Complete Guide To Transplant Tomato Plants [Like a Pro]

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Quick Answer: Complete Guide To Transplant Tomato Plants

The tomato plants have to be transplanted at the ideal temperature and location. The various steps involved are picking the right varieties, hardening off the plants, choosing the right location, removing the young seedlings from the old container, and planting them in the new location. You may get bountiful tomatoes with proper care.

This is a detailed guide on transplanting tomato plants, based on my own experience of growing them and through thorough scientific research.

Let us get started to know more!

Transplanting The Tomato Plants

The young seedlings can be transferred to bigger containers or onto the ground. Transplanting the tomato plants helps maximise the garden space and helps them grow healthy.

Transplanting tomato plants is repotting the young seedlings from one location to another.  It may be done from one container to another or a container to an outdoor garden.

It may help in maximizing the garden space. It also allows the roots to grow and develop a better root system.

Steps in Transplanting Tomato Plants To The Garden

In this subsection, let us discuss the various steps in transplanting tomato plants to the garden. It helps to produce healthy tomatoes.

There are wide varieties of tomato plants available. You may choose a type that grows well in your area and is resistant to diseases and pests.

There are hundreds of different tomato varieties available in the market. It may cater to different climates, garden areas, and taste profiles.

1. Selecting The Right Variety

Some kinds are fast-growing that require only 50 days to ripen, whereas others require at least three months of hot weather to harvest tomato fruits.

The tomatoes are also available in different sizes ranging from tiny marbles to large grapefruits. Also, it is available in a plethora of colours.

You may choose between determinate or indeterminate varieties. The determinate variety grows to a certain height and sets its fruits quickly. The indeterminate variety produces fruits throughout the growing season.

Next, you may have to decide why you require tomatoes. Is it large fruits for slicing, medium-sized fruits for cooking, salsas and salads, or tiny cherry tomatoes for salads?

I prefer to select varieties that are fast-growing or have been tested under local conditions. Also, consider the type that is resistant to diseases, stresses, and cracks.

2. Hardening Off Your Transplants

Hardening is the process of gradually exposing the tomato seedlings to outdoor conditions. It saves the plants from transplant shock. It encourages them to withstand environmental conditions.

The tomatoes may have to be started indoors for at least six to eight weeks before moving to the outdoor gardens.

If buying a transplant, choose a seedling less than six inches. Do not buy well-established plants that have already set in fruits. Also, take care that these transplants do not have any visible signs of disease.

Whether you are starting a seedling or purchasing it outside, harden them off before transplanting them into the garden. If the plants go directly into the ground from the greenhouse, they may suffer a transplant shock.

I like to acclimatize the plants by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions for about ten days before transplanting.

You may start by setting the plants in filtered light protected from strong breezes.

You may slowly expose them to direct sunlight and wind for a few hours and bring them back indoors. You may gradually increase the hours until the transplant is used to outdoor conditions.

I recommend giving the tomato seedlings a few days to adjust to the swinging temperature change.

3. Choose The Right Location

You may choose the right location for tomato plants, with adequate sunlight and well-drained soil. Loosen the soil and add the right amount of organic compost.

Tomatoes grow well in well-drained and slightly acidic soil (6.2-6.8). The young plants require direct sunlight of eight hours or more.

You may loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches using the rototiller or a digging fork.

You may have to work the fertilizer into the soil about two weeks before planting.  You may apply 2 ½ pounds of a complete fertilizer (10-10-10) per 100 square feet of garden area.

3. Planting The Tomato Seedling

You may choose healthy seedlings that are 3-4 inches for transplanting. Mark the ground after measuring the ideal spacing. Dig holes, and plant the seedlings on a cloudy day.

Choose the healthiest plants that are about three to four inches tall for transplanting outdoors.

Research data indicates that two to thirteen-week transplants may yield good tomatoes.

Do not water the plants on the day of transfer as it may increase the likelihood of soil sticking to the root and breaking. 

Also, transplant the plant on a cloudy day or towards the end of the day, as the scorching sun may harm the young plants.

The ideal spacing between the tomato plants depends on the type of the tomato plants and pruning requirements. 

Table: Recommended Spacing between Tomato Plants

Staked plants18-24 inches between plants and 5 feet apart in rows
Unstaked determinate plants12-24 inches apart between plants and 4-6 feet apart in rows
Unstaked indeterminate plants2 to 3 feet between plants and 5-7 feet apart in rows

You may mark the ground after measuring the required spacing. Dig the holes or a shallow trench that is at least a few inches deeper than the depth of the seedlings.

You may loosen the root area of the young seedlings by wiggling the fingers through the outer edge of the roots.  Pull them with some soil at the roots by flipping the container over. 

Take care not to break the stems or delicate roots. I like to pinch off the lower branches before burying them deep into the soil.

Plant the seedlings into the hole.

I highly recommend you bury the plants deeply into the ground as the tomatoes can grow roots along their stems. It may help to establish a well-developed root system.

You may also add a handful of organic fertilizer or bone meal to the planting hole before planting

5. Caring For The Tomato Plants

Water the transferred plants regularly to avoid transplant shock. Provide support to help them grow upright. Mulch around the base of the plants to prevent weeds and inspect the plants for diseases.

It is important to water the newly transplanted plants to avoid transplant shock. 

Practice consistent watering to avoid blossom end rot and other adverse conditions. Ensure that the tomato plants receive at least one inch of water weekly.

Also, you may provide support after planting. You may choose between trellis, stakes, or cages. It may be challenging to place them after the plants have grown up, as it may break the root system.

Many gardeners use mulches around the base of the tomato plants.  Plastic mulches are commonly used to retain moisture, and raise the soil temperature during the early growing season. 

Black plastic mulch may suppress weeds. It may also help in preventing the tomatoes from touching the soil.

However, I prefer organic mulches, such as straw, pine needles, and leaves. It helps in retaining moisture, suppress weeds, and protecting the fruits.

The advantage is that the organic mulch may decompose and doesn’t harm the environment.

One tip is that you may have to wait until the soil is warm before applying the organic mulch, as they delay soil warming.

Tomato plants are susceptible to a long list of soil-borne pathogens. Do not forget to inspect the transplanted young seedlings regularly for pests and weeds.

After good care, you may wait patiently for the flowers to bloom and develop fruits. 

I came across this useful video on how to transplant the tomato seedlings:

How To Transplant Tomato Plants To Another Container? 

You may start by cleaning the large pots and filling them with fresh soil. Get out the tomato plants from the original container, loosen the root ball,  and pinch off the lowest set of leaves. Plant the seedlings in the new pot and care for them.

Choose larger pots that are 4-5 gallons in size. Wash and sanitize the pots.

You may fill the large container with soil. Make a hole in the centre to assist in planting. Get out the tomato plant from the original container by flipping it over.

Place the individual plants into the new containers by burying the stem and root. Cover the soil. Water the new plants and place them in an ideal location.

Tips And Considerations

It is important not to plant the tomato seedlings very early. You may choose seedlings growing in individual containers, pinch the lower leaves, and practice crop rotation to have successful transplantation.

Avoid planting young tomato seedlings very early – If you live in an area with a cool climate, transplanting the seedlings too early may affect them from a cold snap. So, it is important to wait until the weather has warmed up (60oF) in spring before transplanting.

Choose seedlings growing in individual containers – You may choose the tomato seedlings growing in cell packs or individual containers, as they may suffer less shock due to transplanting.

Remove the bottom leaves – It is recommended to remove the leaves from the bottom of the plants before transplanting, as they are more prone to fungal diseases.

Practice crop rotation – Do not grow tomatoes in the same location every year. Keep rotating the crops to different location to prevent the spread of diseases.

You may check this video to learn more about transplanting tomato plants:


Can you transplant tomato plants while they are budding?

You may transplant if the plants are not strongly root bound in their containers. However, it may briefly stunt the plant, delay its growth and fruit production. But, they may recover from late transplantation.

What is trench planting your tomatoes?

You may dig a shallow trench about 6-8 inches down the length of the main stem and root ball. Lay the tomato plant down into it, holding the top cluster of leaves above the soil. The plant may start growing upright after some days.


I hope this guide has provided you with a few tips and tricks for transplanting tomato seedlings and getting a good harvest.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, you may write back to us. Also, I am interested to hear about your experiences in transplanting tomato seedlings.

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