Planting Tomatoes Deep (or Sideways) – Simple Trick For Bigger Tomatoes

Key Takeaways

– 🍅 Planting tomatoes deep or sideways can enhance productivity, increase fruit size, and improve the time it takes for them to reach harvest.
– 🍅 Planting tomatoes deep helps establish stronger root systems and provides physical support to the stems, preventing early season breakage.
– 🍅 Planting tomatoes deep involves digging a hole deeper than the root ball and burying the stem up to the first true leaf.
– 🍅 Planting tomatoes sideways, also known as “trenching,” can be beneficial for tall, leggy plants and in compacted or colder soil.
– 🍅 When planting tomatoes sideways, the stem is gently curved upward and buried in a shallow trench, leaving the top few leaves exposed.
– 🍅 Tomatoes have the ability to grow roots along their stems, making deep or sideways planting suitable for all tomato varieties.
– 🍅 Deep planting encourages the development of adventitious roots, which absorb more water and support overall plant growth.
– 🍅 Sideways planting can help in windy areas by lowering the plant’s center of gravity and promoting a larger root system.
– 🍅 When planting tomatoes deep, it’s recommended to prune the lower leaves to prevent soil contact and potential disease.
– 🍅 This planting technique can be used in pots, but ensure the pot is deep or wide enough to accommodate the plant’s root system.

Planting Tomatoes Deep (or Sideways)

Planting your tomatoes deep, with a little burial of the stem, is like being in Gardening 101. Not only does it help the roots establish faster, but it also leads to a higher yield and a stronger plant. Talk about reaping the rewards of a little extra effort!

An alternative method involves planting tomatoes sideways. The outcome is comparable, but both techniques can result in improved tomato plant growth.

This article will discuss both planting methods for tomatoes, including planting deeply and “trenching.” It will also explain why these methods can result in the highest yield.

Planting Tomatoes Deep

Throughout the history of home gardening, there have been various tips and techniques passed down through word-of-mouth for a healthier and more productive garden. The specific origin of the practice of planting tomatoes deep is uncertain, but it has become a widely accepted guideline in gardening today.

The recommended method for planting tomatoes involves digging a hole that is deeper than the root ball and burying the tomato stem up to the first true leaf. This differs from planting a tree, as it is generally advised to plant trees only as deep as the root ball.

Planting Tomatoes Deep

A Florida study showed that deep planting tomatoes increased yield, size, and led to an earlier maturity date.

There are additional advantages to planting tomatoes deep, such as providing physical support to young and delicate tomato stems, which can prevent damage caused by wind early in the season.

In warmer climates, the extra depth of soil helps regulate the temperature at the root ball, which can aid in the establishment of the plant. However, this may not be advantageous in cold climates during the early spring.

The method appears to be logical and I would personally suggest planting tomatoes deeply for the aforementioned reasons. If you have any doubts, you can conduct a simple experiment to determine which method works best for you.

How Does It Work?

The ability to plant deeply is due to adventitious roots. When a tomato stem is exposed to specific conditions, it will develop roots directly from the stem tissue.

I frequently receive inquiries about the white, nubby bumps found on the stem of tomato plants. These are adventitious roots, which are commonly caused by humid air or stagnant conditions surrounding that particular area of the stem.

Adventitious roots forming on the base of a tomato stem

When planting deep or sideways, the buried portion of the stem is encouraged to produce new roots underneath the soil. The moist conditions quickly trigger their production, resulting in the growth of more roots.

How Deep To Plant Tomatoes

The optimal planting depth for tomatoes is not definitively known, but there are general guidelines to follow. It is recommended to plant tomatoes deep, above the root ball and up to the height of the first true leaf. Some gardeners prefer to go deeper, while others choose to plant them as shallow as the cotyledon leaves.

To plant tomatoes deep, follow these simple steps.

  • To properly plant, measure the depth of the hole by starting from the bottom of the root ball up to the first true leaf.
  • To remove the first true leaf, cut it off along with the cotyledons. It is recommended to do this 1-2 days before planting to allow the wounds to heal.
  • Place the root ball into the hole and cover it with soil, ensuring that the tomato is planted at the same level as the surrounding soil.
  • Water the plants thoroughly, as the roots are located deep underground. Make sure to provide ample irrigation immediately after planting.

When planting tomato seeds, it is recommended to only bury them about 1/8″ below the surface to avoid any potential confusion.

What About Planting Tomatoes Sideways?

Planting deep is a recommended option, but there are certain scenarios where planting sideways may be a more suitable choice. This technique, also known as ” trenching,” entails placing the tomato seedling on its side and covering some of the stem.

Why Plant Tomatoes Sideways?

There are various reasons to consider planting tomatoes sideways instead of deep, including both physical and climate-related factors.

  • Plants that are tall, leggy, and have lots of space between leaves may benefit from sideways planting instead of deep planting.
  • If the soil is compacted or difficult to dig, it may be easier to create a shallow trench rather than a deep hole.
  • In northern climates, the deep soil can be cold in the early spring, which may not be suitable for tomato roots. A shallower hole may have a more appropriate temperature.

Planting sideways has a similar effect to planting deeply, as it encourages new root growth along the buried stem and provides support for the above ground stem.

How To Plant Tomatoes Sideways

Sideways ” trenching” for planting tomatoes requires a few days of preparation. It is highly recommended to follow these simple steps before planting tomatoes sideways.

Tomato plant laid sideways for 2 days before planting. Notice the stem curving upwards at the end

  • Before planting, lay the tomato plant on its side for 2-3 days. This will train the plant to grow upwards. The main stem will begin to curve upwards during this time. It is important to do this to prevent any damage to the stem caused by bending.
  • Remove leaves from the lower stem. Lay the plant sideways and remove the lower leaves. Avoid burying the leaves, only bury the stem. Be careful not harm the junction between the leaf and the stem.
  • To ensure proper growth, dig a trench that matches the length of the horizontal part of the plant. The depth should match the diameter of the root ball.
  • Place the root ball and stem in the trench and lay the plant into the trench, ensuring that the curved tip of the stem is above ground.
  • Place the stem and root ball in the ground, then cover with soil and lightly press down.
  • Water the trench area thoroughly, ensuring that both the root ball and buried stem are fully saturated.

When watering, it’s crucial to remember the exact location of the root ball and buried stem. Consider marking the spot where the root ball was placed during planting.

What If I Grow Tomatoes In Containers?

Growing tomatoes in containers is a convenient method that allows for easy deep planting. It is recommended to plant tomatoes deeply in pots, but trenching is not ideal due to the narrow size of containers.

To plant the pot, fill it halfway with soil, place the plant at the correct depth (up to the first true leaf), and cover the stem and roots with soil.


If you haven’t attempted deep planting for your tomatoes, it is recommended to give it a try. There are numerous potential advantages and minimal drawbacks. What do you have to lose?

To Summarize The Benefits:

  1. Planting tomatoes deep or sideways can enhance productivity, increase fruit size, and improve the time it takes for them reach harvest.
  2. In order for warm climates plants benefit from cooler soil temperatures, it is recommended that they be planted deep rather than sideways when possible.
  3. In colder climates, it may be beneficial to try trenching or planting sideways instead of deep in order to avoid soil that is too cold.
  4. Planting tomatoes deeply can provide physical support for the stems and help prevent early season breakage.

Planting deep has clear benefits in all growing scenarios, regardless of how it affects your plant’s performance. Please share your preferred method of planting tomatoes in the spring. Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should I consider planting tomatoes deep or sideways?

Planting tomatoes deep or sideways can encourage a stronger, more extensive root system. This happens as the buried stem develops roots, which in turn can support bigger, healthier plants and larger tomatoes.

2. How deep should I plant tomato seedlings?

Planting tomato seedlings about two-thirds deep into the soil is typically recommended. This means if your plant is 9 inches tall, about 6 inches would be buried in the soil.

3. Can I plant all tomato varieties deep or sideways?

Yes, all tomato varieties can benefit from this planting method because they have the ability to grow roots all along their stems. This method is particularly beneficial for indeterminate varieties that grow larger.

4. How to plant tomatoes sideways properly?

To plant tomatoes sideways, dig a shallow trench about 4-6 inches deep. Place the plant on its side in the trench, gently bending the stem upward. Cover with soil, leaving the top few leaves exposed.

5. Does planting tomatoes deep or sideways lead to bigger tomatoes?

While the direct correlation between planting depth and fruit size isn’t clear, a larger root system can support a healthier, more productive plant. This may indirectly lead to bigger tomatoes.

6. How does planting tomatoes deep improve water intake?

A larger root system, encouraged by deep planting, can absorb more water from the soil. This improves the plant’s water intake, supporting its overall growth and development.

7. How does sideways planting benefit in windy areas?

In windy areas, planting tomatoes sideways can be beneficial as the plant will have a lower center of gravity, making it less susceptible to wind damage. It also allows for a more extensive root system.

8. Does the orientation matter when planting tomatoes sideways?

The orientation of the tomato plant does not significantly matter when planted sideways. The important part is to gently curve the stem upwards, allowing the top of the plant to emerge above the soil.

9. Should I prune the lower leaves when planting tomatoes deep?

It’s a good practice to remove the lower leaves when planting tomatoes deep to prevent them from coming into contact with the soil, which can lead to disease.

10. Can this planting technique be used in pots?

Yes, you can use this technique when planting tomatoes in pots. Just make sure the pot is deep or wide enough to accommodate the plant’s extensive root system.

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