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Super-deep Tomato Planting

I often mention about deep-planting tomatoes so that they develop more roots to support larger vines with more fruit. By deep-planting I mean covering up around 10 cm of the stem which is the bit with the little root hairs that will grow when buried.

Border Tomatoes

Border Tomatoes from 2018 Growing up Strings

I’ve read about planting deep and angling the stem just under the surface before training it upwards along the string or pole. Not a method I’ve been successful with as I tend to break the stems which will only bend so far.

Anyway, I watched a video on Curtis Stone’s website (subscription required) From the Field about the very successful Bear Creek Organic Farm in Michigan, USA.  One small part of their operation is growing tomatoes in polytunnels.

The tomatoes grow up strings in rows, spaced at 15 inches apart in the row – a little tighter than I’d like but nothing unusual so far. They also plant deeply but – and this is where it gets unusual – very deeply indeed. An 18 inch plant will be buried up to just 3 inches from the top!

How they dig the holes is unusual too, although it makes perfect sense when you think about it. They’ve a lot of tomatoes to plant so speed and efficiency is important. What they do is to use a mechanical auger to drill holes into the ground. Usually these are used for digging post-holes when fencing.

Next they put some compost into the bottom of the hole, drop the plant in and backfill around the stem with more compost only leaving about 3 inches of the plant above ground. They don’t strip the leaves or anything, just drop that plant straight in.

Does it Work?

Being as he’s a farmer making a living from his growing, it must work for him but what a brave guy to try it in the first place.

I thought it might be interesting to try out this method and compare with plants grown using my normal method. I’ve actually got an auger, hand powered rather than with an engine. However, the handles are wide to give the operator better leverage. Too wide to turn it round in my greenhouse border. So this goes into the file marked ‘most likely a good idea, but not tested’

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Super-deep Tomato Planting
  1. Rowland Wells says:

    I have to say it seems quite a lot of work to get a few tomatoes John. I’ve never tried the string method because we usually get a fair crop from using canes and planting our tomatoes in large pots.

    So basically what’s the advantage of growing tomatoes using that method John?

    • John Harrison says:

      The idea is to encourage root growth on the basis that the more roots the plant has the more fruit trusses can be supported. I find stringing the plants is less hassle than poles.

  2. Rowland Wells says:

    as we always use canes I will be giving string a go this year to see if its as good as my canes

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