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A friend gave us a couple of heirloom black cherry tomato seedlings this year, and I’m so excited to have them in our garden! The seedlings were tiny little babies when we first got them, but tomatoes grow super fast, so they soon outgrew the small peat pots I started them in. The garden bed is already full of plants, but luckily tomatoes grow well in containers. So for anyone who is looking to grow tomatoes in containers, today’s post will show you how to transplant tomato seedlings into larger containers so you can move them outside into your garden!
How To Transplant Tomato Plants
Transplanting tomato seedlings into larger containers is just like re-potting any other plant, but with a few minor exceptions. Here’s what you need to get started: (affiliate links below to the products I use and recommend)
- a large container (at least 14″, and bigger is better if you have room!)
- potting soil (I like to mix in some Perlite with my potting soil to help keep it from compacting too much when it is watered)
- a trowel
- a bunch of large rocks (enough to cover the bottom of your large container)
- tomato seedling
Start by placing a layer of rocks in the bottom of your container. You want the rocks to be large enough that they don’t fall out the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, but not so large that they completely block the hole. The rocks will help ensure good drainage by keeping soil from falling out of the hole and clogging it up later.
Mix Perlite into your potting mix according to the instructions (I usually do about a scoop of Perlite for every 8-10 scoops of soil, measuring with my trowel).
Fill the container about a third of the way with the Perlite/soil mixture. You want it full enough that when you put your seedling on top of the soil, the very top leaves of the seedling are just barely peeking over the top rim of the container. (Yes, you want 95% of the plant to be inside the container! I know it sounds weird, but bear with me; I’ll explain why shortly!)
Water the soil until it starts to drain out of the hole at the bottom.
Gently remove your seedling from its previous pot and place the whole seedling on top of the soil.
Add more Perlite/soil mixture around the seedling so that the soil in the pot is level everywhere. The pot should only be about 2/3 full at this point.
The reason you want to transplant tomato plants so low in the container is to help them build a really good root system. Roots will develop on any stems that are buried underground, so as your tomato plant grows, pull off a few of the bottom leaves and add more soil. Keep doing this every few weeks or so until the soil reaches about an inch below the top of the container. This will give your tomato plants a few extra inches of roots, which will help them get enough water during the hot summer days!
If you plan on staking or caging your tomatoes, you might as well do it now! You just transplanted the tomato plant, so you know exactly where the roots are and you can be careful to avoid hitting them when you put the cage or stake in. If you wait, the plant’s roots will grow throughout the container and you could accidentally cut into one when pushing the cage or stake in.
These tomato plants should only get about four feet tall, but make sure you know what variety of tomato you have; some can be over 8 feet tall! Normally a tomato cage from a garden center is enough to support the tomatoes as they grow, but I also like to put a stake in and tie the tomatoes up every once in a while, just to be doubly sure. We get serious winds here in Chicago, and though the cages can help bear the weight of the fruits, a good, sturdy stake will give additional support to the main stem and keep it from bending or snapping.
All that’s left to do is move your container to the sunniest spot in your yard, and wait for them to grow. Tomatoes like a lot of sun, so the sunnier the better! Just remember to keep them well watered; you might even have to water twice a day on hot, dry days!
This photo was taken a week later and they were already over a foot tall!
And two weeks after that they were already taller than the cages!!! Tomatoes definitely grow quickly if they have enough sun and water, so be prepared!
Are you growing tomatoes in your garden this year?
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