Planting Vegetables

Plant Tomatoes on Their Side

When you start your own tomato plants indoors, they tend to be a bit wimpy: tall and thin with few lower leaves. You may even feel ashamed about planting them in your vegetable garden lest your neighbors laugh at you!

Well, they won’t laugh if you apply the following trick:

Instead of planting scrawny tomato plants upright, dig a lengthwise hole and place them on their side, bending the top part upward so it remains exposed. Then just cover the bare stem with soil. The plant will instantly look perfectly sound … and roots will grow on the buried part, giving you an even more vigorous plant that you would have had it were it planted upright. So your scrawny homegrown tomato plant may well outdo the sturdy-looking but much more expensive store-bought one!

Warning: do not plant grafted tomatoes this way. Whether you buy them or grow your own, with these especially vigorous tomatoes, the graft union must always be above the ground. If you bury the graft point, the scion (top part) will take root and benefits of grafting (greater vigor, productivity and disease resistance) will be lost.

Adapted from an article originally published on June 3, 2015.

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

3 comments on “Plant Tomatoes on Their Side

  1. Margaret

    I love this! In the past, have planted my tomatoes with much of the scrawny stem under ground. But this way, I wouldn’t have to dig as deep a hole. Good for me and my aching back. Very laidback!m

    • Glad to help!

    • If possible, I prefer a deeper hole because the lower soil does not dry out as readily as the upper. (Moisture is a concern here.) It really depends on how tall the plants are, how easy the digging is, and how the soil holds moisture. I do this with a few annual plants.

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