How Many Tomato Plants in a Square Foot Garden?

Tomatoes are easily the most popular summer vegetable, and as a gardener, you’re probably eager to get an early start. And when you plan out your garden, you’ll need to figure out how many tomato plants will fit in a square foot garden.

For the best yields, 1 tomato plant should be grown per square foot. Planting too close together reduces the penetration of light to the lower leaves, which significantly reduces fruit production and can promote foliar diseases like early blight and leaf spot. 

So, when planting your tomatoes, proper spacing is key to high yields while keeping plants healthy. Plant them too close, and yields decrease, while making it likely that diseases & pests will flourish. And planting too far apart will decrease how many tomatoes you produce.

How many tomato plants per square foot: determinate vs. indeterminate varieties

There are two major distinctions of tomatoes under which fall the various varieties of tomatoes:

Determinate tomatoes

This kind produces fruit that ripens at one time, usually early in the season and not continually through the season. 

Their growth is halted since their blossoms appear at the ends of shoots, determining the length of the shoots. 

Thus, they look compact and bushy, and typically don’t require cages, staking, or support.

Indeterminate tomatoes

Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow and produce tomatoes throughout the summer, because their flowers grow along the vines and not at the ends. 

Unless their growth is stopped by the cold weather or clipping, they continue to grow. 

Hence, they’re size is not determined–they’ll just keep on growing.

Thus, they require support for their vines.

To pick which tomato variety to plant from the two above and one that fits your area, consider:

  • Whether you want your tomatoes to ripen all at once or over the course of the season,
  • Whether you can provide support for your tomatoes or prefer self-supporting varieties.
  • What size tomatoes do you want? Normally, determinate tomatoes are smaller than indeterminate tomatoes.
  • Your gardening style: do you prefer container or square foot gardening?

You’ll probably want to check out our full tips & tricks for growing more tomatoes.

How Many Tomato Plants Can Go in a 5-gallon Bucket?

Growing tomatoes in containers is best for small spaces like a small garden or just a patio; since pots & containers don’t take up much space.

The number of tomato plants you can grow in your container is determined by its size and the tomato variety.

So, most 5-gallon buckets are about 15 inches tall, 12 inches top diameter and about 11 inches bottom diameter. 

Therefore, a 5-gallon bucket has enough room to grow 1 tomato plant, since it’s a good practice to use a container that is big enough. 

Ideally, a container with a minimum of 1 square foot, but preferably 2 square feet.

How Many Tomato Plants Can I Grow In a Pot?

No matter how much you want to save on space, planting several tomato plants in one pot is actually counterproductive. 

So, experts recommend planting only 1 tomato plant in a pot.

Large pots are ideal for growing tomato plants, ideally, a pot of at least 14 inches and even up to 20 inches. 

Apart from nutrients, for a plant’s root mass to expand, tomato plants also need space and aeration. 

So, when a large pot is used, tomato plants respond by growing larger and produce more fruit.

Determinate tomato plants are perfectly suited for planting in container planting because of their smaller size, while indeterminate tomato plants are better off being grown on square footage due to their vines that extend further.  

However, if you decide to grow indeterminate tomatoes in containers, allow enough space for each plant to grow: at least a 24-inch pot should be used and space them at about 3 feet apart.  

How Many Tomato Plants per Sq. Ft?

Most experts recommend planting one indeterminate tomato per square foot

This allows the plant enough shape to grow since their suckers tend to grow out rather than up into long vines, taking over grid squares. 

That’s why it’s also important to prune your indeterminate tomato plants to keep your garden tidy and distinct.

Besides, removing (i.e., pruning) suckers focuses growth on flowering & fruit production

In square foot gardening, one healthy plant can produce approximately 20 pounds of tomatoes.

For most tomato varieties, one pound of tomatoes equals:

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 8 small plum tomatoes
  • or 20 cherry tomatoes. 

You might also be curious to learn how many tomatoes 1 plant can produce.

In addition to the square footage per plant, also consider the linear feet of trellis per plant–although for trellises, you’ll usually want 4-6 foot trellises. 

How many tomato plants per square meter?

If you’re in Canada or anywhere else, and use the metric system, you’ll want to know how many tomato plants per square meter. 

Fortunately, this is a pretty simple calculation.

Each square meter is roughly 10.8 square feet.

So, since the rule of thumb is 1 tomato plant per square foot, you can typically fit 10 – 11 tomato plants per square meter.

To make things easy though–and to give each plant a little more space to grow, it’s easier to plant 9 tomato plants per square meter.

Basically, divide each square meter into 9 squares–like a tic-tac-toe board, and plant a tomato in each square.

Easy peasy!

Garden Space Requirements

The importance of spacing for good tomatoes cannot be overstated! 

Tomato plants should be spaced between 24-36 inches (61-91 cm) apart in most cases. 

When tomato plants are spaced closer than 24 inches (61 cm), air circulation around the plants is reduced, which can lead to disease.

How Many Roma Tomato Plants per Person?

Roma tomatoes are determinate tomatoes so their fruit ripen at one time, and they tend to grow smaller than indeterminate varieties. 

Also, due to their low moisture content, they are a great option for making sauces.

Roma tomatoes have a thicker fruit wall, a bright red, smooth, and thick skin, and a denser, grainier flesh with less seeds. 

They are also oblong-shaped, and relatively heavy for their size.

During the growing season, a Roma tomato plant can produce up to 200 tomatoes.

Crazy, right?

In a square foot garden, that means each Roma tomato plant can yield roughly 20 pounds of tomatoes.

So, generally, for you or your family, a rule of thumb is to plant 1 Roma tomato plant per person.

How Many Cherry Tomato Plants per Square Foot?

Cherry tomatoes are smaller in size than Roma tomatoes; they are perfectly round, crunchier and juicier from the inside.

Determinate cherry tomatoes are mostly grown in containers, while indeterminate cherry tomatoes are grown in a square foot garden because they are vining tomatoes and take up less space.

It’s good to purchase seedlings for indeterminate plants from a nursery or start your tomato plants indoors. 

Like other tomato varieties, grow one cherry tomato plant per square foot.

However, if you decide to plant determinate varieties in your garden, you’ll need 5 – 9 square feet.

That’s because determinate tomatoes tend to be more bushy. 

This is a limitation if you have less garden space.

Ensure supports are provided for your tomato plants to grow straight and have the right sun exposure. 

Also, properly tie the vines around supports to also maintain airflow within your garden which ultimately leads to less disease and pest problem.

How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need For a Family of 4?

The biggest factor her is how much space you have. 

There are ways to maximize on space like planting tomatoes vertically using supports & staking.

However, the more space or land you have, the more plants you can grow.

Again, for Roma varieties,  a single Roma tomato plant could produce up to 200 tomatoes in a season. 

Other tomato varieties will average over 25 pounds of fruit per plant, and depending on the tomato variety, the number of fruits will vary as mentioned above.

Cherry or grape-shaped tomatoes that grow in huge clusters will have some clusters producing between 100–150 fruits per cluster.

For a family of four or five, generally 1 tomato plant per person is a good rule of thumb.

However, if you want to can tomatoes or make sauce or paste that you’ll use all year, plant more: 2 or 3 tomato plants per person.

In great tomato-growing weather, you could easily get all the tomatoes you need off of a single plant.

But if conditions aren’t optimal, you could get only a handful of decent, mature fruit from each plant.

For a balance, though, grow 4-6 tomato plants for a family of 4; that is, at least 1 tomato plant per person.

Most farmers prefer growing a minimum of three tomato varieties with 3 – 4 plants per variety to ensure adequate production, even when conditions are not so good. 

That’s about 12 plants, which is typically plent for a family of 4 and enough for a family of 6.

How Many Tomato Plants per Person?

The number of tomato plants to grow will be determined by the tomato variety and your household plans for using them. 

For example, if you just want to eat them fresh, then you’ll need fewer tomato plants.

Here’s a rule for how many tomato plants per person:

  • If you’ll only eat fresh tomatoes: grow 1 tomato plant per person.
  • If you want to can, preserve, or make sauce or paste: grow 2 – 3 tomato plants per person.

Also, knowing each plant’s spacing requirements will help you to plan the exact amount of garden space for growing tomatoes for your entire family.

Though small in size, cherry tomatoes are prolific. So, plant 1 – 4 cherry tomato plants per person, depending on how much they’ll eat. 

For a family of 4, this is about 4 – 16 plants in your garden. 

Slicing tomatoes should be cultivated in similar quantities.

For cooking tomatoes, on the other hand, you’ll want to grow more tomato plants so you can get a bigger harvest. 

In this case, planting 3 – 6 plants per person in a family of 4 equals 12 – 24 tomato plants in your garden.

For a higher yield, always remember to cage or stake your tomatoes, since this reduces damage, pests, and diseases. 

Also, while you can’t really predict the ultimate yield due to weather, diseases, and other factors, I like to plant a few more tomato plants than I need.

That way, you can always give your extra tomatoes to family, friends, & neighbors.

To grow enough tomatoes per person throughout the year, you’ll need to preserve them somehow.

Fresh tomatoes are great but tomato paste & sauce, or canned tomatoes can be used for up to 1 year.

How Many Tomato Plants per Person per Year?

Fortunately, the answer to this question is pretty much the same as the question above. 

Usually, 1 tomato plant per person is enough–if you’re only interested in eating fresh tomatoes.

However, if you want to can or preserve tomatoes, or make tomato sauce or paste: grow 2 – 3 tomato plants per person.

Depending on your climate–if you’re in a cooler vs. warmer climate–the amount of tomatoes your plants yield will vary.

You might want to check out our complete answer to “how long will tomato plants produce?”

How Many Tomato Plants per Person for Canning?

Tomato canning is a wonderful family tradition. 

The number of tomato plants you can grow per person for canning depends on tomato variety and the kind of canning products you want to make. 

This might be different for every family. But a good rule of thumb is to plant 4 – 6 tomato plants per person who will eat the canned tomato products.

For instance, you might want to make:

  • tomato juice, 
  • tomato sauce 
  • canned tomatoes (to use in spaghetti or marinara sauce)
  • tomato paste

Keep in mind though that canning must be done carefully & correctly to ensure there’s no bacteria growing and releasing botulin in your canned tomatoes. 

Botulism is highly toxic, but easily preventable by following proper canning instructions.

To prevent botulism, lower the PH of the canned mixture to make it more acidic by using lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar.

But for best–and SAFEST–results, always follow the instructions from an established canning manufacturer or your local university extension office.

About the author

Greg Volente

Greg Volente holds a Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum, worked for The Nature Conservancy leading environmental education programs and doing natural areas restoration, and worked in the soil science research & testing lab at Michigan State University. Besides gardening, he's an avid wildflower enthusiast, and loves botanizing, hiking, and backpacking.

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