If you’ve wanted to grow a vegetable garden but are put off by hours crouched over rows of veggies or have limited planting space, square foot gardening could be the answer.
Not only does square foot vegetable gardening save space, but it helps produce a bigger harvest. However, compared to traditional gardening methods, the most enticing part of square foot gardening is how little physical labor is necessary.
Mel Bartholomew coined the term “square foot gardening” in 1981 to describe the method of dividing a gardening space into equal-sized parts–usually approximately 1 square foot.
Square foot gardening appeals to both novice and experienced gardeners because of its many benefits.
The gardening method uses raised beds or square foot gardening boxes that require little yard space, making it ideal for individuals with limited yard space or city dwellers who want to start square gardening vegetables. (Find the Best Vegetable Garden Layout for You)
Square foot gardening raised beds to provide for gardening in areas with poor soil quality.
A square foot garden frame in a raised bed can get around poor soil types which drain poorly. You have complete control over the soil and growing mediums your plants grow with a raised 4 square gardening bed.
Besides reducing space, the dense planting design aid the growth of organic mulch, making weed growth extremely difficult. Planting and fertilizing are also easier for square foot gardeners because the good soil is loose and manageable for good root growth.
In our guide, you can learn all there is about square foot gardening what to plant together with your tomatoes. By the end, you’ll know how many square feet does a tomato plant need to grow healthy and how to get bumper crops by using your mental square foot garden planner. and pick your first tomato.
How Many Tomatoes Can You Plant in a Square Foot?
Tomatoes are a popular summer vegetable, and as a gardener, you’ll want to get some of those luscious fruits. However, you’ll also need to figure out how many tomato plants fit in your tomato square foot garden as you figure out your square foot gardening layout companion planting.
One tomato plant per square foot offers the best yields. Planting without enough room between plants reduces air flow, cuts light penetration to lower leaves, and prevents high yields.
When you plant too close in small spaces, you also increase the risks of foliar diseases like blight and leaf spot.
While planting tomatoes, remember optimum spacing is essential for plant health. Planting them too near decreases yields and increases illness and pests, while too far apart ends up with fewer tomatoes grown. (Learn How to Protect Your Crop From Tomato Worm)
The number of tomato plants per square foot varies depending on whether they are determinate or indeterminate tomato plants.
Such variety produces fruit, which delivers the year’s crop at once and typically early in the season. As the blossoms appear at the ends of shoots, it determines the length of the shoots, and growth is halted. Determinate can look compact and bushy and rarely need cages, staking, or support.
Because blossoms grow throughout long vines and not the ends, indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow and produce tomatoes throughout the summer and continue to grow unless stopped by cold weather.
Early Girl, Sweet 100, Cherokee Purple and Brandywine are popular varieties and will continue to grow and need support. Do you favor container gardening or square foot gardening as a gardening style?
Growing tomatoes in containers are suitable for small spaces like a small garden space or patio. The size of your container and tomato type affect more tomato plants being grown in a certain area.
A 5-gallon bucket is a superb choice and is suitably sized for one tomato plant, as it follows the rough sizes of your square foot gardening practice. For more plants, you need large pots, yet raised beds are a better solution if you have more room for tomato spacing square foot garden.
How Many Tomato Plants Can I Grow in a 4×4 Raised Bed?
When you want to know how many tomato plants per square foot you can grow, 4 or 5 tomato plants can be grown in a 4’x4′ raised bed.
However, only 2 or 3 tomato plants can fit in a 4’x4′ raised bed when in USDA zones with longer growing seasons and indeterminate tomato cultivars. Typically, determinate tomato plants take up less space than indeterminate kinds.
Naturally, the number of tomato plants per square foot varies on variety; if it is determinate or indeterminate, you use a trellis for vertical space and other factors.
In your square foot garden tomato spacing, how many tomato plants can you fit in your raised bed and keep them all healthy? Too close, and you can have disease problems.
With the square foot gardening tomatoes spacing of 4 or 5, it means you can place your plants per corner and one in the center. The tomato plant can appear lost in space, yet as they grow and get larger, they fill the planted space.
Tomatoes are tropical vines, so allowing them to grow vertically increases productivity while preventing pests and disease by keeping them off the ground and increasing air circulation (prune suckers to increase air flow) in your planted raised bed as they can break as they fill with fruit. You will need to consider the linear feet of each plant and your trellis.
You can garden in places with poor soil quality by using a raised garden bed. Poor-draining rocky and clay-type soils restrict plants from forming healthy root systems; therefore, a raised garden bed can help. When you utilize a raised garden bed, you have complete control over the soil your plants will grow in.
A 4×4-foot raised garden bed may produce enough vegetables for a small family to consume and freeze during the growing season. Trellises can increase the number of plants per square foot and, as a result, the yield in your raised garden bed.
How Much Space Do Tomatoes Need to Grow?
Tomatoes require more space than other garden plants, such as greens or radishes, for example. That’s partly because they’re high feeders, meaning they need more nutrients to generate many tomatoes and plant growth.
Indeterminate tomato plants can grow at the height of 6 feet in just one season. In USDA zones with longer growing seasons, those indeterminate plants keep growing, resulting in a tomato jungle!
Tomatoes need more space as the plants use hormones to regulate growth, and when tomato plants are forced to grow in small containers, they create hormones that impede their growth.
Aside from saving space, the dense planting style encourages the growth of organic mulch, which makes weed growth extremely difficult. Because the soil is soft and controllable, planting and fertilizing are also easier for square foot gardeners.
As experienced gardeners know, and as those yet to plant their first seed will soon learn, different plants and vegetables require varying amounts of space to thrive. While planting isn’t an exact science, paying attention to detail during the procedure will pay off when it’s time to harvest.
In square foot gardening, a gardener will traditionally measure and stake out square foot planting areas by making a grid out of various instruments such as string or thin wood slats.
A gardener employs square foot gardening grid sections to plant by area rather than rows to grow in a restricted space.
After a quick setup, you can make a quick garden grid irrigation system to divide your growing space into equal planting pieces and does all the measuring for you.
In addition, the grid serves as your garden’s principal irrigation system. You have a square foot gardening grid that also doubles as a garden watering system.
Most gardeners would be astounded by the amount of produce harvested from even a small raised garden bed using the square foot gardening method.
What Size Container is Best for Growing Tomatoes?
You can comfortably grow one tomato plant per square footage grid in the square foot gardening method. Tomatoes are a favorite plant to grow as they make a fantastic complement to a garden salad.
Tomatoes grown in a square foot gardening produce a lot of fruit, where one plant can yield up to 20 pounds of fruit. Intermediate varieties are ideal for square foot gardening since they grow vertically and take up minimal space to keep the garden tidy.
If you’ve ever planted tomatoes in your vegetable garden, you’ll know their jumbled growth takes over space easily. If a plant takes over space in Square Foot Gardening, it can take creep into the space of its neighbor.
Determinate VS. Indeterminate Varieties
Determinate tomatoes produce all the tomatoes in a shorter amount of time and are typically bush varieties. However, just because they are well behaved, they need enough space of 1 bush tomato in a 2’x2′ square is optimal proper spacing.
For determinate varieties, the only pruning is to remove leaf branches below the first fruit cluster once they develop. This limits any chance of soil splashing on your plants in heavy rain and leads to disease when nighttime temperatures are colder and damp can help spread such fungal disease.
Indeterminate tomatoes, like Early Girl, can grow to 20 feet and above. You’ll find these produce the largest tomatoes, unlike cherry tomatoes on bush varieties. Indeterminate varieties mature longer and produce all those tomatoes until the first frost. Indeterminate tomato plants require some support system, such as staking or trellises, because of their massive growth.
When planting indeterminate or vining tomatoes on a trellis, you could wonder why you need to prune them?
Garden tidiness describes the cleanliness of a garden. Plant one indeterminate tomato per square in the grid, so you’ll think you’ll attach your trellis to the north end of your raised bed, and the tomato is planted in the squares close to it.
The tomato plant’s side growth, or suckers, always grow out instead of up and take over other squares.
Proper air circulation is essential, and plants with crowded growth have poor air circulation, leading to mildew, rust, and fungal infections in your garden.
Plant your tomato plant near the trellis, and wait until the first flower shows before you tie the main stem of your tomato to the trellis. Prune side branches below the first flower cluster on the main stem when the plant produces the first bloom cluster.
Ensure you always check for suckers on side branches, which will emerge above the first cluster of blooms, and then carefully prune these off as well. It is also worth considering the topping or pruning of the top section of your tomato plant toward the end of the summer, as this can encourage your tomato plant to produce a late-season crop. (Read Cinder Block Raised Bed)
Besides this, it stops your plants from using nutrients for growth and directs them to use such resources for ripening the current fruit.
As you can see from the above, square foot gardening has many advantages for rookie and experienced gardeners. The gardening method employs raised garden beds that require up little yard space, making it suitable for space dwellers looking to grow more tomatoes than they could in a bucket or traditional garden.
You will get the best growth from indeterminate tomatoes as you can get more plants per bed than the bush variety that take up space and end up growing too close to each other. If you want determinate tomatoes, you can save this variety for your container garden and your 5-gallon bucket.