We want as many as we can get.
We love to grow tomato plants and enjoy the abundant harvest. But how many tomato plants should we have in a cage?
You can have two dwarf tomato plants in a 24-inch wide cage. But you can grow only one determinate/indeterminate tomato plant in a 24-inch wide cage. You want to keep at least 24-inch space between tomato plants. This helps avoid overcrowding and competing for resources.
In this post, I’ll help you find out how many tomato plants you can have per cage. I’ll also give you information on how to use a tomato cage and how to separate tomato plants if they are too close to each other.
How many tomato plants in a cage?
There are two elements that we need to examine before we can answer this question. These are what types of tomatoes do you want to grow? And what type of tomato cage do you want to use? Let’s look at each of these questions.
Types of Tomatoes
There are a few types of tomato species. Each will have slightly different spacing requirements. There are two types of tomatoes, these are:
- Determinate. These will reach a certain height and then stop growing. Often, it will be around three to four feet high. In this case, they rarely need support, though they can benefit from a cage.
- Indeterminate. Unlike the other variety, they won’t stop growing. Some can reach around eight feet tall. It’s only once the winter weather rolls in, and the frost kills them, that they stop growing. They will need to have a cage to support them.
Though these are general options, you will be able to subdivide them even further. For example, you can have full-sized determinate and dwarf species, based on how high they grow. This will determine the amount of space they will require.
You can use this table as a general guide:
|Type of tomatoes||General planting spacing guidelines|
|Dwarf determinant||12 to 24 inches|
|Indeterminate||18 to 36 inches.|
Types of Tomato Cage
You will also need to think about the way you are planting them. If you are putting them into a cage, you will need to give them a little more space, closer to the three feet. This ensures that they will not be growing on top of each other or competing for resources.
There are a few types of cages that you can use, each with its own set of pros and cons. These options include:
- Curved link cages. These are often heavier, which can make it harder to get them into place. But they will provide a lot of support, making them a good choice for heavier tomato plants.
- Triangular cages. This is best to use for smaller plants, as the bars will be so close together.
- Ring. These are best if you want to grow multiple tomatoes in the same cage, as you will have plenty of space.
The number of plants you can grow will depend on the size of the cage. You can get some that are designed to enclose individual tomatoes. But you can also get bigger cages that cater to an entire crop. If you want to take this route, it’s best to get one that will at least be 10 feet wide. This will give you enough space to grow multiple tomato plants.
You should also get a cage that is at least six feet tall. This will suit most varieties. Though some indeterminate species can grow to be eight feet tall. At the other end of the spectrum, some determinant tomatoes might only need a cage that is three feet tall. It’s often best to talk to your local nursery owner, finding out how high your preferred species can get.
How close can you plant tomatoes in cages?
As we mentioned, it will depend on the type of species you are planning on getting. As a general rule, though, you will need to leave around 24 inches between each plant.
This ensures that they don’t need to compete over soil resources. It also ensures that they are getting enough air circulation. This limits the risk of fungal infections.
How to use a tomato cage for tomato plants?
Tomato cages are one of the most popular ways of growing plants. But to get the most of out this approach, there are a few things that you should know.
First, it’s best to start planting tomatoes when the plants are young. The cage will give them the support they need as they grow. This is especially important with indeterminate plants. There have been instances where they have collapsed under their weight.
As the tomatoes grow, most will naturally take to the cage, using it to hold them up. But not all will. Sometimes, you might need to coax them a little onto the bars. Sometimes, you might need to use some yarn to tie the branches to the cage.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that the cage can adequately support the weight of the tomato plant. Because of this, you’ll need to secure it into the ground following these tips:
- Put the base of the cage, the narrow section, at least four inches into the soil.
- Place some topsoil around the base, to help weigh it down.
- Check the cage by trying to shake it. For it to take the weight of the tomato bushes, it shouldn’t move.
How to separate tomato plants too close together?
Some contact between tomatoes is OK. But you don’t want to allow the vines to become entangled. If they get too close, both plants will be disadvantaged.
The biggest concern is the lack of airflow. This will keep the leaves moist for longer. This is the ideal environment for fungal diseases. Plus, it might reduce the size of your harvest, because of the stress of having to compete for space and soil nutrients. Eventually, the stronger tomato plant will survive while the weaker will die.
There are a few ways you can solve this problem. First, you can dig into the soil. Try to remove as much of the root system as you can. Then, plant it an appropriate distance away. Sometimes, the plant will go into transplant shock when moved into the new location. But this should go away within a few weeks.
Having more than one tomato plant in a cage will cause overcrowding which leads to unhealthy and small plants. So I would recommend you always place just a single tomato plant per cage.
Sometimes, the problem will be the vines are growing over the top of each other. There are a few ways that you can solve this issue. If you are using a greenhouse, you will be able to control the environment. You can install fans. This will ensure that there is plenty of ventilation, reducing the chances of fungal growth.
If you detect the problem early enough, you can try changing the direction that the vines are growing in. You can do this by using some yarn to tie them into a new position. Put them far enough away to avoid any future overlap, then let them grow as normal.
The most common solution, though, is to prune back the leaves. You won’t need to take much, just enough to eliminate any overlap. As long as there is enough space at the roots, it shouldn’t be a major issue.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.