This guide outlines the best way to transplant your precious tomato seedlings into the garden. Ideally, you have a bunch of healthy seed starts ready to be moved to their permanent location to grow and thrive and produce tons of tomatoes. This method is especially beneficial for tall, leggy, or spindly starts, especially store-bought ones.
What Is A Tomato Trench
A trench or trough is the perfect environment for tomato plants; it involves digging a shallow trench and inserting the plant into the hole. You then cover the base of the stem with the soil. The remainder of the plant, including all its branches and leaves, simply sits atop the ground. Don't be concerned, though, as it will not remain that way.
This is a great way to save time and effort because digging trenches is less physical effort than digging large holes for the root ball.
Benefits of Tomato Trenching
Because tomato plants can generate roots along their stems, the trenching method stimulates new root growth by burying part of the stem in contact with moisture and soil.
Tomato plants, particularly heirloom types, exhibit a peculiar behavior. Initially, bumps will appear on the stem and then become more bristly. With time, these growths will become more prominent and resemble roots, even though they are not buried in the soil.
These little bumpy roots, known as adventitious roots, are the initial stages of root development. These typically appear on the lower branches but may be seen on higher parts of the stem.
The plants originally developed adventitious roots to be useful during periods of distress, particularly when there is a lack of water. These roots are not detrimental to your tomato and are a regular part of the plant's growth.
When touching the ground, new roots can develop and become part of the plant's root system, providing it with more support. And a larger root mass leads to a sturdier and more resilient tomato plant. This is beneficial for the garden because it is more pest and disease resistant, and it can withstand drought better and absorb nutrients more effectively.
I must emphasize that last statement: absorb nutrients more effectively. If you have a healthy root system (along with regular moisture), your tomato plant is unlikely to experience blossom end rot (a disorder caused by insufficient calcium uptake from the soil).
If you find that the soil in your garden contains large amounts of clay, rocks, or dirt clods, or if you are limited in your ability to move around, it would be impractical to spend the day digging with a shovel. But, rather than having to dig deep, planting your tomatoes in a horizontal orientation in a shallow channel enables them to be in the top layer of soil. This layer has the most nutrients, and the warmer environment helps the tomatoes grow faster.
For those in colder regions with soil that takes time to warm up during the spring, trenching your tomatoes can help jumpstart their growth.
Adopting trenching as a technique can be beneficial if you are dealing with soil that is not as well-draining or as loamy as you'd like. This is because most of the root mass will be situated close to the surface, allowing for an even distribution of water and fertilizer.
Tomato Trenching Steps
- Pick a peaceful, partly sunny, or overcast day for your tomato transplanting. This minimizes stress on the plant when it adapts to the natural environment. If you have already acclimated your seedlings, there won't be any significant problems. Sow your tomato in the late afternoon or early evening in order for it to acclimate during the night before it is exposed to a full day of sunshine.
- Dig a protracted trench that is between 4 to 6 inches in depth, with an added pocket at one end that is slightly deeper to fit the root ball in.
- Put the tomato plant in the trench in a sideways position.
- Incline the tomato plant into the trench gently, being sure not to harm the stem. Cut off the two or three bottommost sets of branches. The result should be a mass of healthy foliage at the top and a few inches of exposed stem.
- Pack the trench with dirt.
- Fill in the trench around the root ball and newly exposed stem with soil up to the lowest branch. Cover the surrounding area with enough soil so that the trench is filled in and the terrain is even.
- The plant's leaves and stem will be situated horizontally, lying on the ground. Don't fret; this is the normal positioning for now.
- Water the plants well, remembering to direct the water to the side where the roots are located. Preventing water from collecting on the leaves is important, as they are prone to illness if they remain wet for too long.
- After transplantation, you can place a stone beneath the stem to encourage it to develop in the correct direction if you expect a stretch of cloudy weather.
- Soon, the plant will begin to stand tall again, advancing its growth as usual.
- Before setting up trellises or tomato cages, ensure that you remember the exact spot where the roots are located to prevent driving a stake into the root ball!