Transplanting Tomatoes Outside

Seeing that the average last frost date has come and gone, it's time to finally move the tomato plants from their indoor haven to the great outdoors! That's right, the tomato harvest is not far away now! Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, let's talk about transplanting. The process is fairly straight forward and uncomplicated, but there are a couple crucial steps you'll want to follow through with in order to keep your plants thriving and fruitful. In this gardening guide, learn all about transplanting tomatoes outside and into your garden!
Hardening off two San Marzano Roma tomato plants. 

Hardening Off - 

If you've grown your tomato plants from seed indoors, the all-important process of hardening off must be completed. (Tomato plants purchased at outdoor nurseries have already gone through the hardening off process in one way or another.) One to two weeks before you plan to transplant, move the tomato plants outdoors for increased periods of time each day. Start with one hour the first day, and slowly increase the time period so that by the end of a week or two, the plants are staying outside the entire day. During this process, return the plants indoors during the evening. By completing this stage, the indoor grown tomato plants will have properly acclimated to life outdoors. This will make transplanting as stress-free as possible!

When to Transplant Tomato Seedlings - 
By the time your tomatoes are ready for transplanting outdoors, they'll hardly be seedlings any longer! With six to eight weeks of growth indoors, the tomato plants started from seed should have multiple sets of leaves and be quite tall. For transplanting, pick a date roughly two weeks after the average last frost in your area. In the weeks working up to the transplanting time, research extended forecasts in order to pick the best planting day. Personally, I prefer to transplant only when sunshine will be guaranteed for at least a few days afterward. I think it allows the tomatoes to ease into their spot a little better.
In the two photos above, you can see the Zapotec heirloom
tomatoes I'm planting. In the upper of the two, you can see
the plants before pruning, and in the lower, tomatoes that
are ready to be planted!

Transplanting - 
  1. Using the information above, complete the hardening off process and decide on a proper transplanting date.  
  2. Prepare your garden space by tilling deep (12 inches), or by filling and gently packing containers with soil.  
  3. Dig deep holes for the roots. Eight to twelve inches down should do the trick. Space tomato plants 18-24 inches from each other and in rows spaced 24-36 inches apart. 
  4. With sterilized shears, snip off the bottom two to three branches from the tomato plant. Cut as close to the plant stem as possible. 
  5. Now, remove the tomatoes from their seedling container and gently push the plant deep into the hole. The spots where you cut off the branches should now be under the soil line. This is good, as these will grow roots and provide extra stability for your tomato plants. 
  6. Back fill the holes with potting soil and water in well. 
  7. It's best to add tomato cages at this point to prevent damage to the roots from adding them later on. 
See, it's really not that hard! Transplanting tomatoes outside is easy business if you follow the correct steps. Thanks for tuning into this gardening guide on transplanting tomato plants outdoors and good luck with your crop! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have.