Potting up Tomatoes (first seedling transplant)

Tomatoes have big long roots and grow very quickly from seed indoors.  A few weeks after planting tomato seeds, while it’s still way too cold outside for tomato plants, they need more room.  I like to pot mine up into half-gallon milk cartons because they are so deep.  Here are some photos and notes of my process:

 

When seedlings have a couple sets of true leaves, I pot them up into something bigger.

When seedlings have a couple sets of true leaves, I pot them up into something bigger.

 

My container of choice is a tall waxed paper half gallon milk carton.

My container of choice is a tall waxed paper half gallon milk carton.

 

Carefully remove the seedling from it's planting cell and then . . .

Carefully remove the seedling from it's planting cell and then . . .

Pinch off the seed leaves.  This part of the stem ends up under the dirt.

Pinch off the seed leaves. This part of the stem ends up under the dirt.

 

Pot the seedling as deep as possible.  Tomatoes will grow new roots along the buried portion of stem.

Pot the seedling as deep as possible. Tomatoes will grow new roots along the buried portion of stem.

I probably could have gone even deeper when repotting this tomato seedling.

I probably could have gone even deeper when repotting this tomato seedling.

 

Firm up the dirt a bit.

Firm up the dirt a bit.

 

Over half the height of the seedling is buried now.

Over half the height of the seedling is buried now.

 

This container will be enough growing room for 3 to 4 more weeks.  Hopefully the next transplant will be to the garden.

This container will be enough growing room for 3 to 4 more weeks. Hopefully the next transplant will be to the garden.

Any questions?  I’d love to get your comments.

About these ads

19 responses to this post.

  1. A great idea for re-using. I’m thinking about what I want to grow. I’ll probably do radishes in boxes again. I’d like to do carrots in ground and sunflowers. Of course there’s the melons that you gave me too. hmmmm… Where to plant.

    Reply

  2. and also green beans. any suggestions on favorite green beans?

    Reply

  3. You blurred out the missing kid on the milk carton. How can the internet ever help find them?

    Reply

  4. Posted by sarabclever on April 2, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I am going to remember this post if I am lucky enough to get my tomatoes to make it that far! I have been saving large yogurt containers, I hadn’t thought of milk cartons too!

    Reply

  5. When I tried to grow my tomatoes inside they look all spindly, and leggy.. I have a grow light, one light I bought at walmart, or Lowes on them.. what am I doing wrong? They for sure don’t look like yours :(

    Reply

  6. There is a high likelyhood that your leggy seedlings have resulted from the plants literally reaching higher for the light. I have my shop lights hanging from a chain that I adjust every night so that the lights are 1 to 2 inches away from the leaves of whatever is growing underneath.

    There is also a possibility that you are using bulbs that are a couple years old. For the price ($1-$2), I replace my fluorescent bulbs every season with brand new ones and then save them for use in other fixtures in the house. The plants get new bulbs, every year.

    How far away from the plants is your light? I should also mention that if you are using incandescent light bulbs, they will be far too hot to keep that close to the seedlings. Switch to fluorescent if possible.

    Repot your seedlings as deeply as possible and you’ll get one more chance with them.

    Reply

  7. Thanks for answering.. I was hoping it wasn’t light :( But I am afraid it probably is…

    Last year I had the same problem.. only I grew all my plants in a window sill.. this year I bought grow lights.. or supposably grow lights they were just one light that you hang on a wall, I kept them semi close to the plants and they don’t get hot, but all my plants are still leggy.. I am getting bummed as the season is getting closer to plant outside.. and I will have no plants to plant outside.. :( Instead of moving the lights I moved the plants.. lowering the shelving they were on as they grew.. but it doesn’t seem to really make a difference..

    I went to the store over my lunch break and bought a shop light.. fluorescent.. humph! I am going to give it a shot! – Thanks again!

    Reply

  8. That sounds like a good plan. I have had good luck with as little setup as one four-foot double-bulb shop light. Just the cheapest one I could find for $10. Another thing you might need to know is that the plants actually do better if they get 16 hours on, 8 hours off lighting. They need the rest period. If you’re using ‘dirt’ or ‘potting soil’ rather than something like ‘Miracle Grow’ you might want to include a little fertilization in the water. Also, since you’re starting with seeds and your current seedling are questionable already…if I were you I would plant a new set of tomatoes too as insurance. Try to keep both going and pot them up DEEPLY.

    Reply

  9. Posted by sarabclever on April 14, 2009 at 8:16 am

    How long did it take for your tomatoes to get to that state from when they sprouted? Mine have been up for two weeks but no sign of true leaves yet…

    Reply

  10. Those were about 3 weeks old at the time. After sprouting in little peat pellets I tore off the netting and moved them to the 6-packs shown in the first picture above. That probably happened at around 12 days. Technically you’re seeing my second transplant in the photos above, but not all of my tomatoes hit this intermediate step. Many go straight from the peat pellets to the milk cartons.

    Just keep in mind that every tomato is different and there are LOTS of things that can make them grow more slowly. The temperature of the soil during germination, the temperature of the room the seedlings are growing in, the temperature of the water you water them with every night, the airflow in the room, the nutrients on the soil, the amount and quality of lighting, etc.

    Reply

  11. Posted by bethsmiles on April 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Your tomatoes are further along than mine. But I, too, know I’m going to have to get pretty big pots to transplant mine. Much bigger than the ones I just used for the squashes. We still have about a little over a month before the last frost.

    Reply

  12. Great post and info! Have a similar post on repotting up on my site as well. I personally wouldn’t recommend pinching off those cotyledons though. You can bury up to the bottom of them like I then. Then for their 2nd transplant you can pinch them off.

    Reply

  13. Alrighty.
    Maybe I’ll try it out with a few of mine for the next transplant.

    Reply

    • Thank you for stopping by. I searched for five minutes on your site trying to find your post about transplanting tomatoes after they have emerged. I saw the words telling me to click for the article, but they weren’t linked and the search function didn’t turn it up either.

      Reply

  14. Posted by Linda Galvin on April 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Hi
    Great idea with the milk carton.
    Do you make holes in the bottom of it? Or is the idea to hold the water in the carton.
    Linda, Dublin, Ireland.

    Reply

    • I definitely poke in drainage holes. You need a well draining potting soil and a tomato that’s already big enough to drink up a healthy amount of water. If you pot them in this type of container when they are too small, the roots can suffocate and die.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Linda Galvin on April 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

    ok thanks very much, I’ll follow your picture’s for guidance on size

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: