Plant Tomatoes Deep for Better, Stronger Growth

Sowing seed of tomato 'celebrity' into trays of compost
David Q. Cavagnaro/Photolibrary/Getty Images

I get a lot of questions about tall, spindly tomatoes. I've dealt with that problem more often than I'd like to admit, mostly because I tend to cram too many tomato seedlings under my grow lights, and they struggle for light.

But the good thing is that the problem of spindly, leggy tomato plants is easily fixed at planting time. Simply plant them as deep as you possibly can -- you can bury them all the way up to just below the top-most set of leaves if you want, and your plant will thrive.

I rarely plant them that deep -- usually, I bury my tomato plants up to just below their bottom-most set of healthy leaves.

This helps your tomato plants grow better because tomatoes form roots all along any buried portion of the stem. More roots equals more ability for your plants to take in water and nutrients, and you end up with a healthier plant that is less susceptible to drought. How easy is that?

There are two basic ways to plant your tomato seedlings deep:

  1. Dig the hole as deeply as you need it to be to accommodate the root ball and most of the stem, then drop the seedling in and backfill gently.
  2. Dig a six-inch-deep trench the length of the rootball plus stem, lay the plant in the trench, and backfill, leaving a few sets of leaves uncovered. You can stake the top of the plant up straight, rather than leaving it on the ground.