up-potting tomato seedlings

Spring tiptoes through my world, trying to slip in unannounced. But no dice, buddy. I hear you. I see the hyacinths and crocus flowers sneaking up under the dead leaves and I hear the geese (who are really bad at tiptoeing) circling the pond.

It’s refreshing to feel winter dying, gasping and wheezing, and it puts me in a great mood.

Time to up-pot the early tomato plants. My rule of thumb for tomato seedlings is to grow twice as many of each variety as I’ll actually plant. One for dropping on the floor and one for the planting hole.

I use cut-off half gallon milk jugs as my final tomato seedling pots. Lots of nice vertical room without taking up as much shelf space as gallon jugs would.


Sometime after the seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, it’s time to fill the jugs mostly full of growing medium, leaving space for burying most of the tomato plant stem. New roots form along the buried stems, helping to grow sturdy plants.


The original 4″ pots each contain a couple of plants, and I note the strongest from each. The pots get gently tipped upside down, with my fingers cradling the top of the soil, being careful not to crush the little seedlings as the rootball comes free. I put the strongest seedling in its new home and fill the rest of the milk jug with growing medium right up to the leaves.


Then back under lights, just a couple of inches between the light bulbs and the tops of the plants, with a small fan running periodically to toughen them up.

These particular tomatoes will go into the garden early under a double layer of insulation. They’ve done surprisingly well in the past, but I’m always prepared to lose them to the cold.

As for Spring, I needed some more soil time, so out came the tiller and under went the rest of the cover crop. There’s a small area that I’m going to let sit covered in leaves as a no-till experiment.


And the chickies went out to their permanent home this morning. It’s been a while since I started chicks, and I wasn’t very knowledgable about it even then. I just wanted to be sure my 250 W light would keep them warm enough in near-freezing outside temps. A quick search, a reliable source, I think we’re good:

The rule of thumb for overhead heat-lamp brooders is that one 250-watt heat lamp can handle 75 chicks at 50 degrees. If temperatures are lower than that, subtract one chick for every degree below 50 . For example, 20 below zero is 70 degrees lower than 50, so you would be able to brood five chicks (75 – 70 = 5) per heat lamp.



11 thoughts on “up-potting tomato seedlings

    • I haven’t tried the no-till much Julie. It seems awkward for smaller seeds. But I did try a little last year and it seemed to work ok with some seedlings. You’re right, that’s gardening!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Damn, wish I’d been a day behind you with the tom potting. I would’ve stolen your milk carton idea for sure. My pots were normal size so there’re inches still above ground! However I do like how gardeners on different continents, do the same jobs within 24 hours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is great to see how gardeners in other parts of the world do their thing! I saved 1/2 gallon jugs all winter, so I hope I have enough.


  2. Hi Dan , you are a month or so ahead of us in the UK, so reading your veg blog is a really informative reminder about what I should be doing. My Tom seeds are in , but only a few signs of germinating. I keep willing them to grow!πŸ’œπŸ’›πŸ‘’πŸ’šβ€οΈ

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s