Clipping off the lower branches

Lay horizontally in a shallow trench

Fiinished product

Until I learned to plant tomato starts Mr. Bill style our vines rarely grew more than four feet high before the end of the growing season. Bill Meeker is the overseer of our community garden at the Vineyard Church in Boise and a master of vegetable gardening. The following is what he taught us.

For those who have grown vegetables for any length of time what I’m about to share will most likely not be a novel idea. But to some it will be an amazingly simple process to enhance your garden’s production. The key to Mr. Bill’s technique is to not place the tomato plant’s root ball in a fertile hole as you would with other pre-grown potted plants. Instead you lay it horizontally in a longer shallow trench after first clipping off the lower branches. You bend only the top third of the plant into an exposed upright position. By trimming off the lower branches and baring the bottom two-thirds of the main stem underground, it encourages additional root production. Everywhere a branch has been cut off new roots will develop. This will provide additional moisture and nutrients to be absorbed which will stimulate plant growth.

So here is the process:

  1. Begin with a healthy plant that is twelve to twenty inches in height.
  2. Trim off the bottom half to two-thirds of the live branches leaving a long bare stem below a small clump of healthy foliage.
  3. Dig a shallow trench in fertile soil just long enough to lay the root ball and bare stem horizontally in the ground.
  4. Lay the vine in the trench, gently lifting the leafed top of the vine into an upright position. Then, cover and water the roots and pruned vine stem.

The first time I used Bill’s technique it felt a little disheartening to bury the majority of a beautiful large plant. In the end our vines have produced bumper crops and have grown to heights of five to six feet. I guess it’s like many things in life; the visible fruit of our lives is dependent on both the pruning and what goes on below the surface.