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.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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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