Posted on 18 April 2010 by

The Tomato Chronicles – Transplanting

transplantingBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Transplanting is one of those crucial tasks that can make or break a gardener.

This task can be made easier and more successful if these simple steps are followed depending on how one’s seeds were planted.


  • Plant labels
  • Waterproof marker
  • Potting soil
  • Larger cell packs (4-packs) or containers
  • Fertilizer 5-10-10, or 10-10-10
  • Water system such as watering can or watering hose

Cell Packs

If your seeds were started in cell packs it is not a difficult tasks to transplant these seedlings. First you need to make sure they are ready to be transplanted. The determining factor is the number of leaves. Your seedlings are ready when their second set of leaves appears. This second set is shaped differently and is easy to identify. If more than the second set has appeared before you can transplant this is o.k. you can still do this task.


1. Fill 4-packs or containers you want to transplant into with potting soil.
2. Write labels for your transplants. Hint write your plant labels as you transplant. It is very easy to mix up varieties.
3. Loosen seedlings from cell pack by pushing bottom of each cell until seedlings become loose or turn upside down over a flat and push on cells that are stuck. Be careful on this last approach because it is easy to break seedlings off.
4. Place each seedling in its own section of a 4-pack or in its own container. Hint when planting do not worry about planting too deep. Tomatoes like to be planted deep but do not plant their leaves. This will cause your plant to rot.
5. Water in and let soil settle. You can also gently tap 4-packs or containers on table to settle the soil.
6. Place labels in 4-packs or containers
7. Place in a sunny location indoors.


The steps involved in transplanting from a flat are the same as above except when it comes to removing the seedlings. What I have found is the easiest is to gently scoop them out with my hands. Fewer seedlings are broken or damaged using this process compared to dumping them out on a table.

Cardboard Egg Garden

The steps 1 and 2 are the same but the seedlings are not removed from the container. The cardboard egg carton is simply cut apart and each “cup” is planted in its own container. This method of using a “biodegradable cup” helps keep the plant moist while it grows. Continue with remaining steps as above.

Once you have transplanted your seedlings you will need to “water them in.” This process forces any air bubbles out of the soil. Water once a day with a solution of half the recommended fertilizer mix for whatever brand you choose. An example would be if ¼ cup of fertilizer per gallon were required for full strength than your transplants need 1/8 cup of fertilizer per gallon.

This fertilizer solution needs to be used for the first 3 weeks after transplanting has occurred. After the first 3 weeks water with full strength fertilizer mix according to brand’s direction and continue to water once a day. The type of fertilizer needed for this stage is a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10. This ratio will help your seedlings to grow strong and have a productive life.

Tomatoes by nature are pretty forgiving plants so do not be afraid of the transplanting step. The next step will be a little more challenging due to the time required so I will see you again for the next chapter in The Tomato Chronicles: Hardening Off.

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