How to Plant Tomatoes for Strong Growth 12

Tomatoes are a staple for most gardeners and for the most part, they’re pretty easy to grow. They just don’t take a lot of extra work. However. Using this trick to plant tomatoes will give them a very solid start, making for a sturdier and stronger plant.

Get your tomatoes started right!

How to plant tomatoes

With most other plants, you want to set the plant in the earth so that the soil level of the potted plant is at the same level as your garden soil. Tomato plants, however, like to be planted deeper than that.

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know that their stems are very fleshy. Those stems will sprout if they touch moist soil. Well guess what? If you were to bury those sprouting stems, the plant would send roots down into the soil.

If you have a very tall or gangly seedling, trim off some of the lower leaves, leaving a bare stem. Now dig. Go ahead and dig a hole deep enough to allow the main stem to be buried at least up to the first set of leaves. That could mean a deep hole. Or it could mean letting the tomato lay on its side in the hole, as I’ve done here.

Tomatoes are easy to grow. But knowing how to plant tomatoes properly will give them a very solid start. Try this method for success!

It’s a bit hard to see, but this seedling (above) is laying horizontally in the planting hole. After backfilling with soil, it looks like this:

Tomatoes are easy to grow. But knowing how to plant tomatoes properly will give them a very solid start. Try this method for success!

The top of the tomato plant that is above ground will start growing straight up in just a few day’s time. The tomato plant will send out little roots from that buried stem, making the plant much more stable in the ground and giving it more opportunities to pull up nutrients.

Another benefit to planting tomatoes in this manner? A plant with a strong root system is much more able to withstand dry periods and prolonged drought.

Consider deep watering

Tomatoes do well with a good deep watering followed by days of no water at all. This encourages the roots to work even more deeply into the soil, seeking out moisture. You can implement a deep watering technique like a traditional olla or a more modern copycat with a drainage pipe or even a nursery pot buried upright next to plants. Instead of watering at the surface, water into the pipe or pot so the water goes straight to the roots.

Do you need to prune tomatoes?

First, let’s be clear. We’re all busy. If you don’t have time to add “prune tomatoes” to your to-do list, carry on. It’s not a mandatory chore for growing tomatoes. That said, I do prune my tomatoes. Here’s why:

  • Pruning out excess foliage allows for better air circulation, helping to prevent disease. (I live in an area prone to powdery mildew.)
  • Less foliage makes it easier to spot insect invaders. In particular, I battle tree leafhoppers. If I can see them, I can remove them by hand.
  • Spotting ripe tomatoes is easier when the plants are opened up by pruning.

Now, am I going to tell you how to prune tomatoes? No I am not. Because it turns out, I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. I’ve always pruned out some of those big, floppy leaves that don’t make fruit but pack the tomato cage with lots of greenery. Turns out, folks in the know say I should be pruning off the suckers instead. Doing this, they say, makes for an earlier crop of larger and healthier tomatoes.


I’ve been pruning my tomatoes incorrectly for roughly twenty years. My overflowing abundance of tomatoes during my California years makes me think my pruning method hasn’t impacted production.

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12 thoughts on “How to Plant Tomatoes for Strong Growth

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Did you like that? Almost like a Power Point presentation, there with graphics and everything. 😉

  • sarah henry

    Good to know, might explain why my starts this year, well, stopped. Will try again.

  • Marlene Purdue

    I have heard it is good to put a tablespoon of epsoms salt in the hole before putting in the plant. Is this correct? What does it do for the plant?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      It adds magnesium to the soil.

  • Melanie Salikin

    I love the suggestion to lay them horizontal then bury them.. Often times we have gangly tomatoes.. this will be wonderful to try.. thank you so much xo

  • Saroja devi vijayan

    My tomato saplings are decaying from the root and it will die within two or three days,what’s the reason for this.

  • Helga Newsom

    Thank you for your info. I did not plant the tomatoes the way you do, but I will do it next year. There are so many suggestions on “how to” for tomatoes, I picked out the suckers, I have green tomatoes, getting ready to turn red. Question: I found 2 “tomatoe worms” one day, 2 more next, I picked them up and killed them, they did the job on 3 plants! We live in Ohio, what do you recommend?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      All I’ve ever done is handpick. They usually appear about midsummer, so I keep my eyes open for their droppings and find them before they do too much damage.