Pricking out tomato seedlings: Video guide

pricking out tomato seedlings

In the video below, I show you how to prick out tomato seedlings.

Pricking out is the process of transplanting the tomato seedlings from their original seed tray into a pot so that they can grown on.

Normally, they would then be grown on in the pot for a few weeks before the tomato plants are planted out in their final growing position, which might be in the ground or in a large pot or grow-bag in the greenhouse.

What you need for pricking out tomato seedlings

You will need:

  • A pot, or several pots for all the seedlings you want to prick out. A 7cm or 9cm pot will be big enough. For some reason that I have never seen explained properly, tomato seedlings (in fact, any seedlings) do not thrive if placed in a disproportionately large pot.
  • Compost, mixed with a little bit of grit for drainage for filling the pot.
  • A dibber, which is a small pointy tool for easing out the seedling and making a hole in the compost for it to be replanted in.

Pricking out tomato seedlings – the video

Key points to remember

Key points to remember are as follows:

  • Wait until you have at least one pair of true leaves;
  • Handle the seedling by the leaves at all times. Never touch the stem because if you do you will damage the delicate cells of the phloem and xylem (the tubes that carry water and nutrients around the plant) and the plant will die. Once plants become more mature, we can touch their stems because the outer parts of the stem harden and the interior is better protected;
  • Prepare the receiving pot first – make sure there are good drainage holes and your composts is good quality;
  • Make a hole in the compost in the receiving pot with a dibber. Make sure it is big enough to accommodate the mini root system of the seedling;
  • Ease the seedling out of the seed tray by getting underneath the root system with the dibber. Remember to only hold the seedling by the leaves;
  • Ease the seedling down into the hole you have made in the compost of the receiving pot. Gently firm the compost around the seedling and water in;
  • Remember, tomato seedlings are tough and if they seem to wilt at first, they will more than likely recover.


Pricking out tomato seedlings is a pretty easy job once you get the hang of it. The good thing is that tomatoes are quite forgiving plants – they germinate easily and are not too fussy about being transplanted from seed tray to pot and from pot to garden bed or grow bag.

The hardest part for me when growing tomatoes is being ruthless and culling the weaker seedlings. Hence, I always end up growing more than I can really accommodate in the greenhouse.

One final point is that one your seedlings are growing on in their pots, make sure you water them regularly. You can begin feeding them with a balanced fertiliser once they are bigger and the nutrients in the compost are spent. Yellowing of the leaves will be the tell-tale sign that you should give the plant some nutrients.

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Learn more about growing edibles

Check out these posts for more on growing your edible plants:

How to grow zucchini – this is the ultimate guide to growing this delicious squash.

How to prune your tomatoes and pinch out your tomato side shoots.

How to get the best out of your basil plants.

Here is how to prick out your tomato seedlings.

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