Trench Planting Tomatoes: How to Produce the Best Results
Tomatoes rank high on lists of easy-to-grow edible plants. But there are lots of opinions and tips about the best techniques for growing tomatoes successfully. Do you stake or cage, plant in pots or in the ground or even upside down? And why, after following most or all these tips, do you still see thin stemmed plants, diseased plants, or plants keeling over during hot summer days? Over the last few years, one consistent suggestion from gardeners for successfully growing tomatoes is trench planting.
Unlike the well-known approach for growing tomatoes, where plants are placed upright into a hole, trench planting uses horizontal placement to foster strong root growth. Gardeners agree strong root growth for all plants is important, but particularly for tomatoes, where robust roots are needed to support the tomato plant stems and heavy fruits. Additionally, a broad root system needs less water as the plant pulls water from a greater area of soil around it. Here are things to consider when trench planting your tomatoes.
How to Trench Plant Tomatoes
- Location: If you’re gardening and growing tomatoes for the first time, choose a sunny area for planting, since tomatoes need six to eight hours of sunlight each day for best growth.
- Soil Condition: Tomatoes, like most edible plants, grow best in rich, loamy soil. If your garden area is sandy or has a large amount of clay, consider adding organic material or compost into your garden prior to trenching.
- Trenching: Dig a trench between four and six inches deep and about 12 inches wide. The trench should be as long as the height of the tomato plant. You can dig trenches by hand, or you can save time and effort while getting more consistent trench depth, by using a powered trencher like the GeoRipper® MiniTrencher. If you have multiple rows in your garden, leave about 20 inches between rows.
- Planting: Place the tomato plant horizontally in the trench, covering the root ball and about one-half of the stem with soil. Some gardeners remove the leaves that will be covered by the soil, while others leave the plant intact. As you replace the soil, carefully bend the remaining leafy stem up above the ground. The plant will lean initially, but will straighten as it grows. This horizontal placement allows roots to grow all along the buried stem, creating a larger, more stable root system for the plant.
- Support: Add cages or stakes to support the plant as it grows.
- Watering: Tomato plants need one to two inches of water each week. If you don’t have a soaking rain, then water your tomato plants deeply, once or twice a week. Deep watering means soaking at least eight inches below the surface.
Trench planting tools Vancouver, WA
A trench planting technique for growing tomatoes will set your plants up for good growth and give you a tasty crop to enjoy all summer. Check out the GeoRipper® MiniTrencher to get your garden started.