Growing Tomatoes: When Plants Are All Legs{13}

tomato start and two bulldogsUh oh Boz, I know that look, the scowl of an unhappy bulldog, judging me for taking too long to plant all of my tomato starts. (Gracie on the other hand, believes a nap can solve any of life’s issues.) Smart dogs.

Indeed, I waited too long, hoping that one day in May the sun would shine on my Puget Sound garden and I could get to work planting. (I should have known better.)

Tomato plants get leggy when left in their starter pots too long, growing into spindly weaklings reaching for sun at one end and nutrients at the other. Even in this condition, it’s not too late to plant them in your garden (or patio pot as the case may be).

leggy tomato planted trimmed, before and afterTomatoes have a remarkable ability to create roots along their stems when placed in contact with soil. Do this with most other plants and the stem rots, and the plant dies. Tomatoes are much more forgiving. Follow the steps below and you can transform the willowy into the robust.

planting depth for leggy tomato

How to Plant (Rescue) a Leggy Tomato

  1. Remove unhealthy pale leaves (photo 2)
  2. Planting depth is determined by the highest leaf trimmed off (photo 3)
  3. Dig shallow trench about 5-6 inches deep
  4. Place plant on its side at 45 degrees (photo below)
  5. Cover with soil up to top leaf
  6. Make sure no leafs are covered, just stem
  7. Create a berm, and water plant
  8. Roots will form along the stem and in a week two it will take off.


how to plant a leggy tomato plantI create a soil incline to support the stem and then cover it with soil and gently pat down.

Boz and the freshly planted tomato startBoz, in his Sphinx repose, guards against BLT snatchers and wily crows.

row of newly planted tomato plantsAbove, I’ve formed basins to hold water as each plant gets established. One day, a row of resting toms; the next, the stars of my kitchen cutting board.

fresh tomatoes and the fixings for a homegrown BLTKeep your eye on the prize.  Patience, weeding and watering pay big dividends.

Take a look at  my favorites from last year.

homegrown tomatoes on a big BLT sandwich

One last tip: “light on the mayo” should never leave your lips when sharing a sentence (and a plate) with a BLT.