Deep sowing (15 cm) on sands in the dry season is a practice used in post-rice sowing of legumes without irrigation, designed to increase moisture access for germination, growth and crops yield. However, with such deep sowing there can be a penalty for emergence and growth if there is abundant water stored in the upper soil profile during the growing season. Hence, there is a need to define the soil water regimes under which deep sowing is advantageous for different legumes. To investigate the adaptation of legume crop species to deep sowing, we studied their emergence, growth and yield on three deep soils (3–16% clay) with shallow water tables during two years in northeast Thailand. At site 1 and 2, peanut, cowpea, mungbean and soybean were sown shallow (~5 cm) or deep (~15 cm). At site 3, only cowpea and peanut were shallow or deep sown. Shallow water tables maintained soil water content (0–15 cm) above permanent wilting point throughout the growing season. Deep sowing of all legumes delayed emergence by 3–7 days at all locations. Shoot dry weight of legumes after deep sowing was mostly similar or lower than weight after shallow sowing. Yield and harvest index of legumes did not differ meaningfully among sowing depths. Therefore, deep sowing was not beneficial for dry season cropping without irrigation when there was a shallow water table and sufficient water for crop growth throughout soil profiles in the growing season. Taken together with previous studies, we conclude that shallow rather than deep sowing of legumes was preferred when the soil water content at 0–15-cm depth remained higher than permanent wilting point throughout the growing season due to shallow water table.