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How Deep To Plant Tomatoes – A Planting Guide

If you are a beginner gardener looking for something to grow this summer, tomatoes are the perfect starter vegetable! They are super fun, pretty easy, and so worth it. There are only a handful of things you need to know to grow your tomatoes. Things like variety, where to plant them, and how to plant them. But how deep should you plant tomatoes?

Tomatoes should be planted as deep enough that 2/3 of the plant sticking out of the ground. This means that you can plant much of the stem, which will eventually root in the soil and aid in more tomato production. If your plant is 8 inches tall, including the root ball, you must plant the whole thing so that only 2 or 3 inches are sticking out of the ground. 

In today’s article, we will dive into the world of planting tomatoes and everything you need to know about how deep you must plant your tomato plants. Stick around!

How deep is too deep to plant tomatoes?

There are two ways you can plant tomatoes. You can either start your plants by seed, or you can get tomato starts and replant them. If you start your tomatoes by seed, I highly recommend starting them in seed trays. With seeds, you will want to ensure the seed is only 1/4 of the way pushed into the soil.

You may get away with having it 1/2 an inch in the soil, but if it is any deeper, the seed will most likely not germinate.

When planting tomato starts, you must leave 2/3 of the plant sticking out of the ground. If you cover the plant more than that, it may rot and die.

Below is a table illustration tomatoes of different heights, and about how deep it should be planted:

Tomato Height (including the root ball)Amount of plant remaining above the soil
4 inches1 – 2 inches
5 inches1 – 2 inches
8 inches2 – 3 inches
10 inches3- 4 inches
12 inches4 – 5 inches
Planting guide for planting tomatoes depending on their height

Keep in mind that deep planting doesn’t just apply to the seedling transplant stage. It’s also something you need to consider if you have a more mature plant; especially if it’s already producing fruit.

If this is the case, you’ll need to clear up any of the lower foliage on the plant, and then mark the stem when you reach about 2/3 of the plants overall length. This can of course change if you transplant multiple times and you’re growing an indeterminate variety.

From there you can fill the soil up to that level, and the roots will catch on from there. Remember to include the root ball in your calculations!

How big does a tomato hole need to be?

The basic rule of thumb is to make your hole as big as your plant. For instance, if you have a 10-inch plant, make your hole about 10 inches. This allows the plant to get enough room, and it’s easier to get a better idea of how deep you are actually planting your plant.

Can you plant tomatoes in a raised bed?

Raised beds are an excellent way to plant tomatoes. Whether you create a raised bed out of rocks or sticks, or maybe you have built a raised bed with 4×4 wood, it will work beautifully for tomatoes.

Make sure you construct your raised bed in an area that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight for tomatoes. You also want to keep trellising in mind since tomatoes need much support. Here are some of the benefits to growing tomatoes in raised beds.

1. Better soil drainage

2. Fewer weeds

3. Warms up faster/holds more heat

4. Easier to water

5. Better control over your plants

What do I put in holes when planting tomatoes?

Over my years of gardening, I have found that everybody has a different secret thing they like to put in their holes before planting tomato plants. Everybody has different reasons for doing it, and they all swear theirs is the best. I have tried a lot of different tricks, and this is what I have found to make the most difference and how I get better tomatoes.

1. Mycorrhizae

This is my go-to and something I put down in the hole before I plant tomatoes and everything else I plant. Mycorrhizae is a fungal root with a symbiotic relationship with other plant roots. Mycorrhizae helps the plant being planted by bettering its nutrient and water intake and making your plants stronger and healthier.

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda helps lower the acidity levels in your tomato plants, and in the end, you will get much sweeter tasting tomatoes.

3. Eggshells

Eggshells are wonderful to have in your soil because they ensure your plant gets a constant flow of calcium while growing. Calcium deficiencies are common but avoidable with this trick.

4. Bone Meal

Another one of my favorite soil additions. I always mix bone meal into my soil before planting or sprinkle some in the hole before putting in my starts. The bone meal helps give the plant a great phosphorus boost throughout its entire life, which is especially important when the plant is starting to flower.

5. Lime

Tomatoes like a soil with a pH level of 5.5-7.5, and having lime in your soil will help that pH balance out and stay at the perfect level. Lime naturally raises the pH of soil levels while also adding calcium to your soil. So lime takes care of two things at once and is a great way to grow stronger and healthier tomatoes.

How deep should soil be for cherry tomatoes?

Although cherry tomatoes are smaller than regular tomatoes, they follow the same rules as all other tomatoes. Plant your cherry tomatoes so that 2/3 of the plant is sticking out of the ground, just the same as all the others.

Can tomatoes grow in 6 inches of soil?

If you are growing tomatoes in a pot, 6 inches of soil will likely not be enough to sustain the plant. It will probably be okay if you have a raised bed with only 6 inches of soil since the roots will still have somewhere to go. However, for the best results, raised beds should have at least 8 inches of soil, and pots should be at least 5 gallons of soil and 10-12 inches deep.

Can you grow tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket?

If you use a 5-gallon bucket as your container to plant tomatoes, that is perfectly fine and will work great for one plant. Only one plant can be in one 5-gallon bucket. You must ensure you drill small holes in the bottom of the bucket for soil drainage and fill your bucket with high-quality, well-draining soil.

You can plant pretty much any variety of tomato you’d like in 5-gallon buckets, however, cherry tomatoes will do much better because they aren’t as heavy.

Is 16 inches deep enough for tomatoes?

When it is time to plant your tomato, the plant should be around 5-10 inches tall. As I mentioned above, make sure to dig a hole the size of the plant, so it has the right amount of room. 16 inches would be plenty deep; in fact, it may be too deep, especially for smaller tomato starts.

How to Plant Tomatoes Deep Methods

While there are many different places you can plant tomatoes, many different things to put down in the hole, and so much different soil you can use, there are two main ways of planting tomatoes deeply.

Upright PlantingSideways Planting
This is the way everyone
thinks to bury any seed start, 
including tomatoes. Simply,
make your hole about the length 
of your plant, place the seed start 
in an upright position, then cover the
tomato plant 2/3 of the way up with soil.
Water in well.
A technique some swear by, this
technique is often done in trenches.
Make a fairly small hole in the trench. 
Make sure any leaves that are going to
be covered by soil are removed. Place your
seedling sideways in the hole and bury the
entire plant, still leaving 2/3 of the plant
out of the soil. You can carefully bend the
stem (making sure you don’t snap it), so the 
top leaves are sticking out of the soil and will
grow upwards. 

How Deep Should You Plant Tomatoes in Containers?

Planting tomatoes in containers is no different than planting them in raised beds or directly in the ground. The start needs to still be planted 2/3 of the way up and have enough space to stretch out its roots and grow.

Why Should You Plant Tomatoes Deeply?

Have you ever looked closely at a tomato plant stem? The stem is full of tiny bumps, these bumps are called adventitious roots, and they are actually the start of a bunch of little plant roots. Tiny little roots form all along the stem of a tomato plant.

For the roots to form, grow, and stabilize the plant, they must be buried. Burying the tomato plant all the way up means all these little root starts are buried, and now they can grow and help the plant be stronger and healthier.

What Happens If You Don’t Bury A Tomato Plant Deeply?

If you don’t plant a tomato plant deep enough, the few roots you plant will not be strong enough to support the whole plant. The weak plant stem sticking out of the ground will not have the nutrients and strength to support itself and will begin to flop over, and it may eventually die if the adventitious roots aren’t buried quickly.

Final Thoughts

Tomatoes have adventitious roots, which means their entire stem should be covered in soil so the plant can grow strong and healthy. Just remember to make the hole the same size as your plant, and you are good. Happy gardening!