gardening/ Homesteading

Planting Tomato Seedlings

May 7, 2016 (Last Updated: October 29, 2020)

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Growing tomato plants can be rewarding and challenging. Tips on how to transplant tomato seedlings.

A tray full of young tomato plants.

I love starting tomato plants from seeds.  Sometimes we buy a few plants because we want an additional variety.  Whether you start your own plants from seeds or buy plants from the nursery you need to know how to transplant your tomatoes.

A tomato transplant with soil and roots.

When I start with seeds I plant in small pots. Then I transplant to a larger pot and then finally into the garden. Transplanting allows the plant to grow larger.  It also helps prevent the plants from becoming too tall and leggy or spindly.

When transplanting my tomatoes to the larger containers this year, I ran a little accidental experiment….accidental, because I didn’t plan it.  I use an organic potting mix for my vegetable starts. I always want to give my seeds a great soil mix to get started with.  Once I transplant to the garden, I make certain the soil is amended with great nutrients from composted manure.

When my tomatoes had grown about 6-8 inches tall and had established leaves, I began transplanting to the larger pots and I ran out of soil partway through. I thought, no big deal.  About four weeks later I got back to transplanting (I got a little side-tracked and time just seems to slip away) ….the plants I had already transplanted were significantly taller and had more leaves. The photo below shows you both plants.  You can see the difference in pot sizes, but look at how big the plants in back had become.

Tomato plants outside sitting on a garden bed.

The smaller plants need to be transplanted into the larger containers right away! The large tomatoes are ready for the garden.  I will need to keep a close eye on the weather for the next several weeks. We still have a chance of a frost. Tomatoes are not hardy and a frost can kill them. If needed, I will cover the tomatoes with a plastic sheet over the hoops on the raised beds.

Here’s another picture of the difference in sizes of the tomato plants.  I’m so glad for my accidental experiment.  I had no idea there would be such a significant difference!

Two different sizes of tomato seedlings next to each other.

When transplanting most plants, you place the plant at the same surface level.  With tomatoes, you place the plant into the soil deeper. You place part of the stem under the dirt.  This allows the plant to have a better root system and it also helps create a sturdier stem and plant.  The soil on the plant below comes up about 3 inches higher than when in the pot.  If my plants are really spindly, I plant them even deeper.

A young tomato plant planted in a garden.

The plant below was taken during the first transplanting.  It amazing how much the plant grew in 4 weeks time.

A tomato plant with five leaves in a small planter.

Transplanting Steps: These steps work whether transplanting tomato seedlings to a larger pot or transplanting a larger plant into the garden.

  1. Gently remove plant from container.
  2. Examine roots.  If roots are tightly wound, gently loosen roots with your fingers. You just want to tickle them gently apart.
  3. Plant with part of existing stem below the soil. You can use the lower leaves as a guide as to how deep to plant.
  4. Fill soil in around plant.
  5. Water.

If all goes well, by the middle to end of August we will have fresh tomatoes and you’ll need to know how to can tomatoes!  Happy Gardening!

A variety of fresh tomatoes with stems.


Pictures of tomatoes being transplanted.


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  • Reply
    Karen (Back Road Journal)
    May 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    This will be the first year I haven’t grown tomatoes in years, no room at our new Florida home. There is nothing better than the first ripe tomato of the summer. I hope you have a bountiful crop.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      Sometimes the wait for a tomoato to ripen takes forever!

  • Reply
    Anu - My Ginger Garlic Kitchen
    May 11, 2016 at 2:19 am

    This is such an informative and helpful post, Kathy. I have never done planting myself, but your DIY posts inspire me so much! I wish I could use this sometime in near future. 🙂

    • Reply
      May 11, 2016 at 5:10 am

      You never know when you just might get the urge to grow a tomato plant! Many people grow them in pots on their balconies!

  • Reply
    May 10, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    I envy you your green thumb, I am a complete disaster when it comes to gardening. The only thing I manage to semi-maintain is my herb patch and that only because it doesn’t require so much work….. I love tomatoes and I keep a few pots every year, but never get much out of them. I blame it on the lack of sun and heat mostly, but deep inside… I know…

    • Reply
      May 11, 2016 at 5:10 am

      Keep those herbs going! You need to be proud…not everyone can grow herbs!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    May 10, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Such an informative post! Someday maybe I’ll get to put this to good use when we have a bigger backyard!!

  • Reply
    May 10, 2016 at 2:09 am

    Thank you for your sharing.. I did planting with chilli seeds and I am now planning to plant tomatoes as well.. Hoping for best

    • Reply
      May 10, 2016 at 4:33 am

      I planted several chili plants as well. Good luck with your garden.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing Kathy! Love planting tomatoes! Just hoping for a warm summer around here!

    • Reply
      May 10, 2016 at 4:33 am

      I hope it’s a good tomato season.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Great post Kathy! First time I started my tomato plants from seeds this year and will be transplanting to bigger pots in a week.

  • Reply
    Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary
    May 9, 2016 at 5:44 am

    I do not have a green thumb at all, but I realllllly want to try my hand at starting a garden this year, Kathy! And I really want tomatoes, so this post was super helpful, my dear! Thanks for all the 411! I will be referring to this soon! Cheers, friend!

    • Reply
      May 10, 2016 at 4:36 am

      Good luck! Just start small and have fun!

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