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So I started a garden this spring (late May) and got 6 super sonic tomato seedlings among a few other vegetables. Due to financial constraints, I wasn’t able to buy a huge raised bed, just a 67"L x 20"W x10”H oval (7 cubic feet). So I did what I could with the space and planted the tomatoes around a footish apart (no stakes or cage). They’ve been growing pretty well (multiple fruit growing) from what I can tell and because of the lack of space, the plants seem to be collectively supporting themselves.

Despite everything seeming ok, I’m still a bit worried due to many different sources online saying that the way I’m growing could lead to failed plants. So, Is this a viable route, and if it’s not, is there any way I can fix it at this point?

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  • For extra context I’m also growing zucchini, jalapeños, red onion and basil.
    – Liberator
    Jul 15, 2023 at 5:27
  • Noting what others have said, but it's worth considering that you've (presumably) got new compost etc. with a level of nutrients which to some extent will compensate for the roots growing close together. Jul 15, 2023 at 16:24
  • Thought for next year - We observed tomato hornworm on one set of plants, not on another, about 1/4 mile apart. While the ones we observed were being parasitized by wasp larvae, they did a lot of damage before expiring. A difference (and further reading suggested it might be the critical one) was marigolds. Evidently the hornworms (or their moth phase) don't like the smell of marigolds.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 19, 2023 at 0:26

2 Answers 2

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I would still tie them to stakes. Or if it's next to a fence or on a balcony then tie them to some support.

This is, in case your area experiences some strong freakish wind.

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Go with "everything seeming OK" as your first clue.

I'd agree with Rohit that providing some support for the plants would be good, in part because it will give them more room vertically before they fall all over themselves.

Yields will be less-per-plant than if each plant had more space. But overall yields probably won't be much impacted, unless you get visited by disease. When or if blight comes to you, it will have an easy time spreading through all the plants with them closely spaced and intertwined. But it's hardly certain that chopping out half the plants would really change that much in a small planter.

One approach I'm guessing you are not taking which you might consider for next time is stake or string support combined with aggressive pruning (removing suckers and training to a single, supported stem) for an indeterminate variety like Super Sonic. Where you have space and time overall fruit yields can be higher (but generally later and smaller fruits) with a "let it go wild" approach - the single supported stem gets you generally earlier and larger fruits, that are easier to harvest (or even find, when an overgrown indeterminate really gets tangled up) with better airflow between plants which reduces the fungal disease issues that tomatoes are prone to.

You could head off side branches (and their own small suckers) and choose to start pruning your main stems down to single stem for the remainder of the season if you establish some support for them, but I would not just hack off the existing side stems if they have fruits developing. I would take an aggressive approach to any yellowing or browning leaves on the lower part of the plant, however, and remove those ASAP, (assume fungus and try to remove before it makes more fungus and spreads further) as well as pruning off the side branches you have headed off (if you do that) after their fruits are done.

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