Monday, May 12, 2014

Trenching Tomato Plants

A healthy harvest of tomatoes depends on healthy plants. As a follow up to my previous post (April 24th) on growing tomatoes, I thought I'd share a new concept I learned just recently.
But the secret of a healthy tomato plant is all in the roots. Most plants are this way, but even more so for tomatoes.   Tomatoes need a good foundation that is able to feed the plant and produce an abundance of fruit.  It means good soil, but it takes a large root system to support the plant both physically and nutritionally.

I gave you some overall suggestions in  my post Growing Tomatoes, but there is another trick that gardeners soon learn is vital to growing great tomatoes…Plant them deep!  There are a couple of ways to do that.
The old-fashioned way:

Dig a deep hole.  You need to bury half the plant or more.  This seems wrong, especially when you pick out a strong healthy plant at the nursery, lush with leaves—but it works. Although it isn’t necessary, pinch off the existing leaves and branches along the portion of the stem that will be underground.  Once buried, those places where stems once grew now put out additional roots to support the growing plant.

The new trick I spoke of is trenching. You start much the same way as I described above. Except for digging a deep hole, you dig a long trench.  You remove the leaves and stems from all but the top section of the plant, then lay the plant on its side in the trench and cover the stem up to the top leaves with soil. Make sure the root ball is in the deepest part of the trench and try not to over bend the plant to get the top above the soil. (It will straighten itself.)
The advantage of burying the plant this way is it forces the plant upward, which in the end, increases the plant’s strength. Also, for me, since I have raised beds and my good soil is only as deep as the bed, by planting them sideways, I am keeping the root system surrounded by good soil.

Important tip:  When placing your tomato cage into the ground, remember where the roots are.  If you sever the stem, you will kill the plant.
Your turn:  Have you tried trenching or have you always grown your plants the old-fashioned way?

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