There are many different ways of planting tomatoes and many of them work great too but perhaps the most important thing to know when planting tomatoes is how deep in the ground the plants should be since this can greatly affect the health of the plants and ultimately your harvest.
As a general rule, between 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm) of the tomato plant should be covered with soil when transplanting from a pot to the ground. This depends on the size of the plant, however, and a good rule of thumb is that 50-70% should be underground. This promotes root growth which leads to healthier plants.
In this post, I explain the benefits of planting your tomatoes deep and exactly how to do it. I also explain exactly how I have seen some incredible results when it comes to planting tomatoes by using both the deep plant method which was introduced above and the trench method which uses the same ideas as the deep plant method but without having to put your tomato plants deep in the ground.
How Deep in the Ground Should You Plant Tomato Plants?
Very few things can match homegrown tomatoes in my opinion. They taste amazing when picked fresh from your own plants, they are cheap and easy to grow, and they can provide you with some huge harvests if taken proper care of.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to putting most plants in the ground in your garden is that they should be planted at about the same level in the ground as they were in the pot when you bought the plant.
Tomatoes are an exception to this rule, however, since they are quite atypical compared to most other plants when it comes to planting them in the ground.
As a general rule, you should bury between 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm) of the main stem when planting tomatoes directly in the ground. Any part of the main stem that is covered with soil will sprout new roots and more roots lead to a larger, healthier tomato plant with more fruit.
There are two types of tomato plants. Determinate tomato plants are small and bushy and only grow to a certain size and indeterminate tomato plants are vines that will keep growing and producing fruit for the entire season. This tip applies to both types but works especially well for indeterminate varieties since they will keep growing and the extra root growth will help them tremendously with that.
If you look closely at your tomato plant, you will see lots of tiny white hairs all along the stem. These white hairs can potentially all become new roots if the part of the main stem they are on is covered in soil.
Planting tomatoes deep increases the number of roots. A large number of healthy roots will increase tomato plants’ ability to obtain water and nutrients from the soil and ultimately lead to healthier tomato plants with the potential for larger and better harvests.
A larger root system also reduces the risk of overwatering, which is a very common problem. You can read more about overwatering tomatoes and why deep planting reduces the risk on this link.
When you plant your tomato plants directly in the ground, it is important to remove any branches and leaves from the part of the main stem that you bury.
I have heard and read several people claim that it is not necessary to remove the branches and leaves that you bury and while it may be true that it is not absolutely required, my personal experience tells me that it is a good idea to do so. In my experience, removing branches and leaves that would otherwise be buried can help prevent various pests.
In my experience, slugs and other pests will go after the branches and leaves that are close to the ground so I actually like to remove any branches and leaves that are hanging too close to the ground in addition to the ones that would otherwise be buried.
To reduce the risk of pests such as slugs eating your tomato plants, remove any branches and leaves that are hanging roughly 5 inches (12.5 cm) or less from the ground. Make sure that you do not remove all the leaves since that will prevent the tomato plant from absorbing sunlight and growing.
It is important to water your tomato plants well throughout the entire growing season. I like to water my tomatoes as soon as the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil feels dry. The ideal time to water your tomatoes is in the morning before the weather gets too bright and warm since the sun can dry out the soil before your tomato plants can absorb the water.
How Deep in the Ground Should You Plant Tomato Seeds?
Starting your plants from seeds is a great way to get lots of tomatoes more or less for free. A single tomato can contain hundreds of seeds so once you have just one tomato, you can technically have an endless supply of seeds.
Tomato seeds should be covered with between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch (or about 0.5 cm) of soil. Put 2 seeds in each hole and push the soil lightly. If both seeds sprout, remove one of the plants as early as possible to give the remaining plant the best conditions.
I always like to harvest seeds when I find a tomato variety that I really like since it allows me to grow several plants of the same variety next year. I am currently growing a Sungold cherry tomato plant and I can’t wait to harvest the seeds from it. It is by far one of my favorite tomato varieties.
When I grow tomatoes from seed, I like to start them indoors in small pots and let them grow in a warm place that receives a lot of sunlight and then take them outside when they reach 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) in height.
Can You Plant a Tomato Plant Too Deep?
A good rule of thumb when transplanting garden plants from a pot to the ground is to plant them at roughly the same ground level as they were in the pot.
Tomato plants are an exception to that rule.
As a general rule, you cannot plant tomatoes too deep as long as the top 5 inches are above the ground. Tomato plants are vines and will grow roots from any part of the main stem that is covered in soil and planting them deeper will result in more root growth.
This especially applies to indeterminate tomato varieties since they will keep growing throughout the entire season. Determinate tomato varieties grow to a certain size and then stop so be careful with planting determinate tomato plants too deep if they have already reached their full size or are close to it.