More Hardening Off Tomato Concerns

susanlynne48(OKC7a)May 4, 2013

I feel like such a dummy for having so many continuing questions with hardening off my tomato plants. But I haven't any experience under my belt yet in coping with this year's weather extremes - which IMHO have been even more extreme than the extremes we usually have learned to expect and contend with. I have so many thoughts, concerns, ideas, and doing a whirling dervish that I feel completely stymied and unable to commit to doing anything all.

The tomato plants are indoors under their T-5's and they are NOT happy at all. Between having them outdoors for 3 days and now being inside for almost 3 days, they have gotten tall and gangly as a prepubescent girl and they look just as awkward under light set ups that are much too short for them, and in pots that are too small for them. I am having nightmares of being in a room with walls that closing in tighter and tighter, and I don't have any magic tea to drink that will make me shrink to fit the space. My Tomatos are invading my dreams, for gosh sakes!

I know I can trench some in the ground and the remainder in the bigger, deeper containers.

Hardening off is the bigger issue. If I take them out, would they be okay to stay out overnight? Temps in the 40's tonight. I could cover them. Or, would it be better to keep them inside until tomorrow? For various reasons I am not able to bring them in and out over and over. The area I use to start the hardening off process is a heavily protected microclimate. I usually put them there for 3 days or so. Then I move them into brighter light situation for another 3 days approx. Then into partial shade/sun, and the next step would be full sun to be planted out. I've always done this and plants have done well.

But the bringing in and out is not practical for me.....well, except for this week when threatened by freeze.

Just need to know your thoughts on taking out today/tonight.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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It's only 44 here today so mine are staying inside. Mine stayed out several days before the cold arrived, but are now back under lights. I had to move them to a shelf with more space and they are rapidly outgrowing that. I have one that is showing some damage but I think it got too dry when it was out in the sun. I failed to water before I left for a doctor's appointment and when I came back they were really needing a drink. I have plenty of plants so that doesn't create a problem.

Just for the record Susan, I don't think any of us have experience with this kind of weather this time of year. Will it never end?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 3:21PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Susan, I don''t know how to predict how they will respond because it is such an abnormal year. In general, I don't like for the tomatoes to be exposed to too many temperatures below 50 degrees, so I harden them off first to daytime heat/temperatures but have them in the greenhouse every night, or indoors if I think the greenhouse will get too cold. I cannot leave anything out all night or the deer and rabbits would eat them.

Generally tomato plants will tolerate cold temperatures but not frost, so just remember that in some conditions you can get frost when the temperature is as high as 38, 39 or 40 degrees.

The only way to really figure out what works in these highly variable conditions is to just try it and see how it goes. I don't think I have been able to harden off the tomato plants in exactly the same way in any two consecutive years. There's always a challenge---sometimes it is high wind or hot wind and other times it is cold wind or wintery precip. You just have to kind of wing it.

If you leave them out tonight, I hope you covered them with something. I don't know what your forecast low for tonight is, but mine is 42 and all my plants that are in the ground are still covered. I think tomorrow I'll finally uncover them.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Sorry for not responding to thank you all for your replies. An emergency came up and I've been gone since Saturday afternoon. The plants didn't go out; they're still inside and at this point I don't know if they'll get planted or not. Right now I'm just tired and will be going back tomorrow, so just a brief respite for now.

Thanks y'all!


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:16PM
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