Those clusters of juicy red fruits on your tomato plants aren’t easy to achieve. Throwing a handful of seeds in your garden and expecting a beautiful tomato garden just doesn’t sound right. So what can you possibly do to make sure your tomato plants thrive. Even the tiniest details that are often missed by novice gardeners make a long-lasting difference. One such point is the depth at which it’s planted. How deep do you plant tomatoes?
If you have leggy, spindly tomato plants even when it’s sitting in a fertile, sunny location with adequate watering and fertilization, it could be that you didn’t plant them right. Continue reading and learn how deep to plant tomato plants along with the expert ways to plant them.
How Deep Do Tomato Roots Grow?
Tomatoes are deep-rooted plants with a tap root system. The actual depth depends on the tomato variety, soil structure, and planting technique, but it can grow a root system as deep as 2 to 3 feet if given optimal conditions.
Here are a couple of factors affecting the depth of tomato roots:
Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. The determinate varieties stop growth once they’ve reached a certain size. Indeterminate varieties grow throughout the growing season. As you would expect, the indeterminate varieties grow a deeper taproot system to support growth throughout the growing season.
- Soil Structure
Compacted soil will hinder the vertical growth of the tomato roots. Once the roots reach a particularly firm layer that cannot be penetrated, they’ll start extending laterally.
- Planting Technique
Another factor that affects the root depth is the answer to how deep do you plant tomatoes. When you plant them deeply, with a portion of the stem also hidden under the soil, they’ll get a better chance to develop deeper and stronger roots.
What’s In The Depth?
Why is depth so important for your tomatoes? Isn’t soil, water, light, fertilization enough to worry about? As it turns out, the planting depth is a major factor in determining your crop’s success. Tomato plants sitting deep in the soil are much better off than the shallow ones.
When you plant the young tomato plants deep into the soil, a good portion of the stem goes underground. Roots will grow off this entire length of the stem that’s under the soil surface. This results in a stronger, more extensive root system, ideal for these heavy feeders. With better access to water and nutrients, your tomato plants will grow healthier and with better resistance against diseases, infections, drought, and changes in weather.
In short, a healthier root system that comes from deeper tomato plants translates into a healthy crop, if all the other conditions are favorable too.
How Deep Do You Plant Tomatoes – Dig Deep
Most vegetables require a planting hole around the same depth as the container they came in. Also, they like their stem to sit above the soil level, where it’s exposed to air and sunlight. However, the same does not hold true for tomatoes.
They’re heavy feeders that like a decent portion of the stem sitting underground to develop deep roots. They’ll need a hole that’s at least 12 inches deep to rest the young plants in. You’ll need to prune out a couple of leaves coming out of the lower portion of the stem before the plant into the hole.
Even when you are growing tomatoes from seed you should still plant the young plants as deep as you can when potting on to encourage this early on.
What About Planting Tomatoes On Their Side
Now that you know how deep to plant tomato plants, you should also learn how to space them correctly. Spacing them adequately will give enough room for the individual plant’s roots to spread without coming in the way of nutrients and moisture share of the roots of the surrounding tomato plants.
Space the individual plants at least 24 to 36 inches apart for optimal growth of the tomato plants. Planting them any closer than 24 inches apart will make them susceptible to diseases. Large indeterminate varieties should be spaced 36 inches apart, with a 4 to 5 feet gap between the rows.
How To Plant Tomatoes?
Do you understand now how deep to plant tomatoes? However, before looking into the depth of the tomato seedling, you need tomato seedlings. How do you get those?
You can either start your tomato crop from young plants bought from the nursery or from seeds. When growing them from seeds, there will be a few extra steps involved. If you have the patience to grow your tomato plants right from scratch, here’s what you’ll do:
- Pick A Variety
Choose a suitable disease-resistant variety before you start planting it. Determinate varieties that don’t grow very tall and are excellent choices for container gardens. If you have a large garden, with no limitations of space, indeterminate varieties may suit you better.
- Prepare The Soil
The usual garden soil isn’t the right choice for starting seeds. It doesn’t drain suitably and makes the young plants susceptible to diseases. Either use potting soil or preferably a good quality organic seed starting mix to sow your tomato seeds.
Choose a seed starting tray or small containers to sow your seeds. Make sure they have drainage holes at the bottom; you don’t any excess water lurking around your young tomato plants. Egg cartons and yogurt containers work well and are already available in most homes.
- Sow The Seeds
Fill the pots with your soil mix, mist it with water, and sow the seeds about ½ inch deep below the soil surface. Sow two to three seeds per pot, a little distance apart from each other. Thin to a single, strongest seedling once the plants develop.
- Heat And Light
Seeds need warmth to germinate and produce healthy seedlings. Place the tray over a heat mat for bottom heat until they germinate. Once the seedlings emerge, remove the heat mat and transfer them to a bright spot, near a sunny window or under grow lights.
How To Transplant Tomato Seedling – All You Need To Know
Once the tomato plants are tall enough and healthy, it’s time to transplant them to their final home. Choose tomato plants that are about 10 to 12 inches tall for transplanting to a large container, raised bed, or garden.
Again, before transplanting the seedlings to their new home, remind yourself of the answer to the question of how deep do I need to plant tomatoes. Make sure you plant them deep enough to ensure healthy growth.
Remove The Seedlings
Use a hand shovel to carefully dig out the seedling from its existing pot. Make sure you don’t damage any of the roots close to the surface.
Prune The Stem
Before planting the tomato seedling, prune out the lower half of the main stem. Since you know how deep to plant tomatoes, you know how much of the stem needs to go under the soil. Just pinch out all the leaves and branches coming out for this lower portion of the stem. All of this pruned out part will go under the soil, so you don’t need any leaves coming out of it.
Once your stem, with the bare lower half, is ready to go under the soil, we come to the next step. There are generally two different methods that growers use when transplanting the seedling. Both are equally effective; pick what suits you right.
- Deep Hole Method
Dig a hole deep enough into the ground or your pot that when you place the seedling in the hole, the soil is in line with the first set of the remaining leaves on the tomato stem. Give the seedlings a gentle shake to remove excess dirt from the root ball and place it into the hole. Backfill the hole with more soil.
- Trench Method
If it’s difficult to dig a deep hole, you can go for the trench method. An additional advantage of using this method is that the roots grow close to the surface during the initial stages, where the soil is warmer and promotes faster growth.
Dig a trench that’s 6 inches in depth and has a length that will cover the rootball as well as the bare portion of the stem. Shake off dirt from the rootball and lay it in the trench. Backfill with soil, making sure at least a few leaves are above the ground. You can stake the portion of the plant that’s above the soil. Even if you don’t, the plant will eventually start growing vertically, attracted to the direction of the sun’s rays.
So if you didn’t know if the depth of tomato plants was even a concern in the first place, now you know how it’s a determining factor. You also know now, how deep do you plant tomatoes if you want to see flourishing plants laden with plentiful juicy, red treats.