Transplanting tomato plants isn’t a hard task to do, however, it is important to follow some key steps to ensure the success of your plants. Though a regular gardener knows how to transplant effectively, here I will show you the step-by-step guide with favorable information that is important when you transplant your seedlings.
As you know, tomatoes are very tolerant to keep their roots intact while transplanting, you can easily replant them into pots, buckets, or garden soil.
To know details, Let’s jump down-
How Do You Know Tomato Seedling Perfect For Transplanting?
Ok, So you have waited long enough and your tomato seedlings have grown 2-3 inches tall with some sets of leaves, and now you are planning to transplant them? But the question is- Are they ready for transplanting or not?
You can easily find out that things by giving a little tug to the seedlings. If they come out of the ground very easily with roots and stems, then it’s time for transplanting them. However, if the plant resists coming out or breaking, then it’s not the right time yet.
How to Transplant Tomato Seedlings?
The transplantation of the tomatoes until and unless you are sure that the plant is ready for it, as I have mentioned earlier. If not done carefully, it will damage the roots and can kill the plant. So, be careful while transplanting.
Here are 6 real-life steps of how to transplant tomato seedlings-
1) Choose healthy tomato seedlings to transplant
Tomato seed needs 5-10 days to germinate and until suitable for transplanting it requires 6-8 weeks. Once the tomato is transferred to the garden, it will take 50-70 days to grow and mature.
So, before transplanting make sure your seedlings are healthy enough to cope with the change. There are some parameters before transplanting tomato seedlings are need to observe-
The term “hardening off” means to get your tomato plants accustomed to the outdoors. It is a process in which you need to expose your tomato plants to the outside environment gradually so that they can adapt themselves according to the new conditions.
This process needs to be done for 7-10 days before transplanting. It’s a basic and initial parameter for seedlings, otherwise, they may face post-planting shock or may not survive.
Treated Or Not:
When you sow a large number of seeds to grow in a tray or pot, you should treat or regular spray if the infestation is widespread in the area. The treatment spray did for fungus or other sucking insects. It can be done with fungicides ( Copper Fungicide ) or with natural insecticides ( neem oil ).
Environment Suited Variety:
More than 10,000 tomato varieties are available, and each one is best suited to a particular environment. So, if you grow the wrong variety in your garden which isn’t suggested for the region then you will not get the best result. Some widely cultivated tomato varieties are
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green tomatoes
- Beefsteak tomatoes
- Grape tomatoes
- Heirloom tomatoes
- Roma tomatoes
2) Prepare the soil where the tomatoes will be planted
Soil is very important for the growth of any plant, and when it comes to tomato plants, the soil should be well-drained, loose, and rich in organic matter. The ideal pH level of the soil for tomatoes is between 6.0 to 7.0.
You can improve your soil quality by adding some amendments like compost or manure. If you have heavy clay soil, then you can add some sand, and vermicompost to loosen it.
A study found that sandy soil mixed with VC amendments is more productive than clay and loam soils. But I prefer the fertile loam to sandy loam soil with mixing the amendments.
If you transplant the seedlings into the pot or bucket, then the mix may ( 1:1:1 ) as
- Peat Moss
- Garden soil/ Compost
However, the area you select for tomato seedlings must fulfill some factors that are-
The tomato leaves’ average LAI ( Leaf Area Index ) is 2.5-3.5 which indicates that it is a high-light-demanding plant. So, full sunlight ( 6 to 8 hours per day ) for the tomato plant is essential. Otherwise, your plants may face etiolation ( long and spindly internodes with small leaves ).
In spring the Light Intensity of 7000 lumens is required to prevent etiolation. So, the area should get that much sunlight. If not, then you can use some grow lights to make up for it.
Air Circulation with Optimum C02:
The poor air circulation around the tomato plant can create an ideal environment for the development of some fungal diseases like early blight, Septoria leaf spot, and anthracnose.
Generally, tomato seedlings take CO2 from their surrounding air with optimal concentration for better growth and elongation. The amount required for
- Low light condition: 400 to 600 ppm
- Bright light condition: 800-1000 ppm
So, the tomato area should get that much amount of carbon dioxide, so decent air circulation with that much C02 concentration is essential.
No Stagnant Water:
The area should be well drained with no stagnant water, as the tomato plant doesn’t like wet feet. The water log condition will create an anaerobic environment around the roots which is not good for their growth. It can also lead to some fungal diseases like Fusarium wilt and root rot. So, make sure the area is well drained with no water stagnation.
The tomato is a warm-season crop that needs a minimum temperature of 50°F ( 10°C ) to germinate and grow. If the temperature falls below 50°F, then the growth of the plant will be stunted. The ideal daytime temperature for tomatoes is between 70-85°F ( 21-29°C ), and at night it should be above 55°F ( 13°C ).
3) Dig a hole for each transplanted tomato seedling
After preparing the planting area, it’s time to transplant the tomato seedlings. You should transplant them in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the harsh sun.
First of all, dig a hole for each transplanted tomato seedling that is big enough to fit the root ball comfortably. The general rule of thumb is to make the hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball.
4) Place each tomato seedling in its respective hole and cover it with soil
Gently hold the plant by its leaves ( not by the stem ), and lower it into the hole. Whether the seedling is cutting or germinating, it’s important to bury at least 2/3 of the stem. This will encourage the plant to produce new roots along the buried portion of the stem.
From the buried stem the adventitious roots will develop which will help the plant anchor itself in the soil and absorb more nutrients and water.
The above soil layer must be highly organic. So, after planting cover the area with some compost or manure. You can also use some mulch to retain moisture and keep the weeds at bay.
Mulching is done for the tomato plant, especially for those grown in hot climates. It helps to keep the root zone cool and moist. You can use organic mulches like wood chips, straws, or leaves.
5) Water the tomato seedlings deeply
Water the newly transplanted tomato seedlings deeply so that the water penetrates the plant’s roots. After transplanting, the plants will need 1-2 inches of water per week. As the transpiration rate of the tomato seedling is getting high after the growth rate, so they need more water.
You can use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to water the tomato plants at the base. Avoid wetting the leaves as it can lead to some fungal diseases. Also, try to water in the morning so that the leaves have enough time to dry before nightfall.
6) Cage/Stake: Provide support to the tomato plants
The tomato plant is a climbing plant that can grow up to 10 feet ( 3 meters ) tall. So, it needs some kind of support to keep the plant from sprawling on the ground. You can make it by yourself with some bamboo sticks or buy them from the market.
A tomato cage is a cylinder-shaped wire frame that’s placed around the plant to support it. It has 3-4 levels of wires that are evenly spaced. You can choose any size as per your need, but make sure that it’s at least 5 feet (indeterminate) ( 1.5 meters ) tall.
A stake is a single pole that’s driven into the ground and used to support the plant. It’s best to use a wooden stake that’s at least 6-8 feet ( 2-2.4 meters ) tall. You can also use metal or plastic stakes, but they may not last as long as wooden ones.
Common Problems When Transplanting Tomatoes:
Overwatering and Underwatering
Have you ever seen wilted, yellow leaves on a tomato plant after transplanting? If you have, the plant was likely overwatered. When tomatoes are overwatered, they can’t take up nutrients from the soil and the plant will start to die. The first symptom of overwatering is usually yellow leaves.
If you think your plant is overwatered, the best course of action is to let the soil dry out completely. Once the soil is dry, water the plant deeply and then let the soil dry out again before watering.
It might seem like it’s impossible to underwater a tomato plant, but it can happen, especially if you have full sandy soil. If your plant is wilting and the leaves are turning brown, dried-up soil, and curled roots it’s likely due to underwatering.
I have been facing “transplant shock”, This happens when the seedlings are grown to unfavorable conditions like poor lighting, and overcrowding, and then when they are transplanted to favorable conditions like more spacing, good lighting, etc.
it causes the plant to go into a state of shock. The leaves turn pale, and might even fall off and the growth is stunted for a couple of days or weeks till the plant gets used to the new conditions and starts growing again.
Pests and Diseases
Tomato leaves and shoots are the ideal food for pests such as tomato fruitworms, cutworms, and hornworms. However, there are also some other insect pests like Aphids, Thrips, red spider mites, and Root-knot nematodes. If you spot them early on, they will be much easier to eliminate.
Otherwise, it will just become a numbers game where the pests keep reproducing faster than you can kill them and they will eventually overwhelm your plant.
Pests can also carry diseases that can infect your plant. The most common disease is Damping Off, Tomato Mosaic Virus (TMV), Leaf curl, etc. Some Bacterial or Fungi diseases are early blight, late blight, Septoria leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and Fusarium wilt.
Always try to buy healthy seedlings from a reputable source to avoid these problems. Inspect the plant carefully before transplanting and discard any that show signs of pests or diseases.
What Is The Best Time Of a Day To Transplant Tomatoes?
Tomato plants shouldn’t be transplanted under rainfed conditions and direct sunlight /Mid-day heat. The best time to transplant tomato plants is either early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler. At that time the airflow and soil temperature is ideal for successful transplanting.
If you transplant the seedlings to a greenhouse or protected field, the best time to transplant is in the evening. This is to give the young tomato plants time to recover from the shock of transplanting and to avoid wilting during the hotter daytime hours.
You have just done everything that makes tomato plants to be successfully transplanted. Be sure to do a perfect wedding, fertilize the soil, water the plants regularly, and above all choose the best time for transplanting.
Also, get rid of any pests or diseases immediately. With all these in place, Now it’s time to keep patience and see your plants grow in the new environment and produce delicious fruits.
I am a graduate of Bangladesh Agricultural University, where I delved into various agricultural disciplines, equipping me with a profound understanding of agriculture. Beyond academics, I have hands-on experience in gardening and crop cultivation. My passion is to embrace sustainable farming and horticulture. With a BSc in Agriculture, I am dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious and efficient agrarian practices.
Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Agriculture (Hons.)
Master of Science. (Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security ) (MS)
Bangladesh Agricultural University