Are You Planting Tomatoes the Right Way?

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots

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Are you planting tomatoes the right way?

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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I learned about planting tomatoes the right way from Mr. Native Texan’s second cousin Christy, who became my gardening mentor when we were newlyweds back in Texas.  Christy was an awesome lady with the best southern accent and hilarious anecdotes for every situation.  I wish you could meet her!

Until Cousin Christy came along, I had never even realized there was a right way and a wrong way to plant tomatoes.  I thought you just stuck the roots in the ground and covered them with dirt.  Just like anything else I’d ever planted.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Cousin Christy’s Tomato Trick

It turns out there’s actually a trick for sticking the roots of a tomato plant in the ground.  Cousin Christy taught me this simple method, and now I’m excited to share it with you.

You’ll sacrifice a few tomato branches upfront, and the plant will seem very small at first.  But planting tomatoes the right way allows the plant to grow more roots and stronger roots, which will produce a stronger, healthier plant in the long run.

One major tip for tomato plant selection: always choose a small, healthy-looking plant.

It’s tempting to go for the tall, leggy tomato plants, but the smaller the plant, the smoother the planting process.  Smaller plants transition infinitely better than larger plants.

Start small, keep your plant healthy, and it will grow into a stronger plant and produce better fruit in the long run.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Pro tip:  If you start your tomatoes from seed, you may end up with leggy plants.  At least that sometimes happens to me!  By the time you get your plants in the ground, they have grown a bit taller than you would have liked.

No worries!  In fact, planting tomatoes this way actually turns a “problem” into an advantage.  By planting the tomato plant on its side, the extra-long stem will form additional roots which will lead to a stronger plant.  Pretty cool, right?

Watch me plant tomatoes the right way.  Can’t see the video?  Click here to watch.

Planting Tomatoes the Right Way

Here’s the basic idea: you’re going to pinch off the lower branches of the tomato plant and then lay the entire root ball and stem in a shallow trench.  Cover the roots and stem with dirt, all the way up to the few remaining branches.

The tomato plant will grow new roots all along the buried stem, which will increase the plant’s ability to take in water and nutrients.  This larger, stronger root system will help to keep your tomato plants strong and healthy and producing lots of fruit.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Step 1

Dig a shallow trench, slightly sloped.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Step 2

Pinch off all branches except for the top 1-3 branches.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Step 3

Lay the plant on its side with the root section in the deeper end of the trench.  I like to toss the pinched off branches in the trench first.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Step 4

This is the step I often forget!  If you plan to stake your tomato plants, insert the stake now to avoid injuring its roots by shoving a stake in later when you’ve forgotten which side the roots are on.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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Step 5

Cover the roots and entire stem with soil.  When you’re finished, only those top few tiny branches should be sticking out.  It may look small and a little funny, but the tomato plant will grow upright and look perfectly normal in no time.

Are You Planting Tomatoes The Right Way | Roots & Boots
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And that’s it!  That’s the simple method for planting the tomatoes the right way.

More about tomatoes:

Have you tried planting tomatoes this way?  Do you have other tips for growing awesome tomatoes?


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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Cindy Smith on 11/22/2018 at 9:25 pm

    I always plant my tomato plants sideways like this But,,,, I wrap the roots and bottom of the plant in newspaper. It’s supposed to keep slugs or something away… Been doing it so long I forgot what it keeps away… lol

  2. Bentkowski Donna on 04/22/2019 at 3:53 am

    Do u add any thing to your tomato plant when u transplant it? It is recommended in Texas (ZONE 8 B) to add, liberal amts of dry organic fertilizer ,a 3-4 in layer of composts , 1/2 a cup of rock phosphate to the bottom of transplant hole,1/2 a cup of corn meal around the plants ,and 1/2 cup of epsom salts over the root zone of the plants and add 1 dozen crushed egg shells to a gallon of water ,seep it for 24 hrs. and then water you plants with it ,reapply every 3 wks.

  3. Margaret Hinnegan on 04/30/2020 at 3:40 pm

    Yes we grew for Libbys & Heinz back in Canada. 10 acres & used to plant them sideways and very deep….all by a machine. Memories. Best dirt there ever was in Ontario!

    • Kathleen on 04/30/2020 at 8:34 pm

      By a machine, wow!

    • Kathleen on 04/30/2020 at 8:37 pm

      Nope, I don’t add a thing. That sounds like a lot to keep track of, LOL.

  4. Carolyn McCambridge on 04/30/2020 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Kathleen,
    Would this method work for container planting?

    • Kathleen on 05/03/2020 at 3:09 pm


  5. Jamie on 05/24/2023 at 6:12 am

    What does tossing the pinched-off leaves into the trench do?

    • Kathleen Henderson on 05/30/2023 at 10:47 am

      Nothing, really. It just adds a wee bit of organic matter back to the soil instead of tossing the leaves away.

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