Plant Tomatoes in Trenches for Better Results

cherry tomatoes, red and green

A healthy harvest of tomatoes depends on healthy plants.

Everyone plants tomatoes. Well, everyone who vegetable gardens, that is, or at least that’s how it seems. Tomatoes are the gateway drug to edible gardening. Once you’ve had one season of healthy plants with an abundant harvest of luscious tomatoes, you’re totally hooked. But what if you don’t? What if your tomato plants are limpy and wimpy and succumb to the diseases or pests that plants are so susceptible to in the heat of summer? Then you may give up altogether and go back to buying all your tomatoes in the grocery, and I just can’t have that!

So, I’ll tell you a little secret, one that stingy gardeners keep to themselves. Listen up: It’s all in the roots. This is true for most plants in your garden, but for tomatoes it’s especially true. Tomatoes need a good base to grow up tall and strong and to support all the weight of that yummy fruit. Indeterminate types that keep on growing until frost need this strong base even more. One way to ensure healthy roots is to focus on your soil first—after all, that’s where the all-important roots take up all those nutrients to feed the plant.

large ripening red tomatoes on plant in garden

This healthy plant has large leaves that shade the ripening fruit.

Another trick seems totally counter-intuitive, but it works. When planting tomatoes, bury half the plant or more. Yep, it’s true. While for most plants, you can use the container you’re transplanting from as a guide for how deep to plant, for tomatoes, you should bury at least half the stem. If you want, you can trim off the existing leaves and branches along the bottom half of the stem, but I usually just bury the plant stems and leaves and all. Under the ground, those stems will magically become additional roots that will support your plant, both physically and nutritionally.

One way to plant tomatoes deeply is to dig a deep hole and drop the plant in with only the top half or third above ground, then cover the lower stem up. I learned this method while working for Bonnie Plants, where our motto was “Plant tomatoes deep.” Another method is called trenching tomatoes. This involves digging a long trench, again with the top third above ground but with the rest of the plant laying sideways. While there’s very little debate about whether tomato plants should be sunk half or more underground, I’ve heard seasoned gardeners debate, in the field even, about whether the best practice is to plant in a deep hole or to using the trenching method. I’d say that either way, you’re in for a better harvest.

Okay, so now you know the secret. Ready to plant? Here’s a little tutorial on planting tomatoes in trenches, from my garden this week.

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Step 1

 Open GalleryLizzano tomato planted ready to be planted

I started with a large, healthy plant. This tomato plant is Lizzano, a cherry tomato variety that is an All-America Selections winner. Lizzano doesn’t get very tall and is great for small gardens and containers. While a friend grew this from seed for me, you can find Lizzano and its cousin, Terenzo, in many seed catalogs and as transplants in your local garden center.

Step 2

 Open Gallerytrench dug for planting tomato plant

My plant was already about 14 inches tall, so I needed to dig a long trench. If you start with a smaller plant, you’ll dig a smaller trench. I dug down about 4 inches and about 12 inches across to accommodate about half the plant and its current root structure.

Step 3

 Open Gallerytomato plant in trench in soil

Here, you can see the tomato plant laying in the trench, with the roots at the end of the trench and part of the green plant laying sideways. All of that sideways plant was soon covered with soil. The buried branches and leaves will become roots under the soil. You can trim off the stems that will be buried if you want, but I don’t. Cuts along the stem create plant wounds that can invite diseases and pests to enter the plant, so why bother and take the risk?

Step 4

 Open GalleryLizzano tomato planted in garden

After the tomato is covered, you can see about half the plant stem now above ground. Because you plant part of the tomato sideways, you must help bend the stem (very carefully!) to come up vertically above ground. You can see here that the stem is coming out of the soil at a slight angle. This is another reason some gardeners swear by trenching tomatoes—forcing the plant to work at an angle gives it strength. It’s kind of the gardening version of the old “strength through adversity” or “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” cliché.

Step 5

 Open Gallerytomato in cage from above

Now that your plant is tending sideways, it’s extra important to provide support. Because Lizzano is a shorter plant, I felt comfortable using a standard 30-ish-inch tomato cage. For taller tomatoes, I use something much more hefty.

Step 6

 Open Gallerya ladybug on a tomato plant leaf

This isn’t part of the tutorial at all, but I threw it in here anyway. I love seeing beneficial insects like ladybugs on my plants. Ladybugs will help you take care of the aphids, if you’re unlucky enough to have an aphid invasion. Ladybugs are on your side. So, with the strong root system plus beneficial insects, I have a feeling this tomato plant is gonna be a great garden success!

Materials

  • tomato plant
  • tomato cage
  • good soil, enriched with compost

Tools

  • spade or small shovel
About Kelly Smith Trimble 

68Posts

I grow vegetables wherever I can find enough sunlight and forage roadsides and hiking trails for plants that can be used to make natural dyes. You can find both vintage ...

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171 Responses

  1. gfuest just reading says:

    good info- thank you – but why won"t the article print?

    • Guest says:

      I had no trouble printing. Hold down Ctrl and P, chose your pages and hit print. I'm running Windows Vista on an HP HDX laptop.

  2. arthurb3 says:

    Great idea!

  3. dennis says:

    I gave up! usually spend around $50 to get three tomatoes

    • Elizabeth says:

      Make yourself a cold frame. Nothing more than a deepish wooden frame (no bottom), say 4' x 6' x 1'. Fill it with lawn & garden soil (mostly), and potting soil for the last 2 or 3 inches. Plant your seed thusly: carefully (you don't get bloody many in a packet–usually about 30) scatter them on top of the soil. Have a sack of Black Kow composted cow manure to hand. Sprinkle this by the handful, covering your seeds to about one-fourth inch. Pat the soil down firmly. Then take some bendable hoops (3 fits the size I've given you) and put over the box, fixing them firmly in the soil. Then cover all with clear plastic, weighting it down with lengths of pipe, rocks, pieces of wood, etc. Water frequently. It's kind of late to do this now, but the lovely thing about gardening is that it always makes you think about the future! (And you could try it now if you live in Region 7 or 6).

  4. THE BEAR says:

    For great rhubarb plants use horse manure tea. Put horse manure half full in an old water bath canner, fill with water to about 2 inches from top, let steep for about 3 days then apply to the rhubarb. Add more water to the canner and repeat when necessary.

    • immafubared says:

      Or just run them over with the lawnmower. We had these rhubarbs plants in the yard as kids and no one ate Rhubarb so every couple weeks we would run them over with the lawnmower. man did those things grow. Our neighbors asked for them for Rhubarb pie and we gladly gave them up.
      I actually like Rhubarb pie now.

  5. zombie says:

    A day or two before planting the tomato plants in a trench, lay them down on the ground. The growing end will bend upwards. Then you don't risk snapping the tops off when planting!

  6. Leigh says:

    I am growing hybrids in large self-watering containers, so I cannot plant them deep. Any tips for them? Thanks!

    • Deb says:

      plant them as deeply as the planter will allow…..just leave the top showing

    • Deborah says:

      You can make an extension easily from a plastic tube. I can no longer plant a large garden for health reasons so I plant in containers on or near my patio. I use empty two liter soda bottles for my extensions (cutting off the top and bottom) and that helps with recycling. Make sure that you push the extension firmly into the soil so it will not fall over. If you dont drink soda, any tall plastic bottle will do. Another thing I have done is turn the container I buy the tomato plants in upside down,cut the bottom out and slip it over the tomato plant that has already been planted in the planter. Fill the extension with soil around the stem. The deeper you can get the plant the better. It is okay to leave just the top two or three stems out of the soil.

  7. barb says:

    I bought Bonnie plants and have no tomatoes. Lots of yellow blossums which fall off and never produce anything. Why?

    • Brenda A says:

      Add 2 tablespoons of Epson Salt your plants needs magnesium. Sprinkle this around the roots and work in

    • Doug says:

      not getting pollenated, if its to where bees can't get to it you may have to hand pollinate the plant, there are several methods and a tomato plant can pollinate itself with your help.

    • Connie says:

      Tomato plants don't like very high temps when blooming. If it is above 90 the flowers will fall off.

    • Mike says:

      Purchase some Bloom Spray from your gardening store & spray the blooms, this will help the bloom stay attached and produce the fruit….(artificial bee pollinating)

      • Bill says:

        Mike is correct on this one. You have "Blossom End Rot" which is easily controlled with a spray sold at every big box store.

        • Kelly Smith Trimble says:

          Blossom end rot is another problem related to calcium uptake that shows up as a sunken end on a tomato fruit. The problem of tomato plants not fruiting does sound like lack of pollination or blossom drop, caused by various climatic conditions like high humidity or high temperatures. Try to keep an eye out for pollinators and be patients for better weather conditions! It's still early in the season.

    • Guest says:

      Purchase Eleanor's VF-11 and follow directions. I use this when my plants drop their blossoms, and it works very well. It contains phosphorus, potash and nitrogen

    • Sue says:

      The same thing happened to me a few years ago. My plants got big and tall and looked very healthy, but the yellow blossoms began to fall off and therefore, produced no fruit. I learned that it was because I wasn't watering them nearly enough. Knowing how much water to use is VERY important. I learned the hard way!

    • Brad says:

      Bloom rot. You can find a spray for that at most home improvement stores.

  8. MLP says:

    I bought Bonnie tomato plants and was surprised to see that the planting directions said to bury 2/3 of the plant. I did that – had never done that before – so hopefully I will get a bumper crop this year. Thanks for the advice.

  9. Amm says:

    I recently moved to Las Vegas and decided to try a container garden. I have a few tomato plant and while the plant seem to be fine only one is producing tomatoes the other are blooming but no tomatoes. What can be the reason for this? The one that has tomatoes has rather small ones.

    • barbara says:

      I live in Las Vegas and I have beautiful green plants! If I don't get tomatoes this year I'm thro trying. I also said this last year!
      Sorry 'm no help.

    • JDTX says:

      It may depend on the heat that you are having. The plants will continue to grow in the heat but the fruit will not generally set if the temperature is too high. The optimum daytime temperature range for setting fruit is 70 – 85 degrees. Here in North Texas we get our tomatoes going as early in March as possible so that the fruit is set by the time the heats kicks in. I typically don't have any fruit set from late June through August, but then the plants kick in again once the heat eases in September. There in Las Vegas, you are already over 100 degrees for the highs. That is likely your problem. We had the same issue when we lived in Memphis and planted later than the minute that the risk of frost past.

    • Deborah D says:

      Tomatoes are thirsty plants. I was told by a person who does landscaping to either put a sponge into the plant or (and I know this is going to sound crazy) a disposable diaper into the pot or area you are planting. Just make sure you get one with no added fragrance. I get my from the dollar store. I have also found that if you put the diaper(s) into a container of water for a couple of hours, you can cut the padding off of the plastic cover and it works great. If you do this in containers, just watch how much you put in. My first time, I put padding from a whole diaper in each pot and the first time it rained, my "soil" swelled up so much it overflowed the pots and I ended up having to repot all of my plants. But when it doesn't rain, It also takes less water when you are having to water by hand.

    • Pam says:

      Your blooms are not setting thus no tomatoes. I live in Henderson and because of the heat I go out about 10:30pm and lightly spray down the plants to cool them down for the night. I do this about 4 night a week. Thus the blooms set and I have tomatoes. I also use marigolds to keep away tomatoe worms. Deep root watering keeps the tomatoes from burning up in August when the heat temps really kick up. Good luck.

    • Barb says:

      It's true. Night time temps must be 70 degrees or below or the blooms will not set. It's been a great season here in Oklahoma, with the occasional low that has allowed for a few cool nights every couple of weeks. Lots of tomatoes. Interested in the fish emulsion spray for feeding and tomato worm control. I have had a rash of small blackish worms this year that are driving me crazy. The normal sphinx larvae get so large so fast that they are not difficult to control, but these guys are killing me! I have about 35 plants, and trying to hand spray them all will likely kill my (slightly!) arthritic hands. I plant deep (not trench) here in OK because the usual summer temps (100+ often for DAYS) will dry out and bake the shallow roots. I also have soaker hoses buried next the the row.

    • Billy says:

      If it is a beatiful, healthy plant that is growing like crazy, could be too much nitrogen.

    • Trish says:

      Last year, we had drought conditions, temps were excessively high. Our tomatoes did NOT do well.
      We've had a container garden before when we lived in an apartment. We created a self watering system. We used a storage tote to hold water and a pump. The plastic hose had holes set for individual plants. The pump was on a timer. The hose returned to the tote for any excess H2O that didn't get into the planter. We had a very successful yield…even while we were on vacation. My husband also puts fertilizer on our tomatoes. It's up to you. I use composting from the kitchen. Our cherry tomatoes are smaller and are ripening more quickly, is this what you planted? They still are delicious in salads. Just not as easy on sandwiches. Best wishes with your garden.

    • Debra says:

      Tomatoes won't set fruit when the temperature gets into the 90s or above. Bring your containers indoors and put them in a sunny window preferably one that gets warmish during the day. Tomatoes do best in temperatures that are in the mid 80s. Putting the plants between a sunny Southern exposure window and a curtain of some type will create a micro climate. Use a thermometer to make sure it doesn't get too hot behind the curtain. This will also lower your AC costs. If you don't have a sunny window, buy some indoor grow lights. Give them 12 to 16+ hours a day of artificial sun and they'll do great even at 75 to 78 degrees. For people who planted in the ground, just keep caring for the tomatoes until the weather cools off in the Fall and they will start to set fruit. Hopefully, you'll get ripe tomatoes before the first frost. If cold weather is expected too soon, try wrapping small (non- LED) Xmas tree lights around the plants, then a layer of clear plastic. Make sure there are holes in the top so the plant can breath and won't burn up from the plastic on a warm day. This won't last forever but may help the plants survive a frost long enough to ripen some of its tomatoes. If you can't manage all that, just pick the tomatoes green if the temperature is expected to fall below freezing. Some will ripen on their own and the others can be fried or pickled.

      • Betseygal says:

        Debra, what I do in the fall & I hear that the weather is going to frost at nite, I pick all of my tomatoes, even the sm. ones. I put them in the S. window ledge & over time they will ripen, not all at once (which is good) & I was eating tomatoes in Feb. Here in MO we usually get frost shortly after (but not always) first two wks. in Nov. Course fried green tomatoes are delish!!!

    • Doyle says:

      Needs full sun

  10. Julsofthenile says:

    I've been doing this ( trench style) for a while now. works fabulous. My tomatoes took over the rest of my garden last year. They were massive. Lots of fruit out of only 6 plants. I could cover my stovetop each day completely for quite a while. This is by far the best method for their root system. PLan to plant alot further away from others. I was unable to even get to some fruit simce they intertwined with one another and needed much more room than 2 ft apart. so, if you are limited on space, I suggest only 1-2 plants planted this way. I used no fertilizer at all throughout their growing season and they were grown in a raised garden bed. Neighbors had not such good luck. They were eating my tomatoes!

  11. jeff says:

    need info on growing pepper plants

    • Doris says:

      I plant the pepper plants so that the leaves touch each other. An old farmer gave me this tip. It works for me. I only plant 6 pepper plants and pick at least 6 large peppers per plant.

    • Kelly Smith Trimble says:

      Hey Jeff, You might find this info helpful: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-grow-pepp…. More to come on growing peppers here on Made + Remade, so check back soon! Kelly

    • Elizabeth says:

      Buy the largest starts you can, and put them in early. Sweet peppers have an 85 day growing period (hot peppers are another story; as indigenous American plants, they will grow any which way), and do not, repeat do not, put a lot of fertilizer on them. Put some when you first plant, then: nada. If you put a lot of fertilizer you will get these huge, glossy bushes, but very few peppers. Altho: when they get about 18 inches high, put two tablespoons of Epsom Salts at the base of each plant. This will ensure that your peppers' walls are nice and thick. Also, later in the season, if they are heavily laden, it's a good idea to stake them.

    • Betseygal says:

      Jeff: Bell peppers are so easy to grow. I just usually start w/seed from the peppers I have bought @ Walmart. I used Mircle Grow potting soil, but that does dry out very fast. I used "empty plastic Breakfast bowls", to start my seed in & when it's really warm outside, you will need to keep the soil watered daily. once it starts growing and reaches about three inches high then I set the pepper into the ground. I usually put about 8 bags of manure/compost on my garden & till that in well, before I plant. Last yr I set out @ 4 pepper plants and they done well. I also set out 10 'stonewall' variety of cucumbers. That was a mistake. I had more than I wanted to use, gave to neighbors,church people, Salvation Army, Soul's Harbor, & my local Fire dept. + I canned 9 pints of sweet pickle relish. In essence I gave away at least 300 cukes.

  12. chuck says:

    A trick I learned from a childrens park In OrangePark,Fl. Get a bag of "Miracle Grow" with fertilizer, put a few small knife slits on bottom side for drainage and cut an "X" on top and tuck in corners put any kind of plant inside, keep watered. I get huge crop of tomatoes,squash, cumbers.One bag is good for 2 or 3 plants. The bags are laying on gravel since I don't have a garden space. Enjoy!

    • Deborah D says:

      I was in a car accident two years ago. Last year, I was unable to get out to my garden and I had my husband line bags of miracle grow near my deck. I didn't know if it would work, but I did just cut the top out of each bag and planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and watermelon. Everything flourished except the watermelon. The cucumbers got staked and grew up instead of out, and did great. The watermelon grew out and I think it didn't do well because of trampling of little feet and lawnmowers.

    • jim says:

      Chuck:

      C'mon this one needs a photo or something visual to go with explanation
      for those of us challenged in such pursuits

      • Chuck says:

        Easy Jim, Go to Lowes, WalMart, etc buy a bag of "Miracle Grow" with 6 month fertilizer. Lay bag flat, not standing. Get out your Boy Scout knife jab 8 or 10 slits in bag(for drainage), flip bag over, cut an "X" 3 or 4" long. now tuck the little flaps inside or cut off. Now scoop out a few hand fulls of soil, insert your favorite plant. I have just used seeds.
        Keep it watered & the harvest will come. Enjoy!

        • Shelli says:

          Chuck, I didn't need a picture, your first post gave a clear one! ha! Sounds like an excellent idea! Seconds ago I was talking to my Mother on the phone telling her to plant her tomato's deep next year and started reading the comments. Got to yours and now I'm willing to try some gardening myself next spring. I've got a small fenced backyard and never do anything in it but grill, might as well grow some free food next year! Your "Garden in a bag" idea sounds fantastic. Thanks!

    • Chuck says:

      Update on my tomatoes: I have 4 plants in two of the larger "Miracle Grow" bags. They are producing a huge bumper crop!! Plants are 6' tall and wanting more, but my stakes wont take it. I have "bungie" cords holding them to help with the weight. Tomatoes are soft ball size.

    • Chuck says:

      Updating for 2013 tomato harvest. We were leaving town for Thanksgiving and a cold front was moving in so we picked all the tomatoes. Ended up with 57 pounds from 3 plants. It is mid January 2014 and we still are eating "fresh" red tomatoes. We put them in brown paper grocery bags/sacks and stored them in the cool garage.

  13. toptrakker says:

    tomatoes can also be grown in a stack of old tires. alternate layers of dirt any composted cow manure inside the stack (3 or 4 high, 4 is better) plant the tomatoes in the center of the top layer, water frequently. the curve of the tires helps hold the water at the various levels this keeps the tomatoes from alternately lacking water. lack of water then abundance makes them split when they start growing after being dry, leaves the ugly scars. this method also will grw larger juicier tomatoes. learned this from a commercial organic farmer.

    • Elizabeth says:

      You have to be careful with this advice. In some states, like Pennsylvania it's against the law the use tires as garden beds. Not sure why, but you can't fined here for doing that.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Sorry, I meant to say, "Can be fined"

      • immafubared says:

        Tires hold water inside them and are great breading grounds for those pesky mosquitoes. Lots of states ban having tires laying around the yard just for that reason and will fine you.

    • Jimbo says:

      Uh… You'd be better served by using that trick with POTATOES…

  14. Joel says:

    18" -24" deep hole, 1 large salmon carcass (fillets only removed, leaves head, tail, spine and excess meat), two handfuls bone meal, gallon or so worm castings mixed in soil to fill, couple handfuls of vegetable fertilizer (Gardner and Bloome is good), plant deep as described above. Give foliar feeding of worm casting tea every week or so for feeding.

  15. Bill says:

    The best tip I have is to use Alaska fish fertilizer. Mix 3 or4 tablespoons per gallon of water. Spray on once a week for the first month. I lived in Oregon for 9 years and never had one tomato worm when friends and neighbors plants were eaten up by them.

    • Guest says:

      Does it have to be Alaska fish fertilizer, or can it be any fish fertilizer? I live in central Oregon but have my tomato plants in my greenhouse and use Eleanor's VF-11 fertilizer.

    • DesertGrown says:

      Tomato worms have nothing to do with the fertilizer you use. The worms are larvae from eggs laid by nocturnal moths.

      I use Alaska fish fertilizer(5-1-1) as well, it works very well for my entire garden. Fish emulsion will work too… but may 'stink' your yard up… the Alaska brand is deodorized with mint oil.

    • Guest says:

      Planting basil next to the tomato plants will keep the tomato horn worms away as well. Discovered this last year as a result of planting basil next to the tomato in an earth box.

  16. Ken says:

    Irrigate your tomatoes with the water from air conditioner drain. I added a pvc pipe to get the plant away from the ac . Just add a little fertilizer one plant will feed the whole family. You will need a post to fasten the plant to it will just keep growing until frost.

    • you sure do not eat very many tomatoes. I plant about 150 tomatoes and , just to let you know it takes 4 to 6 gallons of tomatoes to make one gallon of spaghetti sauce depending on how juicy the tomatoes are.

  17. Gloria Gaytan says:

    I need help for my lemon trees I have some that are about 8 yrs old and don't produce lemons. Tried different method but nothing seem to work. Can some one help me I live in Southeast Georgia

    • Doug says:

      a friend of mine just told me about a recipe he had gotten for bugs /worms that were ruining his leaves and blossoms which "might" help. 2 cups of petroleum jelly, 4 oz castor oil, 4 tbs of cayenne pepper, can add hot sauce (hottest you can find). mix well cold and apply with paint brush from first branches to ground. will deter any climbing pest. another is to mix tsp of cayenne pepper with a couple good squirts of dawn into spray bottle and top with water. make sure to shake well before spraying leaves. if your trees bloom but don't produce they are just not getting pollinated which is common these days. hope some of this helps out.

    • Denise says:

      Gloria, it depends on what kind of lemon it is. My mom had one that was about 50 ft tall and never produced lemons. I have one about 2 yrs old, still in the container and last year had about 20 lemons. This year will be triple that> I just give it Citrus fertilizer in fall and spring. Mine is a Meyer lemon. Wish I could be more help.

    • Angie says:

      I hear you Gloria. I love lemons, but no luck getting any fruit :( They get lots of flowers, then a small fruit, like the head of a pin, and it falls to the grownd.

      • Dollie says:

        ANgie same here lots of flowers no fruit plant is 3 yrs old if she doesn't give me fruit this next year I'm done its 4 foot tall.?????

    • Lolita says:

      Triple 13 twice a year and I give away loads of lemons and oranges. I live in Mobile, Al. I put the fertilizer around the base in summer and in January.

  18. Kelly Smith Trimble says:

    Hope to see pictures of your new crop of tomatoes soon!

    • Dick Mattingly says:

      For me, trenching is too much work – also takes up too much space. I've found deeper holes much easier – been planting "deep" for years.

  19. guest says:

    I tried something that I think really helped. We had about 50 tomato plants in our garden and I put soaker hoses under each row. Put a timer on the water faucet and the water went straight the roots. Had a really good crop and had some plants that were 8' or so tall. I staked them with horizontal slats screwed to uprights.

  20. Reggie Cahoon says:

    I start all my own plants but one other thing to pay attention to if you purchase plants is the letters that are listed after the name. such as VFN. These letters signify the plants ability to fight certain diseases. VFN, for example, means that this plant is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes. The more letters, the more disease resistant!

  21. guest says:

    Um, the "project resources" links do not work. Why do you even have them if they do not work?

  22. Mary says:

    Rhubarb doesn't like to be hot. My mother grew rhubarb in the shade of an oak tree in CT. I live in the SW now and grow rhubarb in a raised bed under the canopy of a tree.

    • THE BEAR says:

      see rhubarb tea below

    • denise says:

      i cant even get rhubarb here in MS. I am from MT originally and i could grow anything in that wonderful black soil…but here in MS…ugh!!! red clay and nothing grows for me…i hate it…..

    • Harold says:

      I have always grown rhubarb in the sun. You need to pile on the manure

      • Guest says:

        For Denise as well:
        Rhubarb likes sun, but no scorching sun or heat, And AMEND the soil, deeply. Clay? put in a bag of sandy topsoil, and manure, and top off with coarse mulch (I get mine at our dump — cheap & coarse, using chipped yard waste. Plant mine by the house where afternoon sun disappears at noon. All the work ields humongous plants, good for years, if not decades.

    • jeff says:

      mine does well in northwest in sun and heat, but if it dry's out .ithas to start over

  23. Juliet-Anne Boysen says:

    Thank you for the information, I am not a veggie gardner and I have very little success with any thing. My onions never get big enough for scallions and my rhubarb is a sore sight for the eyes, if any one knows how to garden rhubarb please inform me. Thanks

    • mary says:

      Rhubarb doesn't like to get too hot. My mother grew rhubarb in the shade of a tall oak in CT. I live in the SW now and grow mine in a raised bed under the canopy of a tree.

    • Jerry Brown says:

      Rhubarb is a very heavy feeder. It will literally grow profusely in aged horse or cow manure–not fresh. It also likes almost constant damp and only partial sun though I've seen it grow OK in full sun.

    • Kelly Smith Trimble says:

      You might find some rhubarb tips from this article on HGTVGardens.com: http://www.hgtvgardens.com/vegetables/guide-to-gr…. As for onions, do you start with seeds, sets, or transplants? I highly recommend starting onions from transplants!

    • jeff says:

      Rhubarb succeeds best when planted over some composted manure, and then don't touch the plants for at least a year, but 2 is better. the plant will be strong and produce large quantities of rhubarb.

    • Judy B says:

      Rhubarb loves cow manure and you must keep it pruned. If you see seed pods growing up out of the middle, snap them off or you will stop getting stems. To pick a stem, place your hand on the stem and work your way down, giving a little twist and push downward so that the stem breaks itself off at the root. Rhubarb needs lots of water. It will grow fast so as long as you keep picking it, it will keep producing! There are tons of recipes online to make. I am going to try Rhubarb cake!

    • Stan says:

      Years ago, I planted rhubarb on the west side of the house with a fish head with each root. It flourished there, in full afternoon sun, for 30 years. When I moved up into the forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, some of that rhubarb came with me, and again it was planted with fish heads. Raccoons neatly dug up the fish heads without hurting the roots, but the plants are flourishing, anyway.

    • DesertGrown says:

      Your whole problem may be the soil pH; Rhubarb does best with a pH of 5.0 – 7.0, Onoins do best with a pH of 6.2 – 6.8.

      A little known fact about soil pH… the optimum soil pH is 6.8. A pH of 6.8 allows every nutrient to become available to the plants without deficiencies.

      Good luck and happy gardening!

    • Harold says:

      Dump a lot of manure around the plant

    • Bonnie says:

      In the fall, after harvest, dump a big pile of dry cow manure right on top of the whole plant. you will be amazed how well it grows in the spring when the rain starts falling.

  24. George says:

    For years I have been planting tomatoes in a deep hole (12 inches deep), and as the plant grows continue to add soil and fertilizer until the top of the plant reaches ground level, then continue to fertilize. Be prepared for tomato plants that will exceed your imagination. This artcle is correct when it mentions the root system that the plant will have as the stem of the plant continues to send out more roots. Excellent way to get more tomatoes from your plants.

    • j hahn says:

      It depends on soil type also. Planting deep in very heavy clay soil does not work well .Trenching works much better as tomato roots tend to stay shallow in these soils. as observed at end of season when turning over [spading under]plants after 1st frost.

    • Wayno says:

      My wife wraps tomato plant roots in newsprint before placing in ground to kill aphids and other pesky critters….

  25. Laurie_March says:

    This is so brilliant! Very comprehensive. Tomatoes are so exciting… the first thing to succeed in my garden every year! I know the first year I failed miserably at planting my tomatoes deep – I was sure they wanted to be at the 'top of the mountain!'

    HEEEH. the things we learn!

    • jerry lovelace says:

      I take 12 cups of worm casting,1 cup of epson salt, 1/4 cup of baken soda,12 egg
      sheels-ground-up,Mix all together,12 tomatoes plants,1cup per plant,take off 3/4
      of leaves plant side ways about 5 inches deep.
      put one cup on each stem.my tomatoes plants gets about 9 feet tall.good luck

    • Deborah D. says:

      Another thing that I was taught by my pastor, (who used to be Southern Living Weekend Gardener on TV before becoming a pastor) is to cut off the leafy stems prior to either trencing or deep planting. Put these stems about an inch into good soil. They will root and produce additional plants. If you look at a tomato plant, the stems look kind of hairy. Each "hair" is a root. We usually buy one or two good tomato plants early and we end up with several dozen.

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