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Tomato Transplant Shock (And How To Reduce It)

Fresh vegetables grown in your garden are not only a guarantee of the quality of the harvest but also a source of pride for many people.

During the growing process, tomatoes need to be replanted. If it is transplanted at the wrong time, or if the roots are damaged, the tomato can get a transplant shock. To reduce transplant shock, shade the tomato for 1-2 weeks after transplanting, don’t let the soil dry out more than 1 inch, and mulch the surface with a 1-inch thick layer of organic mulch.

The first symptom of transplant shock is leaf wilting. If you do nothing, they will wither and fall off. The leaf petioles can also sometimes droop along with the foliage.

Other times, there may be only partial yellowing or browning of the leaves. After some time, new foliage of bright green color will appear.

tomato transplant shock

Let the seedlings mature

The first thing you can do to make it easier for tomato seedlings to take root in their new location is to let them mature a little. This means that they need to grow in a warm place for at least a few weeks before transplanting. By this time, the seedling should have a few leaves and the stem should be firm.

Carefully take the seedling out of the container and inspect the root system, it should be healthy and well-branched.

If the seedlings are ready to be planted outside, harden them a bit. To do this, move the containers with seedlings outside during the day. They should be in the half-shade. Take them back inside at night. Repeat the hardening several days in a row.

Feed and water the tomato before transplanting

The next thing you need to do is to feed the seedlings a little before transplanting. It doesn’t matter if you are replanting tomatoes from pot to pot or from one place to another.

It’s best if you water the seedlings with liquid tomato fertilizer a week before transplanting. This way the plants can absorb all the nutrients and get a little stronger.

Generously water the tomatoes 1-2 days before transplanting so that the soil in the container is well moistened. But make sure that the excess water comes out through the drainage holes. As a result, the plant will soak up enough water so it won’t suffer from dehydration in its new location.

tomato transplant shock

Avoid transplanting in sunny and hot weather

Bright sun can easily damage the delicate tissue of young tomato seedlings. In just one day, they can wilt and die or get sunburned. For this reason, choose an overcast rather than a sunny day. In addition, cloudy weather is usually more humid, which also has a positive effect on transplanting.

Also, avoid transplanting in hot weather as the humidity is low and the seedlings can quickly lose moisture. As a result, it will be very difficult for the plants to adapt to the new location.

The best time of day is in the morning when it is fresh and humid outside. During the day the plant will get used to the new environment.

Avoid damaging the roots

Before planting, dig a hole twice as big as the container in which the seedling is growing. Fill the hole halfway with a quality nutrient substrate based on organic matter (compost).

Take the pot with the seedling in one hand and insert the stem of the seedling near the base between two fingers of the other hand. Turn the container upside down while holding the seedling, roots, and soil with the other hand. Gently pull the container upward and release the roots from it.

Place the seedling in the hole so that the stem is not covered by the soil. In other words, the surface of the soil in the pot and the surface of the soil in the garden should be at the same level. Fill all the empty space with earth and water the seedling.

Be very careful not to damage the roots. Remember, the less roots you damage, the easier it will be for the plant to survive the transplanting shock.

tomato transplant shock

Shading is the best way to minimize tomato transplant shock

Immediately after transplanting, shade the tomato in its new location. You can do this with an ordinary garden umbrella or you can create a frame over the plants and stretch a shading net. There are many ready-made solutions on sale as well as individual components for this purpose.

Shading the tomato will protect it from the sun, which can easily kill the tomato in the first few weeks after planting. Do not remove the shade for at least a week, then if it continues to grow, gradually accustom it to the direct sun.

Take the shade off when it rains, because during this time the water accumulates in one place and this can damage the seedling.

Water regularly

Regular watering for newly planted tomatoes is critical. If the roots don’t get water for 1-2 days, the plant can die.

You need to constantly check the moisture of the soil and as soon as the top layer is 1 inch dry, water the tomato immediately. Use enough water to make the ground moist, but at the same time avoid overwatering. Swamping around the roots will definitely lead to root rot.

In a few weeks, the seedling will grow new roots and watering can be reduced slightly. If the tomato is rooted, water it when the soil is 1.5 to 2 inches dry from the top.

tomato transplant shock

Provide appropriate growing conditions

First of all, you need to provide the right temperature. The best temperature for tomato seedlings is 70-75°F (21-24°C). This means you should not transplant tomatoes until the second half of spring when the weather is already warm.

It is also important to have 60-70% humidity around the plants. A low humidity can cause the seedlings to dry out quickly.

It is difficult to achieve all the necessary conditions, so if you have the opportunity, install a portable greenhouse over the tomatoes. Once the transplant shock has passed, the greenhouse can be removed. In the greenhouse, the tomatoes will get warmth and moisture. Even if it is cold at night, the temperature in the greenhouse will still be suitable.

Mulch tomatoes with compost


By mulching the soil you are doing your tomatoes a great favor. First, mulch prevents rapid drying of the soil, which is very important for transplanted plants.

The second advantage of mulch is that it saves heat in the soil in the spring and does not let the earth get very hot in summer. Also, mulch prevents weed germination, soil erosion and is a good organic fertilizer.

The best mulch for tomatoes is straw or compost. If you choose compost, it will also be an additional source of nutrition for tomatoes. Use only quality products as mulch.

Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants. The layer of mulch should be even with no large bumps.

Remove early flowers

Very often after transplanting, the plant begins to produce flowers. However, it is not yet ready for fruiting. This happens because of the stress the seedling received during transplanting.

Flowering is very weakening for an adult plant, and even more so for a young seedling. If a tomato seedling is not yet rooted and is releasing flowers, it will be very exhausted and may not bear fruit at all.

Inspect your newly planted tomato plants regularly and as soon as you see a flower forming, rip it off immediately. Do this until the plant is at least 2 feet tall.

Install support


After transplanting, you need to install support for your tomatoes. This will prevent the stem from bending and the plant will develop evenly. As a result, the leaves will be perpendicular to the sun, allowing the tomato to get the right amount of sunlight.

In addition, the support will prevent the rotting of the stem and the fruit. Because without it, the plant will just lie on the ground.

Use good quality, non-toxic materials when installing the support. Be careful not to damage the plant. Also, do not forget to tie the stem gently to the support because the tomato is not a climbing plant and is not able to cling to objects.

Don’t use too much fertilizer

A tomato needs a little fertilizer to survive the transplant shock, but it’s important that you don’t overdo it in this matter. A little extra energy will help the seedling to root well and grow a little faster.

It will be better if you use liquid fertilizer with a lot of phosphorus because phosphorus is responsible for the formation of the roots. On the second or third day after planting, water the tomato with water-soluble fertilizer NPK 10-30-10.

Do not fertilize again until the tomato is in full bloom. Fertilize the tomato the last time when it has small young fruits.

Apply rooting hormones

The last thing you can do to ease the rooting process of your seedlings is to use the rooting hormone. This is not a necessary action; in most cases, tomatoes will tolerate transplanting well without the use of hormones. But if you want to speed up the process, you can use them.

Rooting hormones are auxins that stimulate tissue growth. Plants produce some of these substances on their own.

You can find many rooting powders on the market, but in our case rooting powder is the best. Just sprinkle it on the roots before you plant, and put some in the hole. That’s all you have to do to make the seedling grow a little better.