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How to Transplant Tomato Plants

By Traci Joy ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel or spade
  • Water


  • If you wish to have potted tomatoes, select a pot that will be large enough to contain the root system. The pot should be 12 to 18 inches in diameter.


  • 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.

About the Author


A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."