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Repotting Tomato Seedlings

April 20th, 2009

My tomato seedlings go through a series of repottings before they get planted in the garden. My goal is to have small sturdy healthy tomato plants by the time it’s warm enough to plant them outside.
different-sizes-of-tomatoes
Tomato seedlings seems to thrive on being repotted (unlike other plants), so I repot mine several times during the growing season. Each time I pot them I cut off the bottom 2 branches and bury those under the soil level. This way when it’s time to plant them I have a short tomato plant with a large root ball. If you look at a tomato seedling closely you’ll see lots of little hairs along it’s stem. Each of these will become a root if they come in contact with the soil.
tomato-seedlings-ready-for-repotting
Yesterday was a very productive day here at Chiot’s Run, I was able to repot about 70% of my tomato seedlings (since I currently have over 200 seedlings, that’s a lot of repotting).
repottings-tomatoes-2repotting-tomatoes-3repotting-tomatoes-4
I always like to do my repotting on a cloudy day, it seems to be much easier on the plants. Yesterday was perfect for repotting.
labeling-tomato-plants
I always make sure I label each tomato pot when I repot it. I used to try to keep them organized in rows and only label the first one, but too many times I’ve had to wait until fruiting to know exactly what kind of tomato it was.
potted-tomato-seedlings
I just love the look of all the little plants. These plants signify a lot of delicious homegrown goodness!

Do you have a specific technique for repotting tomatoes or other seedlings?

19 Comments to “Repotting Tomato Seedlings”
  1. Mangochild on April 20, 2009 at 5:46 am

    So interesting about the tomato transplant and cutting off the bottom branches. Do you know if that’s to be done with other veg, either shifting pots or moving to the ground outside?
    As for techniques, I’m new, but I found over the fall that they like cloudy days for moving as well. I try to get the root ball out whole and then softly knead the roots a bit so that they spread and loosen, ready to spread out again. Though if a couple roots tear, I do feel sad. I soaked my strawberry plants in a bit of water to revive them before planting (I ordered the plants) and I think that worked – they came to life and started growing like crazy in just a couple days – really, a whole inch or so taller :-)

    Mangochild’s last blog post.. An Experience From Foodshare

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  2. ChristyACB on April 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I do the same with my tomatoes and they seem to like that to me too. I haven’t been being sure to bury the bottom leaves though, I do send them deeper along the stem each re-potting. I live on a tidally influenced river and get frequent very breezy conditions and occassional tropical storms to a strong base helps them maintain.

    Do you plant all of them? All 200? If so, that is a whole lot of tomatoes! I plant about 25 and get enough to can. What do you do with them all?

    ChristyACB’s last blog post.. Backyard Predatory Frenzy

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  3. Daphne on April 20, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Wow 200 tomato seedlings. I have only about 25 little ones right now but they all won’t get potted up. I think I can only fit 12 or maybe 13. I don’t tend to grow my tomato seedlings as large as a lot of other people do. I like them to be about 6 weeks old when they get planted out. I’ll probably pot up just once.

    Daphne’s last blog post.. Corn, Champion Sprinter

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  4. Dave on April 20, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Do you plant all the 200 tomatoes or do you give them to friends and neighbors? I found that 13 plants last year was enough for our family but I’ll probably add a few more for tomatoes to save over the winter. I do the same thing with the tomatoes but use peat pots so all I have to do is drop them into the next size pot and add dirt.

    Dave’s last blog post.. It’s Raining. Again.

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    • Susy on April 20, 2009 at 9:30 am

      I’ll keep about 30-40 plants. I planted 25 different kinds of tomatoes so I want at least 1 plant of each of those and then I need to have 6-10 of my canning tomatoes to ensure enough tomatoes to get us through the winter.

      I’m giving most of them to friend and family and I’m potting them up and taking them to the local food bank to hand out to families (along with a care instructions sheet).

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Judy on April 20, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Wow! 200 plants. I thought I had a lot at 54. Mine are getting to the point where they will need repotted again soon, but with everything else going on they may need to stay where they are.

    Judy’s last blog post.. Getting ready

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  6. kristin on April 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

    TWO HUNDRED tomato plants? Dang. And here I was thinking 25 was too many.

    kristin’s last blog post.. Wedded Bliss

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  7. KitsapFG on April 20, 2009 at 9:20 am

    18 to 24 plants have usually been more than enough for our family of three for fresh eating, saucing, and canning. I am curious what you will be doing with 200 plants?! I grow more than I plan to plant out and give them to my sister and some co-workers – perhaps that is what you are doing with “extras”? Or are you really planning to plant out that many and if so – what is the plan for the harvest production?

    Reply to KitsapFG's comment

    • Susy on April 20, 2009 at 9:32 am

      Many of them will be given away. I’m trying 25 different varieties for taste, hardiness and disease resistance. I will only keep 30-40 plants (20 for “trying’ and the rest for canning & saving purposes). I’m also hoping to have extra ripe tomatoes to take in to the food bank.

      I”m hoping to have a lot of tomato plants to give away to local people that go to the food bank for food. I think it’s a great way to encourage people to grow some of their own food, who doesn’t love tomatoes. And They’re some of the easiest plants to grow and some of the most rewarding.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Jennifer on April 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

    We were thinking about giving our extra produce to the local food bank, but it’s only open one day a week and they have asked for non-perishables only, we’ll have to find a different one. The CSA the next town over plants an extra row of each crop to give to food banks, so we’ll try and find out which one they give to. Even a just pound of peas can probably be useful to someone in need.

    I haven’t had to transplant any of my plants yet, I just checked and only 1 or 2 even have any true leaves yet. :(

    Reply to Jennifer's comment

  9. Kathy on April 20, 2009 at 10:26 am

    This is my first year doing seedlings, and I planted 5 different kinds of tomatoes, trying to only put 2-4 seeds in each square. Of course more seeds went in and they all germinated thanks to my new grow light. I transplanted them into cups with holes in the bottom, 8 of each type and my husband was upset about the other seedlings. I had chosen the strongest, with the most amount of leaves and don’t have room or time for the extras. I did pot a few for friends, but told him that I’m no Octomom, I had to toss the extra seedlings and only keep the ones I can take care of. This really made us think, and next year I will only plant 10 seeds of each. It was upsetting to get rid of plants.

    I’ve transplanted my basil plants to a larger tray, again, waaaaay too many plants, but these seem easier to pass on to friends.

    Kathy’s last blog post.. Busy Weekend!

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  10. warren on April 20, 2009 at 10:31 am

    We sometimes repot them once, sometimes not. Usually the plants are pretty sturdy when they go into the ground though. We def bury the lower bits of the stem though and have found that the roots are much better that way!

    warren’s last blog post.. A note from the teacher

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  11. Dan on April 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

    What a timely post. This is exactly what I am going to do today and post about. My tom’s are getting huge and need to be spaced out more. So this rainy day will be spent potting up & re-organized all the plants under the grow light.

    I seed into the second smallest pot you have photoed and then pot up into 6″ pots after that. I really like those 2.25″x2.25″x3.25″ square pots and always save them anytime I get them.

    Dan’s last blog post.. Completed Potato Bin

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  12. Pampered Mom on April 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Ours are still much too small to repot here – darn the cold house! Love the pictures!

    Pampered Mom’s last blog post.. Echinacea Purpurea

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  13. Sandy on April 20, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I did some repotting a week ago. I read someone’s good advice somewhere to do just what you did — bury the stem — and the plants are looking really good.

    200 – that’s an amazing number of tomato plants!

    Sandy’s last blog post.. Seeding for summer and more blueberries!

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  14. Sarah on February 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Great post! Thank you it was very helpful. I guess it’s more wait time here for my little tomato sprouts! They are currently in the Jiffy Greenhouse 72 cell (not all tomatoes) and have yet to get their first “true” set of leaves. Last year we had 18 plants and I thought that was a lot but you with 200?! Wow. Great idea donating extra to a food bank. You say your yard is small and lots of shade – that’s wonderful that you can take on that many plants and it sounds/looks as if they thrive too. I look forward to following your blog – it’s wonderful! Keep up the inspiration :)
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..My Seedlings =-.

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    • Susy on February 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks so much. It’s a challenge for sure dealing with not so perfect conditions. But I have to use what I have, I’d love to have a little farm someday, but until then I’ll work with what I have here.

      Shady conditions can be tough, you have to give plants longer to mature and watch for disease, but my plants seem to do OK with the less than perfect conditions.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. tj on March 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    …Wow! 200 tomato plants, what a joyous sight that is I bet! :o)

    …I have a question, why not just seed ’em in a larger pot to begin with? Why all the various stages of different size pots? Silly question I’m sure but I’ve always wondered that.

    …Great post! :o)

    …Have a nice evening!

    …Blessings

    Reply to tj's comment

    • Susy on March 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Because I don’t have room for all the pots in the beginning since I have other things in the seed area. They’ll be planted in the garden to make room for the repotted tomatoes.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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