My tomato seedlings have developed quickly and now have multiple true leaves. When your seedlings have reached this stage, it is time to transplant them into a larger pot. Read on for detailed instructions on how to do this and pictures I took as I did it yesterday.
Reasons to transplant:
- Stimulation of feeder roots and room for the seedling to grow
- Richer soil (you can use a commercially prepared soil mix for growing vegetables)
- Selection of the fittest (if you have multiple seedlings growing in the same pot you need to select the strongest one to keep and cut the other one off using scissors – please note that you should not pull the weaker one out because it may cause too much damage to the other seedling)
How to transplant:
- Prepare the container and moisten the soil (for tomatoes use anything from a 2 to 6 inch pot – if you don’t have any we have plenty in the shed) – it is best to have all the supplies you may need on hand so read ahead before you start
- Lift out the seedling using a piece of cutlery, a popsicle stick, pencil, screwdriver or similar tool – the trick is you want to be able to lift the seedling while causing the least damage to its roots – if you are going to hold the seedling by its leaves, hold the first (round) ones rather than the true leave (the pointy ones) and be sure to plant one at a time to make sure the roots do not dry out
- Replant the seedlings by placing some soil in the pot while holding it at an angle, then while holding the seedling with one hand fill soil around it with the other, when you are done pat the soil down gently so that the seedling has some support but the soil will not have all the air compressed out of it – with tomatoes you can plant them as deep as the roots will allow you (make sure they aren’t touching the bottom of the pot or are coiled) and you can actually bury a part of the stem because new roots will grow from the stem, which is especially useful if your seedlings have become really tall
- Watch your seedlings and keep them out of light and in a cool place – if there is any sign of wilting and they are already well watered you can set up a “greenhouse” but placing a seedling in a plastic bag to help rebalanced the moisture until they perk back up
Check out these webpages for more useful images and advice:
After the transplant and a few days of recovery there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Allow the soil to slightly dry before watering your seedlings, it helps prevent water logging the plants and promotes better root growth – if possible keep watering from below by adding water to the tray rather than pouring water on top of them
- You may want to consider fertilizing depending on the type of soil you used, but proceed with caution because seedlings can be sensitive (consider mixing fertilizers to half strength)
- The seedling will need plenty of light (at least 6 hours) – if you are using a window and you notice the seedlings reaching for the light occasionally rotate them
- If the seedlings are getting really tall really fast this is called getting “leggy” and the stem may be too weak – it may be caused by insufficient light, high temperatures, or crowding of plants – if you notice this problem or others, such as dropping of leaves, leaf curl, or discolouration, get in touch with us and we will try to help you resolve the problem
The next stage will be “hardening them off” which means gradually taking them outside for longer and longer periods after the last frost (expected date for Toronto is May 9th of every year) but before planting them in the garden – I’ll send you another update at that time.
I hope this information has been useful and please contact us if you have questions, require materials (pots/soil), or would like to update us on how your seedlings are doing.