Introduction: Growing Horizontal Tomatoes

Introduction
It is spring, time to think about tomatoes plants.  Will you buy or grow from seedlings?  How many plants?  Do you want more tomatoes for your money?  Do you want healthier tomato plants and fruit?  Do you want the plant to absorb more water and nutrients?  Do you wonder what this title means – does he expect us to bury our tomato plants on their sides?  In short, Yes.

The Story
A few years ago a Canadian friend told me about a farmer she worked for who would cut the costs of buying new tomato plants by planting them on their side.  He would trim the leaves off one side of the plant, lay them down on the side where there were no leaves and bury the stem so that 1 or more leaves and the top of the plant would be left unburied.  He would grow 2 – 3 stalks to every 1 plant he bought.  We know tomato plants that are buried deeper have a greater yield and are less susceptible to drought. 

This technique does resemble trench planting (a plant is laid on it side in a shallow trench to promote root growth.  More roots encourages a stronger and more productive plant.), but it then takes it one step further, not only leaving the top exposed but another leaf.  This gives the gardener another plant with as much fruit.  All from the humble beginnings of a single plant.  You will double your yield at a fraction of the cost.

I have planted tomatoes by this technique for a couple of years and want to share this with you.

Step 1: Materials

1) Tomato plants 4 – 6” tall - chose the type of tomatoes you want.  I am growing Early Girls - mature in 50 days.
2) Soil - any type of planting, composted, potting soil.

Skill Level:
Easy

Step 2: Prepare Tomato Plant

1)  Pluck off the leafs from one side of the tomato plant.

2)  Leave 2 inches of the top and one or more leaves.

Step 3: Horizontal Planting

Horizontal (Trench) Planting is when a plant is laid on it side in a shallow trench to promote root growth. 

1)  Dig a trench.  The trench should be deep enough to bury the root ball with the stalk 2 - 3 inches deep.  There should be a slight slope to the trench.  The root ball being at the deepest end.

2)  Lay the Tomato plant down. 

3)  Cover the Tomato plant with soil but leave 2 inches of the top and one leaf, two if the plant is tall enough, out of the soil.

Step 4: Observations & Summary

Observations
1)  One plant to create 2 or more stalks.
2)  The stem will create more roots.
3)  More roots will allow more nutrients to feed the plant.
4)  More nutrients = stronger plant.
5)  Stronger plant more produce.

When I planted my tomatoes on their side a couple of years ago, the plants grew 4 1/2 feet tall.  I planted 2 plants and left the top and 1 leaf from each plant exposed, giving me a total of 4 stalks.  We had so many tomatoes we were eating tomatoes into Sept.  I was unable to plant last year, but I am looking to reproduce those results this year.  I am including an additional leaf to each plant, thus making 6 stalks from 2 plants.

Summary
Even though I have just planted these tomatoes I am confident in the outcome so I can say that I am satisfied with the future results.  I can be confident because of previous experience and the tried and true method of trench planting.  The weather is the only variable that I can see to either hinder or promote a good tomato harvest.

Hear advice, and receive instruction, so that you may be wise in your latter end.

Step 5: Addendum

Sept 9, 2013
Here is an update of the this season.  We are just about to harvest our 2nd crop.  Remember I started by burying 2 plants and leaving 6 stems above the ground.  3 of the stems died and a new stem grew in place of 1 and a 2nd stem grew off of a buried stem.  It is not an exact science, but there is an abundance of tomatoes from a small beginning, even for the 2nd harvest.

Comments

author
RoBear613 (author)2013-06-16

I never thought to turn the side stems into the growing trunk. I often buy the pots with 2 or 3 plants and separate them, but this year I got 1 with 4. They got too big to separate before I planted it in the ground (procrastinating :P ) so I buried it with each stem pointing to the 4 corners.

In a similar vein, you can take raspberry canes (early first year growth) and pinch the top growth. This forces the top two side leaves to grow as stems so you get 2 canes on 1 plant. You have to do this early, when the canes are only 4 - 18" tall and not woody. Raspberries bear on 2nd year canes.

author
ezman (author)RoBear6132013-06-17

Wow, 4 plants in 1 pot, you scored big. I suppose you could then have 8 “trunks” from that 1 pot, if you left the top and 1 leaf exposed.

There is a consideration to late (procrastination) trench planting. The energy that would have gone into plant growth and fruit development will be diverted to root development. Which could delay fruit maturity, plant height and greenness unless you use some fertilizer to help.

We have wild raspberries and black berries, some day I will go around and domesticate them.

Thank you for reviewing and commenting. Happy growing and a prosperous harvest.

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