Do Tomatoes Have Deep Roots?

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Last Updated on July 8, 2022 by Marco C.

Do tomatoes have deep roots? Sometimes yes. Do they need deep roots – not really if you feed them well. Read more to find out about how to grow amazing tomatoes in deep soil.

Tomatoes 101

Tomatoes come in two broad categories. Determinate tomatoes grow to a specific size, form fruit, and die. Indeterminate tomatoes go berzerk and take over your garden, your neighbor’s garden, and their neighbor’s too. Indeterminate tomatoes grow much like squash – they just sprawl everywhere and take over.

If a tomato grows from seed it has a tap root of sorts – I have found these can easily penetrate a few feet into good loamy compost-rich soil. If a tomato vine touches the ground, it will root where it touches – these roots are fibrous and do not penetrate as deep into the soil. Most of these roots will penetrate half a foot or so into the soil.

Many commercial tomatoes are grown from cuttings – these cloned tomatoes tend to have fibrous roots – and they do not go very deep.

Do tomatoes have deep roots? Well, now we know! From seed they do, from cutting/clone, not so deep.

Hence, if we are looking at the types of pots we need for our tomatoes we first need to ask if we are going to grow from seed (deep good soil, not too much feeding) or from cloned cuttings (shallow soil, lots of nutrient feed).

How To Mix Soil For Tomatoes

Tomatoes are heavy feeders. They are actually one of the only plants I have ever seen that can grow on pure manure! If you need to buy a preformulated mix you can buy a product such as this. I normally just dig compost out of my chicken cage – I put leaves, wood ash, and grass clippings into the chicken cage. There are also twenty or more chickens and a handful of ducks in there, so the daily “nutrient” input into the soil is significant. This chicken cage “soil” compost material is a great tomato soil.

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Pot Size For Growing Tomatoes

I have had quite a bit of success growing tomatoes in old half wine barrels – this is about 20-22 inches in diameter and about a foot of soil – I never fill the pots completely, because what I do is once the plants are growing, I keep top dressing with additional nutrient-rich soil -this makes the plants very deep-rooted and boosts the size of your crop. Do tomatoes have deep roots? Well, if you do this they will!!

If you need to buy pots buy square pots such as these. The reason we use a square pot is simple – a square pot allows you to fit more soil in a small space. Imagine if you have three circular pots in a row, and three square pots with the same width. The square pots just have more soil in the same space – more soil = more taste for your tomatoes.

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A tomato tastes better if it is grown in soil – you can grow a hydroponic tomato, but it never has the same taste. It must be something to do with all the little micro-nutrients and soil chemistry that come through from living soil.


I am a firm believer in placing earthworms in all of my planter pots and trays. These worms help to move your soil around, and plants seem to just grow better in pots that have earthworms in them. Place 10-20 worms in a pot. They multiply!! If you don’t want to buy worms, just go and have a look under rocks in damp areas – you should find some, or dig for them in some composted soil under a tree. Do tomatoes have deep roots? If the soil is nice and easy for their roots to move through because earthworms are turning it over, the tomatoes will have deep roots. Deep roots = tasty fruits.

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Feeding Your Tomatoes

You have earthworms in the pot – so you can place kitchen scraps on the surface of the soil if you wish. Earthworms love squash, rice, mashed potatoes, and various other foods. You will be amazed as to how they can just make food vanish!! They turn food scraps into fertilizer for your tomato plants!

If you can get fine manure, do not feel shy to place a layer of it over the surface of the pot every week or two. The tomatoes love the nitrogen in this natural fertilizer. If you cannot find manure easily in your area you can use a substitute such as this.

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Tomatoes are really heavy feeders, hence feeding them ensures that they just keep producing – this is very important for indeterminate tomatoes especially – because these tomatoes have long growing seasons.

Do Tomatoes Have Deep Roots and How Can We Make This Work For Us?

We have ascertained that tomatoes can have deep roots. If you do not encourage them, they can also have quite shallow roots. How can we make this work for us? If you are going to grow “nutrient-fed” tomatoes, you can grow them in shallow bags and just drip-feed their nutrients and water. A significant percentage of the world’s tomatoes are grown this way – this is why tomatoes taste so horrible in the shop.

If we grow our tomatoes so that they have deep roots, and we give them natural nutrients, microbe, and life (earthworms) rich soil, we create a little ecosystem for our tomatoes. The plant is just happy and cared for by all the microbiology in the soil. It will be more disease resistant, and it has the nutrients to produce delicious fruit. I have often had city people come to my garden and they eat their first tomato of a vine and just go nuts that it tastes so good.

Bird Nets

Ok, so now you have managed to produce a deep-rooted tomato. It is producing the best tasting fruit around – and every bird on earth will try to eat your tomatoes!! You need to cover them in bird netting.

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My Mom actually did an experiment this year – they have a bird feeder where they put fruit, berries and surplus tomatoes, etc. The fruit-eating burds come and munch fruit there. She put a few shop tomatoes and some garden ones out to see what would go first. The garden tomatoes were gone in a few minutes – the shop tomatoes remained untouched – and if the birds won’t eat something it has to be bad!!

Do tomatoes have deep roots? Yes, if you let them, and you should! I hope this article has helped you learn how to grow awesome tomatoes. There is a lot more to growing tomatoes but, much like a house, if you get the foundation right, the rest is much better! Get your soil and pot choice right, and the plant will just sort of manage itself! If you have bad soil, and a bad pot (shallow) you will need to feed and pay a lot more attention to your plants, and will probably also produce poor-tasting fruit. Share if you enjoyed it.

Read more about: How Deep Do Tomato Plants’ Roots Grow?


Do tomatoes need deep pots?

No. If you feed them heavily they do not need a deep pot. You will however produce bland fruit. If you let them have a deeper pot with a good rich compost and sand filled soil, they can scrounge around in the soil and find more nutrients producing better tasting fruit.

How deep do tomato plants need?

I typically like my tomatoes to be able to penetrate a foot at least into the soil. If I grow them in a pot, I use a similar principle. Leave some space in your pot to top dress with manure or compost as the plant grows. They are heavy feeders.

Are tomatoes deep or shallow-rooted?

This depends on what you allow them to be! If you give tomatoes deep, sandy, compost rich soil, their roots can penetrate up to a few feet into the soil. If you give it compacted clay soil, then a few inches is all the plants will manage.

Is it better to grow tomatoes in pots or in the ground?

I have found this varies depending on the type of tomatoes you are growing. There are a huge variety of tomatoes out there. Some thrive in the ground and some thrive in pots. I find that yellow pear tomatoes seem to not thrive in the ground in my area, but they do well in pots. Cherry tomatoes on the other hand always do better if you let them just ramble and invade a vacant section of your garden. A cherry tomato in a pot is just never as productive.

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