How to Transplant Tomato Plants


Tomatoes are a healthy addition to any garden, and to get a head start on the growing season you will want to start your tomato plants indoors, or purchase seedlings from a nursery or garden center. After you have had the last frost of the season in your gardening zone, you can go ahead and transplant the tomato plants into your garden. Following a few basic steps can help ensure a strong plant and favorable harvest.

Step 1

Set the tomato plants, in their current pots, outside for two to three days before putting them in the ground. This gives them a chance to get acclimated to outdoor weather and helps the stems toughen up a bit.

Step 2

Prepare the soil for the tomato transplant. With a shovel or spade, dig the hole deep enough to bury the root ball as well as the tomato plant stalk, up to the first set of leaves. Space your holes for your tomato plants two feet apart.

Step 3

Tip the pot the tomato plant is currently in onto its side. Tap the outside of the pot to loosen the root ball.

Step 4

Insert the root ball into the prepared hole and cover the root ball with dirt.

Step 5

Water the tomato plant, and once the water has settled into the ground, pack more dirt around the base of the plant. Pile the dirt up around the plant until you have buried the stem up to its first set of leaves.

Step 6

Tap the soil firmly around the plant, and water thoroughly.

Step 7

Stake the tomato plant while it is still young. You can purchase a tomato cage from a garden center, or pound a 3-foot-long stake 12 inches into the ground, and tie a string around the main stalk of the tomato plant and anchor it to the stake. The stake should be placed into the ground at least 6 inches from the main stalk of the tomato plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you wait to stake your tomato plants when they are older, you may damage the root system. Once a tomato plant has begun to grow in the ground for the season and has begun to flower, you should not try to transplant it, as you could easily damage the roots. Transplant an established tomato plant only if absolutely necessary, and follow Steps 3 through 5.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or spade
  • Water


  • Renee's Garden: Growing Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow: Tomatoes
Keywords: growing tomato plants, transplanting tomato plants, insert tomato plants into dirt

About this Author

A freelance writer for over 12 years, Traci Vandermark has written extensively on health and fitness topics. She is a student of health, fitness and nutrition at the International Institute Of Holistic Healing, certified by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. Her articles have appeared in Catskill Country Magazine, The Lookout Magazine, Capper's, Birds and Blooms and Country Discoveries, to name a few.