Great question! Each time you transplant your tomato seedling you are giving the roots more space to grow. Putting a strong plant in the garden will more likely ensure the success of your tomato harvest.
When I start my own tomatoes (peppers, eggplant and squash) I put seeds in starting trays on New Years Day. Mid-March is my goal to get tomatoes transplanted out into the garden. However, between Jan. 1st and March 15th my tomato seedlings enjoy only a single re-potting. They start in trays (each cell is 1″ square) and graduate to a 4-inch pots.
There are a two reasons why I only re-pot once. First, when I purchase tomatoes they typically come in 4-inch pots so I have to assume that this is good enough. Second, for the seedlings to thrive they need grow lights. There’s only so much real estate under my grow lights and I want to grow as many plants as possible, keeping them in smaller pots allows more plants to fit under the lights.
I believe that there is something more important than the number of times you re-pot a tomato seedling. In my experience, the deeper I re-pot or transplant to the garden the better! So, if you’re able to re-pot your transplants a number of times, that’s great, do so deeply. Tomatoes will develop roots all along the stem. So, remove a few bottom leaves if you can and bury the plant in enough soil to cover the stem all the way up to where you removed leaves. When you put the tomato out in the garden, do the same thing, plant deeply removing leaves and covering the stem.
Okay, I am kind of a cheat…I
don’t haven’t grown my tomatoes from seeds. Every year I head to the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale and stock up on tomato transplants. So we will have to again defer to Jenni for this one!
But if you want some how-tos and tips for planting those tomato transplants directly into the ground, check out this post.
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