I had someone ask me a very strange but great question from Twitter yesterday. They live in PA and started 7 tomato plants in a container garden. I don’t know if all seven are in one container or multiple, but that doesn’t matter much. Their question was…”Can I transplant my tomato plants from my container garden to a traditional garden mid season?” Their problem is that the tomato plants are growing slower and they are harder to keep watered in that container. It could be too many plants in one container, but I don’t know how many containers there are.
So let’s answer that question. What is transplanting? Transplanting is taking a plant from its current home and moving it to a new home. What is the biggest problem with transplanting? Root destruction! When a plant is moved and the roots are badly damaged, it is rare that the plant will survive. There are so many different ways that plants are transplanted. When you buy a new plant in a pot, there is virtually no transplant shock because the roots are not disturbed when you take it out of the pot and put it in your yard. When you dig up an existing plant out of your yard to move, you must make sure and take as many roots as possible and keep as much of the dirt ball in tacked as possible while moving it. Water and root stimulator fertilizer is key when transplanting. Water the roots before moving the plant and do not let it dry out while transporting; and once in its new home, keep it wet and use a root stimulator fertilizer often to encourage new root growth.
Ok, so back to the original question. Moving your tomato plants from a container to the ground should be a fairly safe move right now. Being in PA, you will not have to worry about getting 100 degree temps anytime soon and so drying out quickly should not be an issue. I would encourage you to carry the pot to the new garden so there is little distance when transporting loose dirt to the new location. When getting them out of the pot, you need to be patient and not damage the plant itself and pull the whole root ball out of the pot in one shot. Once the soil is out, separate the plants from each other while keeping the soil around each plants root system. Having a second or third person will help this process dramatically. Gently put the tomato in the new whole, pack in the dirt fairly tight and stake up the plant really well to keep it from tipping over and pulling the roots out of the ground. Water, Water, Water. Don’t let the plant dry out and watch your garden thrive.