoes at certain intervals based on the plant and garden type you are using. However, there are many benefits to following these recommendations, especially for a vertical garden. 

Planting your tomatoes in the correct intervals will help decrease the chance of your plants developing a disease as they have good air circulation around them. Your tomato plants will have enough space to grow, so you are less likely to grow stunted plants.

When tomatoes are planted too close together, they will produce fewer tomatoes. This is due to the lack of space and nutrients for each tomato plant. If the plants are too close together vertically then the lower plants may impede sunlight and airflow to the plants above.

 So, always ensure you plant your tomatoes in your vertical garden with the right amount of space between them based on the plant and garden type you are using. 

Indeterminate (cordon) tomato vine plants growing outside in an English garden UK
ID 209044769 © Paul Maguire |

Spacing Tomatoes Out Based On Garden Type

There are several types of vertical gardens you can use with your tomatoes. Some are considered a conventional garden with plants being trained to grow up versus growing out. Others are planters specifically designed to have plants growing on top of each other.

Spacing for Tomatoes in a Tradition Garden – Ground or Raised Bed

Planting your tomatoes directly in the ground or in a raised bed is a great option for indeterminate tomatoes. You can use trellis or poles to train your tomatoes to grow up rather than out.

When planting your tomatoes in the ground or in a deeper raised bed, more than 12 inches deep, your tomatoes can be spaced horizontally 18-24 inches apart. In this type of bed, you won’t be stacking your plants vertically but rather training them to take advantage of the vertical space to grow.

If your raised bed is less than 12 inches deep your tomatoes should be planted 20-24 inches apart. This is because in a shallow raised bed there may not be enough nutrients to support more plants. Also, the tomato’s roots will have to grow outwards rather than downwards as the plant grows.

Planting tomatoes in the ground or raised bed near a wall or fence is a great way to hide an unsightly backyard feature. Prune and train your tomato plant to take advantage of the vertical space available. Since indeterminate varieties will grow very tall they are perfect for this style of garden.

Spacing For Tomatoes Planted In Stacked Containers 

Using a specially designed vertical garden is another way to grow tomatoes vertically. Two of my favorites are the Tower Garden and the Garden Tower. Another popular style is the Mr Stacky.

With all three of these options, each plant has its own little container to grow in. Respecting the horizontal space of the tomato plant is still a good idea since it will allow room for the tomato plants to become bushier. Since the plants are offset you can still have multiple tomato plants.

Determinate or bush tomatoes work best in containers like these. They won’t grow so large that they overpower the other plants. You can also plant them above on another or offset a little since they are a shorter plant.

The Garden Tower is a great option if you like soil based gardening. There is a compost hole in the top of the tower so you are continually adding nutrients to the system. Plants thrive in this system especially when worms are added.

Learn more about the Garden Tower and some other great vertical garden options in my article, What is Vertical Gardening.

The Tower Garden is an aeroponic tower. This means the roots of the plants are kept moist with a nutrient rich water solution. Plants in this system grow extremely well. Learn more about the Tower Garden in my article, What is a Tower Garden and How does it work.

However, I do not recommend growing indeterminate tomatoes unless you are ruthless about pruning. We had two indeterminate yellow pear tomato plants growing in our Tower Garden and they grew almost too big. They produced a lot of delicious tomatoes but the plant needed a lot of trellising and support.

yellow pear tomatoes growing in a Tower Garden

Final Thoughts

Tomatoes are a great option for vertical gardens as they are vines, and they will climb on trellises and poles. You need to ensure that you plant them with the right spacing, both horizontally and vertically, between each plant to ensure all your plants are happy and healthy.

Diane Davies

Diane started out with a not so green thumb. After experimenting with different plants and methods of gardening, she was introduced to the Tower Garden and aeroponics. Now she loves to grow her own food easily on her balcony.

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