How to Transplant Heirloom Tomato Plants Into the Ground

Tomatoes are a warm weather crop; they do not tolerate frost and do not like cold, wet weather either. Wait till the last frost day and give them some protection.
The best place to grow tomatoes in a northern garden is a greenhouse. We grow tomatoes vertically and space them about a foot to a foot and a half apart.
Plants can’t go from indoors right into the ground; it will put way too much stress on them. First get them used to the outdoor or greenhouse environment while still in the pot. Starting with a few hours in the shade and then leaving them for longer and they will get used to their new location. Now they can be transplanted without being killed in the process.
Dig a bigger hole than the plant is – it helps to loosen the soil all around the plant and encourages root growth. Add 1-2 cups manure to the hole before planting (I use sheep manure). The manure will give the plants a boost. If the soil is very dry, like it usually is in a greenhouse, water the hole.
Be sure not to water the plant to much before transplanting so it holds better together. By turning the pot upside down and tapping on the pot, the plant will come right out.
Now place it gently into the hole and fill the hole with loose soil. If the plant is a bit leggy it can be buried deeper just like by transplanting the seedlings. By very leggy plants you can even lay the plant down to be able to bury more of the stem.
Do not press it down too hard but water the plant right away; the water will push the soil down as much as needed. It is good to make a mold around the plant for watering, so that the water can go directly to the plant and not flow away to lower ground.
Give the plants some protection from the sun during the first days, a Frost Blankets works very well. It also gives some protection from wind and cold during the night. I leave the blanket on for at least three days.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 12 questions
  • Jw_7101187
    on Jul 11, 2016

    I see those grey nettle type bugs that suck the moisture out of cupcakes and squash. What's the best way to get rid of them? I coated the ground with diatenatious earth quite liberally. Any other ideas?

  • Richard Elphick
    on Jul 12, 2016

    While not directly related to your subject my question has relevance. What can I do to combat powdery mildew?

    • Alex Kendzior Fuller
      on Jul 4, 2017

      Found this on internet and it works. 9 parts water 1 part Milk . 1 squeeze Dawn. Shake up in dedicated sprayer bottle from Home Depot $9.99 each.
  • Susan
    on Aug 9, 2016

    I have tried for several years to grow tomatoes in buckets (with drainage holes). All I ever get are tall, leggy plants with some blooms that usually fall off without producing any fruit. I've tried gardening soil, fertilizer, compost, pinching off the suckers and not removing suckers, etc, etc. I didn't bother this year since nothing seems to work. Anyone have any special tips for growing tomatoes in containers?

    • Novaline Tanksley
      on Sep 11, 2020

      This may help you. When they start to grow, pick the the leafy stems back just as you do your house plants. You have to do it before they begin to flower. Picking back induces plants to fill out and grow shorter. Mostly for pots, I buy patio tomatoes and peppers from Lowe's or Walmart's. They've already been cultivated to grow short and fat.

Join the conversation

2 of 16 comments
  • Rosanne
    on Jul 11, 2016

    I DO take off the lower leaves, but I root them in water; in 7-10 days the roots should start forming. I don't put into small pots until there are a lot of roots

    on Jul 11, 2016

    When transferring plants to the garden, I separate the roots a bit prior to placing in the an oversized hole. Most plants are root bound in the pots you purchase them in, and by separating them it helps them sprout out more easily. My tomatoes are 5 ft. tall with plenty of tomatoes. Can't wait for them to ripen!

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