Tomato Sequential Deep Planting

Tomato Sequential Deep Planting

If you’re like me and planted your tomatoes from seed a few weeks ago you may start to notice the roots beginning to move beyond your original potting medium.  I used the peat pellet system for starting our peppers and tomatoes and noticed recently that the roots are extending beyond the pellets. What does this mean? Time to get a bigger pot! I’m using a technique that I’m calling sequential deep planting.  Basically I’m taking the best method for planting tomatoes, deep planting, and adding an intermediate step to it.  It’s pretty simple, just dig a hole deep enough to cover all of the tomato plant except for the top couple leaves. Because tomatoes are vine plants they have the ability to grow roots all along the stem.  When you place the tomato stem under the soil it will grow roots. More roots mean the tomato can take in more water and will establish itself faster in the garden.

Sequential deep planting is potting the tomatoes up into larger pots in between seed growth stages and garden planting stages. You may already do this but I think it’s worth talking about. Here’s how I did it.

I used peat pots. You can get other mediums some of which are made of other biodegradable materials, like cow manure, but these were easy and convenient. Newspapers or cardboard would probably work as well.

Then I took my tomatoes, some of which were 6-8 inches high, and had a short photo op.  They like to pose.  They are pretty aren’t they?

I put the tomato plants right into the empty peat pots.  You can put a little dirt in the bottom if you want, either way should be fine. Right now I want to generate as many roots along the stem as possible and shorten the length of the stem. Shorter, more compact plants with more roots grow better than their long and legging counterparts. This is especially true if you are buying transplants from the store.  Definitely avoid the leggy ones. (You can trench plant those if that’s all the store has.)

Then I filled up the little pots with soil and made sure that the tomato plants stayed as centered in the pots as possible.


After filling them up I added water and put them in our garage greenhouse to help harden them off. In a couple weeks I should be able to plant them outside with nice sized root balls ready to grow. That’s when I’ll plant them deep, for the second time.


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. This is a great idea, Dave, that keeps those roots from circling around in the pot.

  2. Very cool info, Dave! I'm starting seeds this yr. for the first time…although I haven't put in my tomatos yet!! It's getting a bit late for indoors so I'll probably just wait til I can start them outdoors. Anyway, I've started perennials and annuals the same way this yr. Just 2 days ago, it was time to repot because the same thing occured: my petunias, impatience, lobelia, salvia, thyme, rock soapwort & some wildflowers I'd sown were ready: so I did exactly the same thing as you…even using next size larger peat pots! I am hoping they won't get so big that I have to move them up to even larger pots before it's time to place them in the ground (but I doubt there's any danger of that happening;-)
    I have 2 areas where I have growlights so those areas are full right now!!! I'm having fun, which is a big part of it, right? No veggies will come of it, but perhaps a 'thyme or two'?!! ha ha. Happy Spring;-)

  3. Very good info here Dave. Thanks!

  4. My method of “sequential deep planting” is different but gets the same results. I plant my tomato starts lengthwise with just the tip out of the soil. You have to bend the tip just a bit do do this but it don’t hurt a thing. Planting depth is the same as usual.

  5. Thanks Donna!


    You can upsize the plants as much as you need to with those peat pots! You could go ahead and get those tomatoes started a couple weeks early and have a little growth on them. But if your having fun and have the thyme, you’re doing good!

    Thanks Darla!


    That’s a good way to do it too. I like deep planting rather than trenching since the root system will be deep right underneath the plant and not to one side. Either way works fine though. The more roots the merrier!

  6. I do this as well, builds strong plants.

    Many people don’t know that when you prune your tomatoes you can stick the pruning in the ground and they’ll root. I got a few free tomatoes last summer this way (some by accident).

  7. Chiot’s Run,

    I did that same thing last year! I was hoping to propagate a few that way for The Well food pantry project I’m helping.

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