Transplanting tomatoes: a how-to guide

Heirloom, plum, cherry, roma: I love them all, from my head tomatoes!

Welcome to mid-May! It’s the perfect time to transplant tomatoes to give you delicious salads all summer long. Below, we’ve compiled some of our favourite tips for transplanting these gems.

Choose your tomato variety:

In this article, Bonnie Plants explains the differences between hybrid, GMO, and heirloom tomatoes. Essentially, they recommend planting a mix of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes while avoiding GMO varieties. Keep in mind that with hybrid tomatoes, you’ll need to purchase new seeds or starter plants every year, but with heirloom tomatoes, you can save the seeds for the following year.

Prepare your plants:

Because it’s so late in the year already, you’ll need to purchase starter plants to give your garden the head start it needs. Rodale’s Organic Life advises gardeners to put transplants in individual pots for a week or two to strengthen plant roots before placing them in the garden.

Prepare your garden beds:

Raised garden beds work best for tomato plants, and mixing in compost into your soil will give you best results later on. To ensure success in growing your tomato plants, prep your tomato beds in areas that will get TONS of sunlight. Tomatoes need full sun for at least eight hours a day to grow to their full potential. However, even though they love sun, Rodale’s recommends planting seedlings on a cloudy day to lessen the initial shock.


Most tomato varieties need to be staked or trellised to save garden space and protect plants from disease. Plan out your cage design before your plants go in. Need inspiration? Here’s a few DIY ideas from Homestead & Survival.

As well as sun, tomatoes also love space! Create holes 30-48 inches apart with 48 inches in between rows. After making holes in your garden beds, here’s another tip from Rodale’s: put compost mixed with bonemeal into the base of the hole, and then sprinkle 1 tsp of Epsom salts on top. The Epsom will provide your tomato plants with the magnesium they need.

Planting your seedlings:

To remove your tomato plant from its pot, gently tip the whole plant upside down, catching it with your open hand. 

Once you have the un-potted tomato plant, gently loosen the roots out of their tangles by rubbing the plant between your hands, before placing into the soil.

Seedlings develop best if buried in soil when first planted. Cover your tomato plants all the way up to the first leaves, and roots will sprout on the stems, strengthening the plants. Pat down the soil around each seedling, and water generously.

After all of your plants are happily buried, sprinkle approximately 3 inches of mulch on top, either bark, leaves, or dry grass clippings, to enrich the soil.

Ongoing care:

From the get-go, keep your tomatoes hydrated by watering regularly, keeping in mind that deep waters less often are more effective than daily sprinkles. Your plants also need to be fed! Give them a balanced fertilizer supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (5-5-5 is a good ratio). Don’t forget about calcium in your soil. Keeping just the right amount of calcium in your soil will help ward off diseases such as blossom end rot; while helping out any other plants you are growing in your garden. Once your plants start needing support, recycle old pantyhose or other stretchy materials to tie stalks to your cages or trellis posts. To maximize your harvest, prune off any non-fruiting branches. This will direct all of your plants’ efforts towards growing the fruit that will be successful.

Companion planting:

Consider growing basil and garlic in the same bed as your tomatoes - there are claims that doing so heightens the flavour of your crop! West Coast Seeds has a comprehensive guide to companion planting, but for tomatoes, basil and garlic are ideal (mmm... caprese salads).

Knowing when your tomatoes are ready for harvesting:

Tomato Dirt has some helpful hints on harvesting tomatoes. Make sure to check on your plants regularly so that tomatoes don’t fall by themselves and rot before being found. This would be a waste of all of your hard work and effort in growing them!

Best of luck with your tomato transplanting! If you have any helpful hints or tips, please leave us a comment below and we’ll pass it on to other gardeners.


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1 comment

  • Cecilia Tng

    We have placed our pots of tomatoes against a light colored wall. The heat absorbed during the day are released at night to keep the plants warm.

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