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rainbowgardener
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[quote="garden5"]Thanks TZ, and MysticGardener67 for the great information on bottom watering. TZ, I believe you said that it is time to water when the soil starts to pull away from the sides of the pot and the top is extremely dry to the touch. I know that the answer to this next question probably varies, but how often do you do your bottom watering routine?

Apparently I was just publishing mine while you were writing yours. Everyone has their own ways of doing things. Personally when dealing with baby seedlings, I would not wait until soil is pulling away from the sides. That works for established plants, but the tiny babies are very sensitive. They do want to stay damp (but not wet) all the time. As noted above, I generally add a very small amount of water every morning, as long as they are soaking it up thoroughly and no water is remaining in the tray.

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rainbowgardener, that is exactly what happened. After I made the post and saw that it went through, I logged off without actually checking the thread.

Amazingly, you answered my question before I had even published it!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I would want to keep the plants under the grow lights until probably a week or so before I plant them outside, wouldn't I?

On the subject of the growing medium used, could I use some of my compost instead of potting soil? The compost is young and mostly dirt, but it does have some organic matter in it. I have heard about people starting their seeds in compost with very good results and I'd like to give it a try.

That is why I asked about the drawing properties of soil. Since my compost is mostly dirt, do you think it will still draw if bottom watered? If I use it for my seedlings, I will screen it, somehow, to eliminate the rocks and twigs. This will also make it finer which, I think, will be better for the seedling's roots. What do you think.

Lastly, since I seem to have taken this thread way off-topic, should I start a new one for my seed-starting questions, or would you rather I not clutter-up the forum and, in the future, simply think before I post to make sure I stay with the thread topic.

Thanks for your help and sorry for going off-topic.

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G5, check out the [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097]Compost Tea thread[/url] to get a LOT more really good advice (I am happy to say we even have some nationally ranked folks weighing in there now). Just know it is supplementing the natural nitrogen cycle, and Nature does a pretty good job of starting seeds, growing them, and disposing of the remains safely and with an eye to repeating the process again and again. Can't get that in a bottle...

HG
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applestar
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My typing fingers are lazy today so here are some links for ya! :wink:
Threads where I discussed using compost in seed starting mix:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=63285#63285
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=62215#62215
(Re: soil blocks -- Despite my raves, I stopped making/using them when I realized that you need at least twice as much volume in soil mix because you need to pack them in to hold the soil block shape and I just couldn't keep up with mixing up batch after batch. I switched to newspaper pots.)

My last year's thread on a no-window, unheated garage Grow Light Area:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=60193#60193

Overall, I prefer individual pots of some kind rather than trays because it's easier to arrange/adjust by height so that the tops are even under the lights.

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Thanks for the great resources, HG and Applestar. They will occupy me for a while.

Applestar, I really look forward to reading about your starting seeds in and unheated garage.

HG, thanks for the compost tea thread. I was about to do a forum search for it, but you saved me the trouble.

Oh, and by the way; Applestar, is that a German red strawberry tomato as your avatar. I seem to remember you saying what it was last fall, but I can't recall the variety.

Thanks, again, everyone.

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You are very welcome, garden5. Looking forward to hearing about your progress, too. :wink:

My avatar is a Pricipe Borghese -- Italian, I believe. A sun-drying variety, though it also makes good sauce. Very productive, and a good keeper (had the last of the picked-green-turned-red-indoors ones just last week :() ... and I STILL have the dehydrated ones, frozen ones, and sauced-and-canned ones :() :() ).
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=89200#89200

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Applestar, I read your threads, really good material, especially the threads about the compost seed starting mix and the garage starting area.

I have a question regarding the seedlings positions under the grow lights. Do the plants have to be directly under the lights, or can they be slightly off to the side?

Say I have a 1020 tray, can I have the tray perpendicularly located under the light, so it looks like a + sign, or do the trays have to be run lengthwise under the lights, so that the long sides of the trays are parallel under the long ends of the lights?

The first way would allow me to have more trays per light, but the end plants might be somewhat far out from the lights. If I go with the second way, I will only be able to get half as many trays under the lights, but the edge seedlings will be closer to the lights.


I'm sorry if this is confusing. Basically, should the trays be arranged side-by side or end-to-end under a single row of shoplights?

Thanks for the opinions.

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Having very quickly used up all available space directly under the lights (despite my mantra) :roll:, I draped long aluminum foil sheets over the light hood (and over the seedlings that stuck too far out) and the reflective sun-shield and the mirror on the wall for the sides, AND recycled aluminum or white plastic take-out trays as bottom trays and lined the table and the height adjusting cardboard boxes with aluminum foil for the bottom. That Grow Light Area was SO covered up that not much light ESCAPED to illuminate the garage :lol:

Also, I think the trick is to keep shuffling them around. Not so easy with a full-size tray (again, I prefer individual pots or small community pots/trays) but maybe keep a section for a tray to be FULLY under the lights and rotate in. Remember, too, that the center of the tubes is brighter than the ends.

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applestar wrote:Having very quickly used up all available space directly under the lights (despite my mantra) :roll:, I draped long aluminum foil sheets over the light hood (and over the seedlings that stuck too far out) and the reflective sun-shield and the mirror on the wall for the sides, AND recycled aluminum or white plastic take-out trays as bottom trays and lined the table and the height adjusting cardboard boxes with aluminum foil for the bottom. That Grow Light Area was SO covered up that not much light ESCAPED to illuminate the garage :lol:

Also, I think the trick is to keep shuffling them around. Not so easy with a full-size tray (again, I prefer individual pots or small community pots/trays) but maybe keep a section for a tray to be FULLY under the lights and rotate in. Remember, too, that the center of the tubes is brighter than the ends.
Thanks for tip about the middle of the tubes being brighter than the ends.

I looked at some t8 lights and light bulbs, they were really inexpensive.

I think you have it right with the plant positioning: rotate to keep it balanced. Makes perfect sense.

Are there some plants that need grow lights more than others?

Thanks for all your advice. I've learned way more about grow lights than I anticipated.

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I don't usually let my seedlings get so dried out that the potting mix pulls away from the sides. Experience will help you gauge when and how often to water which is dependent on the size of the container, the heat, lighting and size of the plant. I bottom water using a tray that has a small amount of fertilizer once the seedling have several sets of leaves. I use PHC seedling fertilizer and the seedlings do very well. Once transplanted to larger containers, I dilute the fertilizer I will give them during the season.

As for lights and places to grow your plants, it really is about your budget and the space available. I have an unheated room (next to a heated room) and it stays around 65 degrees. I have one set up that I bought heavily clearanced ( 2 shelves with 24" space from lights to shelf) and then made my own adjustable 5 - shelf setup from metal shelving purchased (on sale) at HD. I use 32 watt T-8 6500K (daylight) bulbs in 2-shop lights for each shelf and buy those at HD or Lowe's. My shelves are all 4 foot by 18 inches so I can accomodate a lot of seedlings/plants.

As to positioning the lights, they should be no more than 2-4 inches above the plants. I usually use the 2" distance and adjust the plants according to height- meaning that when one variety gets much taller, I stack blocks of wood under the shorter ones so that they are all about equal distance from the light. I also have the lights on a timer and run them for 16 hours from 6 am-10 pm. Plants need those 8 hours of darkness to make use of the light and nutrients they took in during the day.

I use the lights until they go out to my small unheated green house in late April/early May. Just a few weeks of that sun and heat performs wonders and helps in the process of hardening the plants.

It isn't at all complicated to grow seedlings. It's caring for them and keeping them healthy until planting out. When we try a new type of plant, it might test us just a bit. (The onion family is new to me this year and I've been looking/asking for good info on starting from seed, when to up pot and when to put them in the ground. It all sounds so complicated but I expect it will be just fine.)

I think it is great that you are asking so many questions because, in the end, it will help you become more successful with your gardening. When I think of the first 3 tomato plants I grew and felt so proud of, I am reminded what it feels like to new to veggie gardening.

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For those of you whose space and lighting is at a premium, take a look at Oasis Horticubes. 104 cells fit in a standard 1020 tray and they will support plants that get 10-12" tall. I can grow more than 1750 plants in 32 sq. ft. The negs: they are more expensive than nursery flats but not much after considering potting mix, needing fewer trays, etc., and they need watered daily. I keep mine in water - that doesn't hurt them.

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A good way to learn about watering is to observe critical conditions (let some plants wilt under observation [rather than neglect]). Check them twice a day (lift up the pots to feel the weight) until some start to wilt. If you are worried about wasting seeds save some junk seeds from a grocerystore tomato and plant them the way you plan on planting your good seeds. Let them go for several days to see how fast the soil dries, and how long it takes before they start to wilt. Learn to water in that relatively long period (few days) between "these pots are heavy with moisture", and "these plants are wilted".

My main point on watering is that when growing under fluorescent lights you don't have to be so scared of keeping the plants/potting mix noticably moist/wet. That can lead to overwatering problems like damping off. Roots are really good at pulling water out of soil particles, and the less water they have the more the roots are encouraged to grow ...to a certain dryness point.


It is a lot safer to start plants under flourescent lights than with window light because you never know day to day how hot the plants/pots will get and they can get cooked and over dried when you are not looking...I just did that to some houseplants when the outside temp was less than 20F. They would be goners as seedlings. I have cooked some germinating peppers in that window in previous years thinking that it was a good way to keep them warmer.

We have warm springs here with intermittant frosts so I usually begin moving my seeding outside starting a few days after they are potted up (true leaf stage) so that I can use the space under the lights for starting more seeds. On warm days (highs in the 60s) the flats go along the east side of the house... protected from wind, and can get a half day of sun. They only go out into the open yard full sun if I'm there to move them to safety because we have variables winds that increase at certain times of the day and either beat up the plnats or pull water out of the pots, quickly wilting them.

On cold/rainy days (and at night) the plants go inside on the floor under the dining room table etc in fairly low light. Its not the best way, but even with 2-3 days in near darkeness they still do OK.

I blame a lot of the anxiety about sprouts/seedlings to those mini green house covers they sell with peat pellets... They make it seem like the sprouts are much more delicate than they really are. I totally understand though as I am a reformed ovewaterer/plant babyer.

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Indeed, way more little seedlings have been killed with too much water/ humidity than too little. I learned the hard way to be very sparing of water for them. Only bottom water and only a little.
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

garden5 wrote:I have heard of people stripping off all the leaves except for the top two on their plants and planting the plant all the way up to these top leaves. Supposedly, this gives a deeper, stronger, root system.

Has anyone ever tried this, what were your results? Did you get fruit sooner because the plant got more nutrients, or did you get fruit later because the plant had to make up so much growth?

This is something I might try this year. Thanks for any reports.
+++Deeper planting seems to work better when the ground is warmer. If its done too early the plant will be slower! I prefermaking the hole deeper with a pipe but only planting the roots down 6 inches with the hole elow going down much deeper so when the plant is ready it can extend its roots without having to push through hard soil! I have heard of plants from sothern states being sent out with only the top leaves and a foot of stem. I would usually lay the stem down parellel to the surface 3 inches deep. but since I started making the hole below the tomatoes deeper I had better over all results!
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I actually plant maters with a post hole digger; no foolin...

I do strip them down to just a few leaves, and plant a 16" tall seedling with about four inches or so exposed (Two sets of leaves).

I have found this to give me deep strong root systems that even out the sometimes spotty watering my maters get (life of a salesman). It serves them well in hot droughty weather (last year was a great example). And my maters are usually taller than most in the neighborhood, so I lose nothing there.

In short, I wouldn't do it any other way...

HG
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Putting all my tomatoes in this week with my deep funnel shapped holes using a 1 inch steel rod or shovel handle. I usually make it a foot down and move it in a large circle so that the top of the hole is like the top of a funnel. I feel the top of the hole with some good soil and my tomato is planted about a foot deep. It seems that the one inch hole below the tomato holds water and stays wet for a long time with my type of soil! It is so easy and fast that I can plant 20 tomatoes in 15 minutes! The top of the hole is about 4 inches in diameter! Try it you will never do it any other way once you master it for even other plants like peppers!
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i wasn't able to watch the local PBS "Garden Line" a couple of weeks ago (hosted by SDSU horticulturists). DVR'd it and watched it last night. one of the hosts showed what to do if your tomato plants happen to get a little "leggy" before you are able to plant them in the ground. she actually put the tomato plant in a horizontal position in the ground (maybe couple inches deep) and gently bent the area so to expose that part above ground. not sure if there would be any benefits to that, then say "burying" it straight into the ground and leaving top exposed.

just thot i'd pass that along.

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If you bend a tomato over and touch any part to the ground it will grow roots there! You can take the top and bury it and have to ends of the tomato growing roots! Tomatoes are something!
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Hanging tomato new twist!

How about lets take a hanging tomato and hang it so it touches the ground. Now lets burr the part that reaches the grounf. I would think that it would grow very nicely with two sorces of food! What do you think? Has anyone tried this?
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Garden5,
I didn't have the time or patiences to read 33 replies to your guestion.
The best I can tell you is we'll see this fall.
I have two Jetstars that have not been planted yet.
Both started from seed at the same time.
Both are the same hight.
I will plant one with the roots a few inches below the surface and I will plant the other one with the roots a foot deep.
I'll get bact to you this fall with the results.
If a disease doesn't kill them and a bug doesn't eat them there may be something left for you.
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Thanks Johnny!

I wanted to do this myself last year and this, but the plants were so small that the difference between deep and not deep was only about 2 in. :lol:.

Looking forward to the results.
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Just going to pop in quickly, as I went the "deep planting" route this year!

Does anyone else notice that deep planted tomato plants tend to grow out horizontally and get wider, instead of taller? I have several plants where I planted them regularly (with some of the stem above around) that are growing really tell and need support- but the ones i planted deep, up to almost the first set of leaves, are way ahead of the ones that are taller- more tomatoes and everything!

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I generally bury my transplants about 2/3 of the way down depending on variety, give it a try this season on a plant or two and see how it works. Good luck

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Tomato plants have the ablilty to grow roots any place soil touches the stem. You don't need to strip off the bottom leaves it just makes them easier to plant with no leaves. Now you dig a hole deep enough to get the whole stem covered in soil.

Another cool trick to make tomatoes grow fast and produce lots of large tomatoes is dig a 10" flower pot size hole about 4" too deep. Throw a small hand full of 15/15/15 fertilizer, egg shells and some lime pellets in the hole. Pour 1/2 a gallon of water in the hole then come back in about 15 minutes after the water has gone down. Put about 4" of soil in the hole then plant the tomatoes deep with leaves removed soil touching the whole stem.

Water the plants a little bit every day in 2 weeks they will suddenly take off growing super fast. You don't need to water them anymore. They will grow about 1" per day, as the plants get larger they will grow faster.

I get several bushel baskets of tomatoes from 18 plants enough to CAN 100 pints and 20 quarts of tomatoes in mason jars the first 2 weeks tomatoes are ripe.

You can stop cut worms by sprinkling corn meal around the stems of your tomato plants. If it rains or the corn meal gets hard replace it with new corn meal. Cut worms will eat the corn meal not the tomato plant. After tomato plant hardens off about 2 weeks corn meal is no longer needed.

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I kind of got lost in the replies to your question. Kind of got off tract. Back to your question about deep planting tomatoes that is a big yes. Bury 2/3 of your start either vertically or horizontally. I only plant indeterminate tomatoes because I have a limited amount of space and grow them vertically. Friday G came home with 2 tomato plants one better boy and one big boy. From the bottom of the pot to the top of the plant they were 12" tall. After planting only 3" of the plants were above the soil line. I grow my tomatoes vertically so a deep root system is important.

Yes plant deep.

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I have about 20 tomato plants growing in paper cups. They are a little pale and leggy because they are too big for my grow lights and I haven't put them in the sun because it is so windy. I plan to take some and put them in large pots. I will bury them up to their necks and then strip of the bottom leaves and fill the pots with dirt until they reach the top. I have another flat of 72 Romas coming, so I have plenty to play with.

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Re:

buzzcut wrote:i wasn't able to watch the local PBS "Garden Line" a couple of weeks ago (hosted by SDSU horticulturists). DVR'd it and watched it last night. one of the hosts showed what to do if your tomato plants happen to get a little "leggy" before you are able to plant them in the ground. she actually put the tomato plant in a horizontal position in the ground (maybe couple inches deep) and gently bent the area so to expose that part above ground. not sure if there would be any benefits to that, then say "burying" it straight into the ground and leaving top exposed.

just thot i'd pass that along.
I know people who look for lengthier plants for this reason. It's their favorite way to plant tomatoes, say plants end up stronger, very productive.
I start all my tomatoes from seed, and plant them deep, but have not tried the curving stem method .

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

My understanding of the two methods -- deep straight down vs. shallow trench -- is that they both work on the same principle that tomatoes grow roots along the stem:

Deep "post hole" method is preferred for hot and/or dry areas so the roots can be kept cool and less tend to dry out where they can find deeper moisture

Shallow trench method is preferred for cool areas where earliest planting is desired since soil is warmer near the surface

-- Planting in deep holes can shock or delay the plants when the deeper soil is much colder to even freezing. They can also be drowned where rainfall is frequent or heavy, or subsoil is mostly clay and doesn't drain well.

-- Planting in shallow trenches can mean more frequent watering in dry spring and summer drought. Also the long shallowly buried stem can interfere with mechanical and tool-based weeding like tilling or hoeing. So heavily mulching is recommended.
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Sure it work. it will grow roots right out of the stems and this will give your plants good root system.

Hope this helps :D
Here is some good tips for Growing Awesome Tomatoes. :)
https://www.growtomatoestips.com

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Re:

johnny123 wrote:The best I can tell you is we'll see this fall.
I have two Jetstars that have not been planted yet.
Both started from seed at the same time.
Both are the same hight.
I will plant one with the roots a few inches below the surface and I will plant the other one with the roots a foot deep.
I'll get bact to you this fall with the results.
If Johnny's still here, did you ever get results from that experiment?

I have the time and space next year (and if I remember) maybe I'll try one shallow transplant, one deep transplant, and one horizontal transplant and see what the differences are.

Of course it'll have to be a variety that I really like :D
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

As a general rule, once tomato plants are positioned within the growing medium, they must have a minimum 12-inch depth beneath them for healthy root growth. Depending on the cultivar, tomato plants grow upward to approximately 3 feet; their deep root structures mirror their height so that they can support the weight above. Preferably, an 18-inch deep planter box should be used to hold a healthy tomato plant, depending on the variety. These heavy planters should be placed on a patio floor or sturdy table.

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Planting them deep works amazingly well. It is the only method I use. :)

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

They are a nightmare

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Mugabe what makes them a nightmare? planting deep? or all of the pests and diseases that plague them after?
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Often tomato starts get quite leggy. I only clip leaves that are starting to look bad, then make a trench and lay the root ball in one end and the stem horizontal for whatever length doesn't have leaves on it. I don't like to get the root ball too deep as the ground is cooler the deeper you go. The stem that is planted will send out roots and the plant will then have a great root system. Whether you go horizontal or vertical, it is good to bury some of the stem above the root ball.
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I usually bury about half of the tomato plant to encourage root growth. Good thred

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

garden5 wrote:I have heard of people stripping off all the leaves except for the top two on their plants and planting the plant all the way up to these top leaves. Supposedly, this gives a deeper, stronger, root system.

Has anyone ever tried this, what were your results? Did you get fruit sooner because the plant got more nutrients, or did you get fruit later because the plant had to make up so much growth?

This is something I might try this year. Thanks for any reports.
I like to have about 4-5 vines per plant. So in the smaller pots I pinch the leaves and let the suckers grow from where the bottom 2 sets of leaves were. After they get started good I put them in the larger containers they will stay in but only about half or 2/3 of the way filled with dirt. Later after the vines get taller I fill dirt to the top, burying the vines. I didn't do it that way with the first 2 plants last year, but with the 4 I planted later I did it that way and it made a huge! difference. The leaves were bigger and the fruit was bigger too, and the vines themselves were a whole lot thicker. It makes sense since doing it the first way all nutrients for the whole plant are restricted to going up the one stem, but the second way each vine becomes its own stem with its own root system. That makes more efficient use of the soil itself too, imo.

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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I was always taught to plant the tomatoes deep enough to covers up the bottom set of leaves at least a couple inches in the ground. Has always worked well for us.

Kay&Kev
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Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:40 pm
Location: Rexburg, ID

Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I have always planted my tomato plants deep and have grown large and tall tomato plants. Planting deep allows for the plant to grow larger, gather more nutrients, and has the strength to grow bigger tomatoes. I’ve never removed the leaves before hand, and honestly you don't need to. Make sure the soil you are using is soft and fluffy. I use an organic compost manure and add 6 inches of compost throughout my entire garden each year. This helps the plant to spread its roots out deeper.

I’ll post my method for growing a deep-rooted tomato plants and as a result, grew a 6-foot tall tomato plant with tons of large tomatoes.

Soj
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Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 3:57 am

Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I trench, placing the root ball at least 8" to 10" deep. Roots will continue to grow down as far as they want from there.

I pinch off all but the top 2 or 3 leaves and lay the plant into a sloping trench, with only the top few leaves I've left above the soil line. The plant will root all along the stem. This helps to drought proof the plant as well. Where appropriate - wouldn't do this in, say the pacific northwest where they are getting 66" of rain per year - I will set the plant into a depression in the soil and line the sides with rocks so that water stays where I put it. That depression follows the lay of the trench.

I mulch with cardboard and wood chips wherever there is not plant. I prefer to drip irrigate, though my garden has been so small the last couple of years that even decrepit old me can water by hand. Even in the desert. Mulching is a miracle.

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