Complete Guide: When To Transplant Tomato Seedlings From Seed Tray?

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When to transfer tomato seedlings from seed tray, and why is such a transplant process necessary?

It is common now to plant these favorite summer veggies indoors from tomato seeds and let them be in a self-watering seed tray. Soon, the tomato grows and runs out of the root space. It is likely to die if you do not re-pot the plant to another spacious area – for example, in a container, in your garden, or in outdoor soil.

This article at will give detailed information on when and how you should transplant the newborn plants.

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3 Amazing Benefits of Transplanting Your Tomato Seedlings

When should I transplant tomato seedlings from seed tray

Stimulate a healthy root growth

It would be best to transplant your tomato seeds to give their adventitious roots more space to anchor deeply into the loose soil and take up more nutrients.

Once the roots develop, your little plants grow better and produce more fruits in the future.

Prevent Leggy and Weak Stems

The tomato plants from seed stretch toward the light source within a narrow seed tray and become leggy. Without proper care, even healthy stems might suffer from breakage and damage.

Repotting your tomato into another place allows the plants to balance the nutrients and naturally fix the leggy situation.

Train the plant to handle more unsettled conditions

When you move the baby plants into another living condition, it is a chance for the tomato to be hardened for life outdoors. The little plants become more susceptible to spring frost, wilting, windburn, sun burning, and breakage.

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When to Transplant Tomato Seedlings from Seed Tray?

The first question: When should I transplant tomato seedlings from seed tray?

Although transplanting is recommended, it is not that you can move the seedlings around at any time, even with the strongest plant. Keep an eye on their size.

The tomato seedlings should be two or four inches to be ready for the transplant. Three-inch size is on average.

If the plants are shorter, the delicate root is vulnerable to any movement. However, the root might spread to the current containers’ edge if you delay too long. It is hard to transplant without damaging the root ball, then.

True leaves also indicate when to transplant tomato newborn plants from seed starting trays. Usually, they are ready to move their house when having their first set of true leaves after the cotyledons.

When should I transplant tomato seedlings from seed tray

Where to Transplant Tomato Seedlings from Seed Trays?

You can re-plant the seedlings in a larger container or directly in the garden. It depends on the kinds of tomatoes, the weather, and the soil’s conditions.

Tomato growing in the soil is often loose and drains well. Thus, it is less hassle to take care of the plant seedlings afterward. For example, if the tomato species have an extensive strong root system and the weather in your area is warm, you can move the seedlings from a tray to a garden.

Containers are an alternative in case the outdoor conditions are tough such as rain, snow, or spring frost. You can plant the seedlings in containers to strengthen the root establishment and development. Yet, those seedlings need watering more regularly.

How to Properly Transplant Tomato Seedlings from Seed Trays?

From Seed Trays Into Containers or Larger Pots

How to Properly Transplant Tomato Seedlings from Seed Trays

Step 1: Prepare containers or pots

It is not recommended to transplant tomato seeds frequently. Thus, you should pick up the containers or pots that are large enough.

The containers should generally be two or three times higher and two inches wider than the previous seed trays. They must have drainage holes to be well-drained and sterilized.

Step 2: Unpot the tomato seedlings

Place your palm over the soil, poking two fingers through the tomato root ball and stem, flipping the containers vertically. You should never yank on the stem since this part is sensitive.

Ideally, press on the bottom of the containers or around their sides and massage the soil out gently.

Step 3: Put the seedlings into the containers

Put the plant seedlings right side up into the new containers. In case the tomato sits much below the pot’s rim, you had better add more soil moist at the base. That way, the first node of the seedlings is in line with the pot’s top, and the stem can be properly buried.

Step 4: Bury the tomato under fresh soil

The fresh soil is nutrient-rich, light, fluffy, and well-drainable. Fill it in the pot around one inch from the rim.

Avoid compressing the soil surface since the new soil firms up quickly once you water it.

Step 5: Place the new containers in warm locations

Natural sunlight is essential to the optimal growth of seedlings. Thus, it would help if you tried to find a place with plenty of sunlight, besides a sunny window, for example. 

Supposing you put the containers indoors, grow lights as an artificial light source positioned four inches above the foliage can help. 

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Step 6: Water thoroughly

Frequent watering a couple of inches deep helps the plants get over the shock of transplanting and firming up the moist soil. Then, allow the water to saturate from the bottom and dry out a little before the next water feeding, preventing waterlogged soil.

Also, almost all varieties of tomatoes are heavy feeders, so remember to treat them with additional fertilizer.

From Seed Trays Into The Ground

How to Properly Transplant Tomato Seedlings from Seed Trays

Step 1: Determine the ideal weather.

Once the weather becomes warm, it is high time to transplant seedlings from the trays or the containers into the ground.

Ideally, you can measure the garden soil temperature in advance and ensure it is at least 50℉. Nighttime temperature should range from 60-65℉.

Step 2: Harden your tomato outdoors in a couple of weeks.

Acclimatize the seedlings to temperature fluctuations and weather conditions by simply putting the tray or the containers outdoors for a while. Then, you can increase such outdoor time by one hour daily.

Step 3: Find a place in your garden.

Tomato plants love heat and need around six to ten hours under direct sunlight or indirect sunlight alternatives to maximize their growth. Thus, you should check the garden spot with enough sun even later in the season.

Also, make sure the quality potting soil is nutrient-rich and drains well.

Step 4: Dig holes and amend them with compost.

The holes are about 12 inches deep to bury the first main branch which has the topmost leaves. You can get rid of any seed leaves below this point. At the bottom, spread compost or fertilizer as a boost upon transplanting.

Holes ought to be spaced about 18 inches apart so that the seedlings have comfortable space to grow.

Step 5: Unpot the seedlings and transplant them into each planting hole

Be careful to unpot and re-plant the seedlings as you do in the first case. Water the potting soil surface sometimes but less frequently than how you take care of the containers.


With our complete guide, you already know when to transplant tomato seedlings from seed tray and how to proceed with the transplant properly. Now, you are ready for the new crop of these favorite summer veggies and get a lot of fruits.

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