If you purchase tomato seedlings from a local garden center, they usually come in a very small flat or seedling pot. Keeping your tomato seedlings in this type of container for an extended time can cause the seedling to become root bound and can slow down growth. Tomato plants love being transplanted and will actually grow better once they are re-potted to larger containers.

If you are a little unsure of how to re-pot tomatoes from one container to a larger one, here is how I transfer my tomato seedlings.

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings To A Larger Container

As previously mentioned, most tomato seedlings purchased from a garden center typically come in a small pot or flat. If it will be a few weeks before you transplant the tomato seedlings in the vegetable garden, it is best to re-pot the seedlings to a larger container. This will help the seedling develop stronger roots, prevent the roots from becoming bound (or looking like a big knot), and prevent the tomato seedling from becoming so leggy.

As you can see in the above picture these Brandywine seedlings are in a 2 inch pot and are growing a bit leggy. Since I will not be planting them in the vegetable garden for a couple more weeks, I need to re-pot them to a larger container. The seedling on the right has become so leggy it will not even stand up straight on its on.

Choosing A Container

Any larger container that you prefer can be used to re-pot the tomato seedlings in. I am re-potting these tomato seedlings into a half gallon container that I had left over from a couple of shrubs I bought last year.

If you decide to re-use a container make sure to wash it out well with a solution of 25% vinegar and 75% water and rinse out well. This will help to prevent any diseases that could be in the old potting soil. You may never have an issue but I think it's better to be safe now than sorry later.

Larger Containers for Tomato Seedlings

Preparing The Larger Containers For Re-potting The Seedlings

Once the larger containers have been washed, rinsed and dried, I fill it half way with a mix of soil and compost. You can also use an organic potting soil too. It is better to have these containers ready to go before removing the tomato seedlings from their existing home. You want make the transfer as swift as possible to prevent the roots from drying out.

Large Container Half Way Filled With Soil

Removing The Tomato Seedling From The Existing Pot

Removing the seedling from the existing pot can sometimes be tricky. Once the seedling has been in the smaller pot for a little while it can become "stuck" in the pot. You must be careful when removing the seedling not to damage it or its roots.

I like to turn the seedling on its side and give the bottom of the pot a good squeeze on all four sides to loosen it up a bit. I then push on the very bottom of the pot with one hand while holding the seedling with the other hand. This is to make sure I catch the seedling as its dislodged from the pot. The seedling will usually slide right out after this.

removing the seedling from the pot

Re-Potting The Seedling In The Larger Container

With the seedling removed from its original container I gently place it in the center of the larger container. It is a good idea to re-pot the tomato seedling a little bit deeper in the new container than it was in the first. This will encourage new root growth and a stronger root system.

I take a look at how deep the tomato seedling is sitting in the larger container. If the seedling needs to be a bit deeper, I take my hand and scoop out a deeper hole in the soil. If the seedling is too deep I place another handful of soil in the container.

tomato seedling repotted in larger container

Once the tomato seedling is at a good depth I pinch off the bottom two or four leaves. You don't have to do this but it seems to help root development. Now I fill the rest of the container up with the soil.

fill container with soil

Give The Re-Potted Seedling A Good Drink

That's it! The tomato seedling now needs a good drink of water or compost tea. Make sure to water the seedling each day to keep the soil moist but not soggy. One watering per day should suffice until the tomato seedling is transplanted in the vegetable garden.

Just continue this same process until you have all the tomato seedlings re-potted.

Do you re-pot your tomato seedlings before transplanting in the vegetable garden? If so, please share how you re-pot your tomato seedlings!

Grow Fantastic Tomatoes!