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A common garden rule is never to install plants below soil grade. Often plants will languish, and possibly die, if planted too deeply. However, this is not the case with tomatoes.
The stems of tomato plants have the ability to develop roots when set underground. The increased root system gives the plant a stronger base and increased access to water and nutrients. Plant your tomatoes as deep as possible, leaving three to four sets of leaves above the soil line. Remove leaves and flowers that will be below grade.
If you have heavy soil or you'd like to avoid digging deep, try planting the tomato in a trench. Instead of digging a deep hole for the tomato plant, dig a long, shallow hole. Set the stem on its side in the trench and gently bend it as you backfill, so that a portion with several sets of leaves remains above the soil.
The deep-planting method is not recommended for hard, compacted soil, which would prevent new roots from penetrating and growing.
Discover more tricks and take your tomato-growing efforts to the next level with Craig LeHoullier’s award-wining guide Epic Tomatoes.