Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Friday 10 May 2013

How I prick out and pot on my tomato plants.

I have been asked quite a few times recently how I grow my tomato plants, a reminder that there is a  "How to " guide on growing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines on the "How to..." tab up the top and I also talk about this subject on my YouTube channel.

But I realised I haven't discussed what I do with the plants once they have germinated so I thought I would do another  "How to" guide,  on pricking out and potting on Tomato plants.

Seed sown Feb 10th 2013, in porch in heated propagator at ~20 C

 March 2nd 2013 - seeds germinated and seed leaves showing.
At the end of March the seedlings were pricked out into individual 2 inch pots, with the soil well up the stem so as to encourage aerial roots to grow.


April 14th 2013 Plants well grown and need moving from these 2 inch pots into next size (3 inch) pot.

If you click on the photo above, you can see the tiny hairs on the stem - these will form more soil roots if buried.

Again, the stem is covered with soil to encourage the aerial roots ( the tiny hairs) to turn into soil roots - this gives the plant a better root system and so it can take up more nutrients and water.

And so we come to today, where I potted some plants on again, this time into 4 inch pots. These are not the same plants as above ( they are now in 6 inch pots and have their first flower trusses) but I thought it would be useful to show how I do this.

I carefully took the plant out of  the old pot. You can see from the photo below how much extra root system has been produced by earthing up the stem each time.

 This is the way I re fill the pot around the plant.

I put the plant in the pot and tilt it away from me,

then gently pour growing medium into the pot on the side nearest to me.

 I then tilt the pot towards me and pour growing medium into the pot on the side furthest away from me.

This puts the plant upright in the pot, and I add more growing medium until the soil level is up to the next pair of true leaves.

I do the same with peppers and aubergines, but do not bury them so deep. I am careful with all the plants not to overwater them, so as to avoid the soft stems rotting. Once the stems are harder (as they age) this is less of an issue.

I will probably pot the tomatoes into larger (6 inch) pots once more, before they go into their final places in the polytunnel, growing individually in builder's buckets standing in gravel trays.

This is what it looked like last year, at the start of July.

I only have 100 or so more plants to pot on, today!

Hope this helps you to understand how I grow them :-)


  1. Very interesting, thank you.
    Do you find they grow and ripen fine in the polytunnel? I find that I get fruit but most of it doesn't ripen and I've always wondered if the polytunnel plastic filters the sun too much. I'm going to try mine in big buckets this year and I shall try half in the polytunnel and half in the greenhouse and see which fairs best.


    1. Linda I find they ripen beautifully! I eat my first tomato usually in early June.

      Obviously a polytunnel does not trap the warmth in the same way a glasshouse does, but I find mine works really well.

      I often eat a ripe tomato before friends who have glasshouses - they get a bit annoyed I think ;-)

  2. I had my best ever crops of tomatoes from my polytunnel, they do come on so early and continue fruiting for such a long time.

    Brilliant tutorial for potting them up, I do it pretty similarly :-)

    1. Thanks Sue :-)

      I decided I needed to write this post after selling so many tomato plants last weekend and being asked how tp plant them and how to pot them on by so many people!

      Doing it this way does make a difference to the harvest yield I am sure :-)

  3. great article. I also started all my plants this yr. I think I did about 80 tomatoes. So much cheaper than buying. I love your hoop house, and just read your comment about comparison between greenhouse and the tunnels. I used to want a greenhouse, but this yr after some researching, I am putting in some mini hoophouses over my raised beds next yr. This year I am doing a different fertilizing plan and have installed more raised beds. I got about 8" growth on my strawberries in 8 days with this fertilizing plan. cant wait to see how the rest of the garden does.http://www.tammyinwv.blogspot.com/2013/05/automatic-watering-system-going-in.html


Hello! Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I try to reply as quickly as I can and I really appreciate your interest in my life and doings here in The Compost Bin.