Raised Bed with Tomato Plants

How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for 3, 4, or 5 People?

Have you ever planned out your garden, then realized you weren’t exactly sure how many plants you needed to feed yourself and your family?

When I was a beginning gardener, I remember times when I either underestimated or overestimated how many plants I needed in my garden, particularly tomato plants. I love tomatoes, and I wanted to make sure I had enough for me and my family, but I found it difficult to figure out how many I needed, especially as my family grew from 2 to 5 over the course of several years.

Through trial and error, here’s what I eventually figured out:

Generally speaking, planting 4-6 tomato plants per person will provide more than enough tomatoes for any size family. However, care should be taken when choosing tomato varieties since certain tomatoes are better for slicing and canning while others are best in salads, sauces, soups, and salsas.

My goal with this article is not merely to provide a quick overview of the number of tomato plants you’ll need to feed your family but to break things down even further by looking at the kinds of tomato varieties you’ll need to plant if you and the other members of your family prefer sandwiches over salads or sauces over salsa.

Also, some families eat tomatoes much more often than other families, so I’m also providing information about how many tomato plants you’ll need if your family eats tomatoes frequently (every 1-3 days), semi-regularly (every 4-5 days), or infrequently (every 6-7 days).

In other words, I want to make this article as helpful as possible, so if you’re interested in knowing exactly how many plants you’ll need to feed your family of 3, 4, 5, or more, keep reading.

Here are the sections you’ll find below where I’ve broken things down by family size:

  • How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for a Family of 3?
  • How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for a Family of 4?
  • How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for a Family of 5?
  • How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for Larger Families?

I hope you’ll particular attention to the tables below, since that’s where I’ve compiled lots of information that’ll help you select the kinds of tomato plants that’ll best satisfy your family’s cravings this year.

Raised Bed with 10 Tomato Plants

How Many Tomato Plants Should I Plant Per Person?

Just so I’m clear, when it comes to determining exactly how many tomato plants you need to plant per person, this isn’t exactly a hard science.

Here’s just a few examples:

  • Maybe you’ve got a family of 5, but 2 of your children don’t really like tomatoes.
  • Maybe you’ve got a family of 4, and everyone loves sliced tomatoes on their sandwiches but couldn’t care less about tomatoes in salads or soups.
  • Maybe you’ve got a family of 3, and each of you likes just about every kind of tomato dish, from sandwiches and sauces to salads, soups, and sides.
  • Or maybe you planted the perfect number of tomato plants last year, but your garden was attacked by aphids, armyworms, slugs, spider mites, stink bugs, or other pests, reducing your overall harvest.

On top of these examples, there are other important factors to consider.

For instance, which of the following kinds of food do the members of your family enjoy most:

  • Sandwiches with sliced tomatoes?
  • Italian dishes that require lots of sauce?
  • Salads with cherry tomatoes?
  • Hearty vegetable soups, ragouts, and broths?
  • Salsas that complement your Mexican meals?
  • Side dishes featuring all kinds of cooked tomatoes?

Your answers to these questions will not only determine the number of tomato plants you need to plant this year but also the different varieties of tomatoes that you’ll need to harvest throughout the season for cooking and canning.

Simply put, I generally think it’s safe to plant 4-6 tomato plants per person, but you’ll need to evaluate your family’s tomato preferences and your garden’s past performance to determine if you’ll need fewer or more plants this year.

The good news is that it’s okay if you overestimate your family’s tomato consumption. In fact, I encourage you to overestimate rather than underestimate since you can always give tomatoes away to friends, neighbors, and local food pantries.

Three Pounds of Tomatoes in a Container
Cherry Tomatoes from My Backyard Garden

I’ve been very fortunate these past few years to grow more tomatoes than my family can eat, and it’s always a joy to give away organic produce to others.

But if you don’t plant enough plants, you unfortunately won’t be able to fix your mistake midway through the growing season. You’ll simply have to supplement your harvest with whatever tomatoes they’re selling at your nearby grocery store or farmers market.

And as you likely already know, whatever you grow is going to taste so much better than the tomatoes you find at the grocery store!

It’ll take some practice to get things right when it comes to estimating the plants you need this year–and Mother Nature won’t always give you the best tomato-growing weather each season–so unless you’re strapped for garden space, I’d encourage you to err on the safe side and plant 5-6 plants per person.

If you don’t have enough space to do so, no worries. Simply adjust as needed to maximize your available growing area.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at the number of tomato plants you’ll need to plant for families of 3, 4, 5, or more!

Growing Tomato Plants in Buckets

How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for a Family of 3?

As I noted above, if you plant 4-6 tomato plants per family member, you’re going to get enough tomatoes to make your family happy all season long. 

Here’s what that means for a smaller family:

Generally speaking, a family of 3 will need 12-18 tomato plants to produce enough tomatoes for sandwiches, salads, soups, and side dishes. Families that enjoy homemade sauces might want an additional 3-5 Roma variety tomato plants to ensure there’s also enough tomatoes for sauce making and canning.

But let’s be clear, these numbers are for families who use tomatoes in cooking and meal prep on a frequent basis (every 1-2 days). If you eat tomatoes semi-regularly or infrequently, you can get by just fine with fewer tomato plants.

Three-person families who eat tomatoes on a semi-regular basis will need roughly 9-12 tomato plants, while three-person families who eat tomatoes infrequently can get by with 6-9 tomato plants.

As you can see, the number of plants you need for your family largely depends on what exactly you hope to do with tomatoes this year and how often you’ll need them.

With this in mind, let’s break these numbers down even further by tomato variety and food preference.

My hope is that the table below (and the ones that follow later in the article) will help you make very informed decisions about which tomato varieties you want to plant this year and how many plants you plan to grow in your garden.

Family SizeFrequencyPreference# Slicers# Romas# Cherries
31-3 daysSandwiches8-10 plants2-3 plants2-3 plants
31-3 daysSauces2-3 plants8-10 plants2-3 plants
31-3 daysSalads2-3 plants2-3 plants8-10 plants
31-3 daysSoups & Salsas2-4 plants5-7 plants5-7 plants
31-3 daysSides4-6 plants4-6 plants4-6 plants
34-5 daysSandwiches4-5 plants1-2 plants1-2 plants
34-5 daysSauces1-2 plants4-5 plants1-2 plants
34-5 daysSalads1-2 plants1-2 plants4-5 plants
34-5 daysSoups & Salsas1-22-3 plants2-3 plants
34-5 daysSides2-3 plants2-3 plants2-3 plants
36-7 daysSandwiches3-41 plants1 plants
36-7 daysSauces1 plants3-41 plants
36-7 daysSalads1 plants1 plants3-4
36-7 daysSoups & Salsas1 plants2-3 plants2 plants
36-7 daysSides1-2 plants1-2 plants1-2 plants
Table Showing Tomato Plants for a Family of 3
Heirloom Tomatoes Growing in a Raised Bed

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

For a family of 4, you’ll use a similar ratio to the oneI’ve used above but include enough plants for 1 additional person.

Please remember that the largest estimates below refers to the number of tomato plants you’ll need if your family is a tomato-loving family who wishes to have tomatoes available at any given time.

If you eat fewer tomatoes, please look further down the chart to get a better estimate of how many plants you’ll need and which varieties you should choose this year.

For a constant supply of tomatoes all season long, a family of 4 will need 16-24 tomato plants, which will provide plenty of tomatoes for every kind of breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal. Families who love tomatoes on their sandwiches will need to plant more slicer varieties while those who prefer tomatoes on salads will need to plant both slicer and cherry tomato varieties.

Here’s a breakdown showing the number of plants a family of four will need depending on tomato preference and frequency:

Family SizeFrequencyPreference# Slicers# Romas# Cherries
41-3 daysSandwiches10-143-53-5
41-3 daysSauces3-510-143-5
41-3 daysSalads3-53-510-14
41-3 daysSoups & Salsas4-66-96-9
41-3 daysSides6-86-86-8
44-5 daysSandwiches6-82-32-3
44-5 daysSauces2-36-82-3
44-5 daysSalads2-32-36-8
44-5 daysSoups & Salsas2-44-54-5
44-5 daysSides3-53-53-5
46-7 daysSandwiches5-622
46-7 daysSauces25-62
46-7 daysSalads225-6
46-7 daysSoups & Salsas1-23-43-4
46-7 daysSides2-42-42-4
Table Showing Tomato Plants for a Family of 4
Raised Bed with Tomato Plants and Onions

How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for a Family of 5?

My family is a family of 5 (me, my wife and 3 kids), but so far, my kids haven’t shown much interest in various tomato dishes.

They love pastas, and they enjoy soups, but they couldn’t care less for tomatoes on sandwiches or in salads.

If all 5 of us love tomatoes as much as I do, we’d need a boatload of plants in my backyard! But Because of the kids’ preferences, we only eat tomato-based dishes once every 4-5 days or so, although I eat tomatoes much more often.

If your family is anything like mine, take a look at the bottom half of the chart below.

But if your family loves tomatoes, you’ll want to pay close attention to the top portion of the chart since that’ll most likely best represent your family’s tomato preferences. 

Family SizeFrequencyPreference# Slicers# Romas# Cherries
51-3 daysSandwiches14-183-63-6
51-3 daysSauces3-614-183-6
51-3 daysSalads3-63-614-18
51-3 daysSoups & Salsas4-68-128-12
51-3 daysSides7-107-107-10
54-5 daysSandwiches8-104-54-5
54-5 daysSauces4-58-104-5
54-5 daysSalads4-54-58-10
54-5 daysSoups & Salsas3-46-86-8
54-5 daysSides4-64-64-6
56-7 daysSandwiches6-833
56-7 daysSauces36-83
56-7 daysSalads336-8
56-7 daysSoups & Salsas3-45-65-6
56-7 daysSides3-53-53-5
Table Showing Tomato Plants for a Family of 4
Barred Boar Tomatoes

How Many Tomato Plants Do I Need for Larger Families?

If there are more than 5 people in your household, the math is pretty simple when it comes to how many tomato plants you need to keep everyone happy and well-fed.

Here’s what you’ll need to do: Look at the 5-person chart above, determine what kind of tomato-eating family you are, then multiply the numbers by 20% for each additional member of your family.

So if you’ve got a family of 6 that enjoys having tomatoes on sandwiches every 4-5 days, you’ll look at the chart above and find the line that recommends 8-10 slicer varieties, 4-5 roma varieties, and 4-5 cherry varieties.

Increasing these numbers by 20% will give you this estimate for a 6-person household:

  • 10-12 slicer varieties
  • 5-6 roma varieties
  • 5-6 cherry varieties

If you’ve got 7 members of your family, use the 5-person chart but increase the numbers by 40%. If you’ve got an 8-person family, increase the numbers by 60%. And on and on. Simply multiply the numbers by 20% for each additional family member above the 5-person family in the chart above.

Before I wrap things up, I’d like to say a few words about the tomato-growing process since you won’t get many tomatoes at all if you don’t plant healthy tomato seedlings in your garden.

To grow tomato plants in abundance, you can purchase tomato seedlings from the store, but at $2-5 per plant, you’ll spend a ton of money doing so, which is why I recommend buying tomato seeds from reputable online retailers instead. You can see my full list of the pros and cons of buying plants versus growing them from seed, but long story short, I like to grow varieties that I often can’t find in local stores while also saving money along the way.

Tomato Plants Growing in My Backyard
I grow my tomatoes in grow bags, buckets, and raised beds.

You can save seeds from store-bought tomatoes, but I don’t recommend it since those tomatoes are often hybrids, and hybrid seeds can lead to less-than-ideal results. And just so you’re aware, seeds from canned tomatoes are a complete no-go since the canning process completely sterilizes them.

When it comes to germination, you can germinate seeds in water, plant them directly in soil, or start them indoors while the weather’s still cold outside–you can even plant whole tomatoes and let them naturally rot beneath the surface of the soil–but I’ve had the best luck following these 7 steps to successful seed germination.

I’ve written quite a bit about germinating seeds–articles related to heat mats, sunlight, and watering–but whatever you do, be sure to keep your soil warm if starting tomato seeds indoors or under grow lights.

If you’ve never used heat mats before, take a quick look at this beginner’s guide to heat mats to learn all you need to know about using heat mats to germinate your seeds.

Barred Boar Tomato Plant

Further Reading

Now that you’ve got all you need to know to plan out your tomato plants for the coming season and ensure that you grow healthy tomato seedlings, please take a moment to check out a few of my other tomato-related articles.

I’ve been growing tomatoes for years, and I wrote the articles mentioned both above and below to help you grow the best tomatoes possible this coming season:

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