Planting tomatoes

As I was saying a few days back, we use a technique where by we bury 2/3 of our tomato plants to promote root growth. This strengthens the plants, making them more heat/drought hardy and more productive. To make the process a bit easier to understand I have put together a step-by-step photographic guide so that you can see just how easy it is.

Step 1. Into my hole I like to add a shovel full of good quality compost and broken down sheep manure (maybe also some charcoal if there is some laying around).

Step 2. Remove the lower branches. The aim is to leave all foliage in the top 1/3 of the plant, removing anything else. FYI – when I calculate my thirds I measure from the bottom of the pot to the tip of the plant. You can see in the image below that I have placed the whole plant into the hole to give you an idea of how deep in the hole the plant should be. I have placed the bamboo stake across the ground to show you the level of the soil. I have left the lower branches on in this image just so you can see how many branches below the bamboo need to be removed…

Remove the branches below the soil line

The bottom of my finger represents the soil level.

Step 3.Place the seedling into the hole so that about 1/3 of the foliage is left sitting above the soil.

Step 4. Fill in your hole. Only 1/3 of the plant is left above the soil.

Step 5. Hammer in your stake or erect your frame. It’s so important that you get your stakes or frame in place when you plant for two very good reasons. You don’t want to damage the roots once the plant has started to get established as it could set the plant back. Also, once tomatoes get established they will grow very quickly. You will need to start tying them to the stakes within days, so it’s best to be prepared.

Lastly, mulch well. I usually prefer to use some kind of straw to mulch my vegetables. It’s cheap and it breaks down quickly adding more and more nutrient to the soil. At this stage I am using some old tree mulch I had down the back but very soon I will be adding thick layers of straw. When I put the straw down I sprinkle around a few handfuls of blood and bone which starts to get the straw breaking down, giving the worms something to eat. I keep adding straw throughout the season as the plants need it.

You can sprinkle potash (wood ash – the white ash that you find on top of a cold fire) around the plant to assist with the production flowers and fruit.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Great information. I want more! You have a wealth of knowledge. I didn’t see but what size lot do you have? You said you grow “most” of your food in a suburban lot. I’d be interested in knowing how big it is…I am moving in that direction. I want to make our yard completely edible. Check out my site too if you want Natural Cleaning Product Reviews. –Green Keen


    • Hello Pamela, Thank you kindly for your comments.

      Our block is approx. 800m2. We don’t usually grow staple crops like wheat, barley, or lentils, although sometimes we do just for shits and giggles. To give you an idea, this week was the first time in 5 weeks that I went out to do a “proper shop”, that being everything on my list. We do buy weekly essentials like milk, cream or butter but, only those highly perishable items we can’t produce ourselves. I think the thing that would surprise most people is that we don’t skimp on anything. People sometimes think that perhaps we live this way because we can’t afford to buy processed foods. In truth, we are particular about our food, not about what we don’t eat, about making our meals the best they can be. I also really hate to be a slave to the supermarket. We buy staples like grain, flour, vinegar, olive oil, locally and in bulk (manageable amounts) which means that we don’t have to run to the shop all of the time. We simply benefit from good organisation and our local economy grows as a result.

      I’m so happy to hear that you are motivated to make your yard highly productive. By all means if you have any questions please ask and I will do my best to help. I like to remind people that aesthetics are extremely important and in my book are classed as function. They are functional in drawing others (people, animals or insects) into the space and inspiring them to get involved. As humans we respond to beautiful things like flowers, scents, and spaces and it is important to provide that in the landscape. Shade, shelter and habitat are all very important in edible gardens and can certainly all come from things that to us are inedible. Diversity is the key to balance and success in garden. I hope this helps.

      Good luck,



  2. Hi Jodi,

    When you do grown grains (for “shits and giggles” as you put it) how much do you need to grow to be actually useful? I thought about planting spelt across my front lawn (for S&G too), but wasn’t sure what the reapings would be. Is there some sort of estimation of yield i.e. 1 loaf of bread per sq.m or 1 load per 100 sq.m? I have no idea. It sounds like a fun experiment, but it could end up being the most expensive toasted sandwich on earth.

    BTW – I attended a composting course with you in ’10. Have you brewed any teas, or made any giant compost heaps yet?




    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, I remember you. It’s so wonderful that you’ve stopped by.

      About the grain – I generally sow 5m2 blocks (or there about). It’s absolutely not enough to feed the family but you’ll get bread. I mostly use the grain to feed my chooks. Its worth trying if you have some spare space. I tend to use the rows in between the orchard trees but, I have done it in my front yard when I was trying to build the soil.

      I have been making compost like a mad woman. We recently chopped down 7 large trees from the back yard and are slowing turning them into compost.

      I met up with Helen recently, which was lovely. She is steaming ahead with the brewing. Perhaps we should all get together for a brew up one weekend?

      It’s really lovely to hear from you. Take care,



      • Posted by Paul Douglas on May 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm

        Hi Jodi,

        Good to here you are progressing well with your composting. Found a good book for perma-composting – “Growing gourmet & medicinal mushrooms” by Paul Stamets. The first stage of composting can aesily produce many kilos of oyster mushrooms, before the substrate is put into a standard compost pile pre-digested.

        Would be good to catch up for a brew.
        I am using those large 1000L pallecon drums at work (dairy industry) – they are very cheap. Might get one, then ask my old work (Mono pumps) if I can get a CP25 at mates rates….


      • Hi Paul, That’s so funny. When I went out to see Helen the other day I took my copy of ‘Mycelium Running’ to show her. The book you have is on my to read list. So many good books…

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