I’m still in awe of seedlings, how they appear from a tiny seed with just a bit of help from us, and although delicate, once their basic needs are met, they’re programmed to grow like crazy with impressive determination.
My tomato seedlings are 3-4 inches tall and have at least one pair of leaves that look like proper tomato leaves, a sure sign that they’re ready to be moved from their crowded little container to a pot of their own. That first set of leaves, aren’t really leaves at all but part of the original seed covering, they need proper leaves to photosynthesise and grow.
The first step is to water them half an hour or so before re-potting, so they’ll separate more easily. Then set out everything you’ll need so that the seedlings and most importantly their roots, aren’t hanging around and drying out.
You’ll need 4in plant pots, a pencil or little dibber, plant labels and potting compost, I’ve used multi-purpose potting compost, please don’t use any that contains peat.
- empty a pile of compost out onto your potting bench or table, I sieve mine to get rid of all those little lumps and twigs, then water it enough to make it just moist
- fill the pots with the compost and gently press it in place with your finger tips
- make a hole in the centre of the compost a pencil and a finger work well, because the hole needs to be quite wide for the root-ball
- the cool thing about tomato seedlings is that they grow roots along their main stem, so you can sink them in deep and get extra roots, which makes for good plants
- loosen around the base of the seedlings with the tip of a pencil, hold the seedling by a leaf and gently lift the root out, encouraging it with the pencil tip
- holding the delicate stem or roots will damage them
- plop it deeply into the pot and gently firm the soil around it
This method works for all seedlings, not just tomatoes.
Keep them where they were growing to give them time to settle in. They need warmth but not too hot, plenty of light but not direct sunlight and a little water every day. Believe me it will be worth it.
The tomatoes I’m growing are Black Cherry and Golden Sunrise.
You can read here about how to harden-off seedlings before they’re planted outside and sign up on the home page so you don’t miss any posts.
all photos: Jill Anderson