Planting Healthy Tomato Plants


Transplanting Tomato Plants From 4” to quart pots

When your tomato has 5 or more true leaves and the temperatures have warmed to at least 55 degrees regularly, it’s time to put the plants into the ground but what happens if the weather isn’t warm enough yet?

Don’t worry: if it’s still too cold to safely plant your plants outdoors, you can move your transplant to a larger pot which will continue to improve root structure and make for a healthy plant. Follow these simple steps.

To transplant your tomato plant, you’ll need:

  1. Good potting soil. There are many on the market including Pro-mix, Fafard, Espoma, Miracle-Gro and Fox Farm. Make sure it’s potting mix and not seed starting mix.

  2. Fertilizer. You can use a basic 10-10-10 fertilizer or an organic product like Tomato-tone by Espoma. You may also use a booster such as worm castings.

  3. A small spoon

  4. A narrow trowel

  5. Liquid fertilizer Make sure you get one with micro-nutrients. You may also use fish emulsion or fish emulsion with seaweed. These products are smelly but they provide excellent nutrition.

  6. A tub or wheelbarrow

  7. Quart pots

Steps to transplant your seedling into a larger pot.

  1. First place the potting soil in your tub or wheelbarrow and moisten it thoroughly. You want it damp but not soggy. If you squeeze it, it shouldn’t be drippy.

  2. Place a small quantity of soil in one of your quart pots.

  3. Remove the seedling from the 4-inch pot gently using the spoon or small trowel. Do not pull the plant out by the stem!

  4. Gently loosen the roots and let the loose soil fall.

  5. With small scissors or nippers, remove all but the uppermost leaves.

  6. Place the plant in the pot so that the root and the stem will be buried and gently add potting soil up the leaves. Do not pack soil!

  7. With the small spoon, dig a trench around the outer perimeter of the pot. Spread 1 spoon of fertilizer and 1 spoon of worm castings in the trench and cover with soil.

  8. Water with ½ strength solution of the liquid fertilizer. Don’t over-water.

  9. Place your transplants in a well lit room, greenhouse or cold frame until the weather warms enough to put them in the ground.


This method continues to provide for maximum root development and will give you the healthiest transplant, so if it’s still too cold to put your plant outside, this is a perfectly acceptable practice until it warms up.

We’d love to hear about your transplanting experiences in the comments section below!

Comments from Other Gardeners
  • Amy says:

    We had a particularly cold spring so I moved my transplants to larger pots following these directions. The plants have now been in the ground for a month and are performing beautifully. You are right about the root system. It was so well developed and I even buried the stems a bit more when I put them in the ground.

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