Are my tall, lanky tomato plants doomed?


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This is the first year I'm trying growing tomatoes from seeds rather than buying plants as in the past.

I'm already aware of 2 mistakes I made:

1) Started them to early ... middle of March. I'm in NY and from the looks of it I won't be able to plant in ground until the second week of May. Too cold here to even start hardening them off right now.

2) Started adding fertilizer to water too soon. (I did, however, only water from the bottom.)

There is a third thing which I really didn't have the option of doing. Keeping them at 55 - 60F overnight, as I've read should be done to slow growth.

Some of them are 15 to 18 inches tall with 3 to 4 inches between branches. I'm thinking my best bet when it comes time to plant would be to plant them sideways with maybe the top 8 inches or so protruding from soil. This would be to allow more roots to grow along the buried stem and, hopefully, strengthen the plants and that they will thrive.

Interestingly, it's only the viny cherry tomatoes like the Sungold and Super Sweet 100's in the picture that grew this way. Other varieties seem to be growing "normally."

I don't have a lot of room for planting (raised beds) so the ones I plant have to count. Can't really experiment. Should I trash them and go buy plants or go for it and hope for the best?

tom 1.jpg


tom 2.jpg
 
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Meadowlark

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I would NOT trash them...rather lay them on their side when planting outside in a "Trench" and gently bend the tops upward to leave them exposed to the full sun. Tomatoes really benefit from being covered with soil and I'm betting you will find these to be excellent producers.
 
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You've got 6 more weeks before you can put them in the ground. By that time those two plants will be 3+ feet tall or more. IMO that is a little too tall to lay on their side. Also, you don't know if the root system has been compromised in any way. I would just plant more seeds and they will be about the correct size in 6 weeks. I have grown both varieties and they are fast growers. There is another thread on this forum of which I haven't found or remember the name of. It was about whether tomatoes, when laid on their sides or buried deep, produced roots all along the entire length of the buried stem. I thought that they did but I was wrong. They only grow roots at the bottom and at just below soil level. I had planted 40 or so very leggy tomato plants of different varieties, some on their sides and some buried deep. After harvest, I dug them all up and checked and that was all the proof I needed. The roots at soil level were much more extensive than those at the bottom. It made no difference whether laid on their side or buried real deep. There were no new roots growing from the middle of the stem. I don't know what this means but I found it interesting.
 

Meadowlark

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Laying them on their side is generally much easier than digging a hole three feet or more straight down, IMO. I certainly would not throw them out...what have you got to loose?

For many years, decades actually, I have grown my fall tomatoes from the limbs of the spring plants placed on the ground and covered with dirt They root quickly and soon are independent of the worn out spring plant. Tomatoes are remarkable...they find a way.
 
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I would NOT trash them...rather lay them on their side when planting outside in a "Trench" and gently bend the tops upward to leave them exposed to the full sun. Tomatoes really benefit from being covered with soil and I'm betting you will find these to be excellent producers.
Yes, laying them in a trench is what I had in mind and I'm glad to hear you reaffirm that.

I read a "trick" about planting them on their side. Before planting, lay them on their side still in the pots and in a day or two the top of the plants will bend upward toward the light so you don't have to actually "bend" them and risk snapping them.

Thank you for you most encouraging reply!
 
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You've got 6 more weeks before you can put them in the ground. By that time those two plants will be 3+ feet tall or more. IMO that is a little too tall to lay on their side. Also, you don't know if the root system has been compromised in any way. I would just plant more seeds and they will be about the correct size in 6 weeks. I have grown both varieties and they are fast growers. There is another thread on this forum of which I haven't found or remember the name of. It was about whether tomatoes, when laid on their sides or buried deep, produced roots all along the entire length of the buried stem. I thought that they did but I was wrong. They only grow roots at the bottom and at just below soil level. I had planted 40 or so very leggy tomato plants of different varieties, some on their sides and some buried deep. After harvest, I dug them all up and checked and that was all the proof I needed. The roots at soil level were much more extensive than those at the bottom. It made no difference whether laid on their side or buried real deep. There were no new roots growing from the middle of the stem. I don't know what this means but I found it interesting.

6 weeks? Noooo ... I'm in NYC and according to what website you believe our last frost date is somewhere between 4/13 and 5/10. I've always planted the second week of May with no problem so I've got another 2 to 3 weeks, at most, to go.

Very interesting what you said about where the roots grew along the stem. I'm going to have to remember to dig them up in the fall to see that.

Thanks for your reply.
 
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Laying them on their side is generally much easier than digging a hole three feet or more straight down, IMO. I certainly would not throw them out...what have you got to loose?

For many years, decades actually, I have grown my fall tomatoes from the limbs of the spring plants placed on the ground and covered with dirt They root quickly and soon are independent of the worn out spring plant. Tomatoes are remarkable...they find a way.
I agree 100%. I am not saying to throw them out, just plant more seeds just in case something happens like being broke in too or something. Before I started getting into not so good health I would normally have between 120 and 160 tomato plants so I had a bunch of tomatoes and I gave many to the two nursing homes in Bandera. I would can the rest and give them away too if I got my jars back. Mostly it was experimenting with different varieties trying to find the perfect tomato for this area but I never had a successful fall tomato garden. I tried a fall garden a few times but the weather is so unpredictable here in the Hill Country that I gave up on trying to grow tomatoes and stuck with more cold hardy vegetables. I never tried to do it the way you do. I used a container and potting soil. This year I am growing everything except cucs, okra, beans and corn in containers. I've never grown squash and melons in containers so just about everything is an experiment.
 
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Laying them on their side is generally much easier than digging a hole three feet or more straight down, IMO. I certainly would not throw them out...what have you got to loose?

For many years, decades actually, I have grown my fall tomatoes from the limbs of the spring plants placed on the ground and covered with dirt They root quickly and soon are independent of the worn out spring plant. Tomatoes are remarkable...they find a way.

Oh ... I wouldn't think of digging a 3 foot deep hole ... that's for fence posts here ... LOL.

As I mentioned in my post, what I have to lose is ... tomatoes. I don't have a lot of room so every plant counts. I started over 30 plants but only can plant 10. I allowed some for "casualties" which I haven't had, and giving some to neighbors.

I lopped the top off of one of the Sungold plants just to experiment. It looks odd, but it is shorter of course, and so far is doing well.

You're right ... sideways is the way to go. Thanks for replying.
 
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6 weeks? Noooo ... I'm in NYC and according to what website you believe our last frost date is somewhere between 4/13 and 5/10. I've always planted the second week of May with no problem so I've got another 2 to 3 weeks, at most, to go.

Very interesting what you said about where the roots grew along the stem. I'm going to have to remember to dig them up in the fall to see that.

Thanks for your reply.
Sorry, I got confused on the dates you posted. Somehow thought May was June.
Yes, laying them in a trench is what I had in mind and I'm glad to hear you reaffirm that.

I read a "trick" about planting them on their side. Before planting, lay them on their side still in the pots and in a day or two the top of the plants will bend upward toward the light so you don't have to actually "bend" them and risk snapping them.

Thank you for you most encouraging reply!
You don't have to leave them in the pot. I plant them at an angle and they automatically start to grow straight up. No bending involved.
 

Meadowlark

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...I read a "trick" about planting them on their side. Before planting, lay them on their side still in the pots and in a day or two the top of the plants will bend upward toward the light so you don't have to actually "bend" them and risk snapping them.

Thank you for you most encouraging reply!

Yes, that is an excellent "trick". Let me tell you a story, if you will indulge.

About 30 plus years ago, my Mother asked me to help her have a small garden. She was in Missouri and I in Texas and this was about mid-May which is getting late even in Missouri.

So, I went up there and talked to the owner of a commercial nursery who only had some left over tomato plants which I might add looked very much like yours Buzz and maybe even longer and more lanky. He said he would give me the plants for free and told me to plant them on their side as you are contemplating doing...covering all but the tops and stand back and watch them take off.

That was the last garden my Mother was able to have...and by late summer she had so many tomatoes she couldn't give them all away.

The commercial grower is unfortunately gone also but I thank him for those plants, for the advice to plant "sideways", and for helping give my Mother a tremendous last garden. True story. Thanks for reading.
 
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Yes, that is an excellent "trick". Let me tell you a story, if you will indulge.

About 30 plus years ago, my Mother asked me to help her have a small garden. She was in Missouri and I in Texas and this was about mid-May which is getting late even in Missouri.

So, I went up there and talked to the owner of a commercial nursery who only had some left over tomato plants which I might add looked very much like yours Buzz and maybe even longer and more lanky. He said he would give me the plants for free and told me to plant them on their side as you are contemplating doing...covering all but the tops and stand back and watch them take off.

That was the last garden my Mother was able to have...and by late summer she had so many tomatoes she couldn't give them all away.

The commercial grower is unfortunately gone also but I thank him for those plants, for the advice to plant "sideways", and for helping give my Mother a tremendous last garden. True story. Thanks for reading.

Wow! Great story! Thanks so much for the encouragement!
 
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Sorry, I got confused on the dates you posted. Somehow thought May was June.

You don't have to leave them in the pot. I plant them at an angle and they automatically start to grow straight up. No bending involved.

No apology necessary, Chuck. Since this shelter-at-home stuff I literally have to look at my phone some times to see what day of the week it is!
 
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The best thing to do, is to take a side-shoot or two from each plant, strike them, and discard the rest, they'll never be up to much.
 
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