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Planting out Tomatoes early

Posted by nBoer 6a (My Page) on
Fri, May 2, 14 at 16:55

Our unusually cool spring, means I would normally plant my tomatoes out this weekend. Temps of soil are still a few degrees below when I would normally plant, but it looks like 3 days/nights before the weather we should be having kicks in and soil will warm the last few degrees. No frost just cooler weather.

My plants are desperate for up-planting our out-planting, but will cooler soil temps just delay growth or stunt it for the entire season? I can live with a slow week of growth, as the soil warms up, but would hate to stunt them for the whole summer.

Anyone have any experience with this?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Why will waiting another 3 or 4 days hurt? Is it just because you have time to do it now and won't then? What is your soil temp? Can you put down soil warming cover now and wait?

A couple of degrees shouldn't stunt them permanently - they just sulk until it warms - so if you have to, you have to. But you don't want to rush it unnecessarily either.

I'm a half to a whole zone south of you and was only able to start plant out today as my soil temp finally reached 52 yesterday.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

You have not mentioned what your SOIL temperature and current hi-lows are. And what is the extended forecast ?

I planted most of MY tomatoes early April. Our average temperatureS were 41 to 58F then. And for the following 3 weeks we have maybe 7 nights with lows in 38 to 40F. It has been almost a month and some of my tomatoes have buds and flowers. Our normal/average temperatures are now 43 to 62F. If I wanted to wait for the lows to clime over 45F then I had to wait 6 weeks ( May 15th).

So, I would check extended forecast. If there is no lows under 39F, I would go ahead and plant out. THIS IS PROVIDED YOU HAVE ALREADY HARDENED THEM OFF.

Tomatoes are tolerant of cool weather more than most people think.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Yes I never mentioned the temps as I do everything in Celsius up here. At noon my soil was 12.9 degrees (55) 6inch down. It varies little from that. I have 4 cooler days and one night ( Tuesday) 4 degrees (39) and from then nights look above 9 In my long term forecast. That push my soil temps up by end of week to 15 at least the usual planting temperature.

Its repotting for 1 week vs planting out. Double stress. But they overdue for larger pots and starting to stress if I do nothing. I added indoor lights this year and they grew far faster and pretty large.

They won't die, and all my options will stress them a bit. Just wondering if Cooler temps will stunt for the season or just for the week.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

IMO, your soil temperature (55F) should be fine.

The lows of 39F is ok too, IF you have COLD hardened off your plants. My plant have seen 39F to 41F ,maybe 7 nights in the past 4 weeks.
Hardening off process is important and has to be done properly, not to cause shock to the plants.
The reason I pushed early planting was/is because we will have a LOOONG COOL spring. Our mid May average temperatures are 44 to 63F. Toward the end of May we will see temps in 50 to 68F. That is why WAITING was not very promising for me. In some zones, if you wait a week then you will get nice and warm weather. In that case it would be worth waiting.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

If your soil temp is already up to 12 C then plant them. It won't drop that much over 3 days as it is much slower to respond to colder air temps once it has warmed.

I won't push plants much below 45 degrees (7.2C) air temps as over the years I have seen too much damage result. So if I already have them out and that happens I lightly cover them.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I just posted this in the other thread about hardening off, so I cut and pasted it to here. And I see Dave and I both like the word sulk, LOL

(I never started hardening off seedlings until the weather was such that they wouldn't have to be taken back in, except when there were heavy rains or high winds.
Then in full shade for a couple of days, partial shade for a few more days, then full sun for a few more days, but never less than a week and usually more.

THey need time to toughen up the leaf cuticle and if that doesn't happen then once set out they can be sunburned and or wind burned or both. Those damaged leaves should be allowed to fall off normally, not manually taken off, and new folaige will appear. But why even put the plants at risk if it can be avoided.

When temps are as cold as you mention, so is the soil, and so the transplanted seedlings will just sit there and sulk and not grow.

IMO much better to not only take a long time to harden off, but also to be sure the soil has warmed up.)

Carolyn


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I remember one of my friends, very experiences plantsman was alway able to tell me healthy bush out of row of many... I thought it was some special "eye" knowledge till I figured out that he simply was trained in seeing different shades of green.
Am a zone pusher here. I f I waited for proper good time for tomato planting I would have been doing it in June in my Chicago area and lucky if collected any tomatoes in Sept. I routinely get cherry types by July 4.
If the plant has too much cold stress it will get wilty, yellow and unhealthy looking. We rather not go there. However small amount of tiny bit of green discolor can be fixed by foliar feed with some liquid fert with added sugars. If plant is transplanted in too cold of the soil and can not reuptake nutriens it starts loosing its deep rich green. Some more than others. That is fixable.
But I also will do protected Wall of Water, raised bed and landsape fabric that covers soil for couple of week prior to planting, cold frame, row cover etc.
There is no reason to stress plants unduly, but there is ways to push ahead even if weather not optimal.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I f I waited for proper good time for tomato planting I would have been doing it in June in my Chicago area ...
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That is similar to my climate/case That is why waiting was not paying off. With couple of hoops , a cold frame, and by black plastic cover I pushed my plant out as much as 6 weeks ahead. At first my plants were just sitting there pretty but once they got used to it, started growing( in 40 to 60F temperature range). Now they have grown about 50% taller, ie, an 8" at plant out is now about 12" tall with new healthy growth and buds are appearing and some even have flowers.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Well they be planted. I anxiously got up to check on them this morning, as although they spent last week+ of days outside, this was the first night. They look no more wilted than a up-pot would have done for them.

Whats more there was a slight shift upwards in the forecast this morning, making me even less concerned.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

One thing to remember is that tomato plants ina small 5" pot feel the cool temps more than if it was planted deep in the garden or a large container, this is because small pot cools off rapidly as temperatures drop at night, whereas when the ground temperature has reached about 50F it won't cool off at night when lows are in low 40s, at a depth where the tomato roots are.

As long as there is no frost, it is the soil temperature that matters most than the air temperature.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I'm very impressed with the knowledge that most of my market customers have about season extension and protecting plants. One has access to a 2 ft tall plant cap; another is using row cover over hoops; many use the WOWs. Also many use plastic mulch to warm the soil. Even watering technology is much advanced today- hoses that used to be bulky and kink are now available in compact expanding types.

The weather forecast will always be a variable but there are many options for getting an earlier start. Growers no longer have to wait on Mother Nature.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

nBoer - did you use any cover over your plants or pre-warm the soil first in any way? You didn't mention the use of either in your original post.

See those folks that are pushing the planting out early in this discussion are talk about things like using WOWs, cold frames, hoops, black plastic, etc. in passing. That is a totally different situation than planting out early into bare, soil without any cover.

It's an important distinction that they and any readers of this thread need to recognize and stress the difference.

Had you laid down plastic some time ago to warm the soil even more or if you were going to use a cold frame or a plastic tunnel or WOWs then yes, there would be little concern about planting them out early - many do it with no issues.

But without any of those things used early plant out is a different ballgame all together.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I'm in 6B and from experience it's not worth it to introduce tomatoes to cool nights. What size pots are they in now? As others have said do you have some row covers to insulate them? One of my neighbors planted his tomatoes last week and his plants look dead. I've made this mistake before. Tomatoes don't like cool weather. They can tolerate it later on in life but not when they're young. They can become stunted beyond repair. I'm late with my tomatoes and see no advantage of placing them out. I've done it many times but learned early May always has cool weather here. So unless I have a completed greenhouse I wait. Wait 2-3 weeks and your plants will thank you. Research phenology and see what nature is telling you. When Lilly of the Valley is blooming you plant tomatoes.


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Even in my area, or maybe my micro climate, if I put out tomato-lings before July I regret it because of our usually cloudy and cool May and June. The plants just sit there sulking and yellowing.
This year, just to prove me wrong, mine are all dark green and fruiting. I started my first seeds ever and decided to pot them up and now they're the best plants ever. But I have had to pamper the infants for what felt like forever. I won't start seeds until May from now on.


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I have to disagree with above 2 posts and I have living proof. I planted out my tomatoes (after careful hardening off) 30 days ago. At the time normal temps were in 38F to 54F range. It has improve a bit since then to 43 to 59F.

With that background, my tomatoes, not only survived without any problem, they have been actually growing. Some has blossoms and few more have buds. They have increase in size by about 50%. That is an 8" plant then is now 12" tall. I will post a recent picture tomorrow.

In the final analysis, one has to feel comfortable about doing or not doing things. It is like taking shower. How cold is too cold and how hot is too hot for you? So we extend our feeling to our plants to some extent. I know that I pushed my season by over 6 weeks and have heard locals saying : NO, NO ! wait til after Mothers Day.I have been studying and contemplating how to extend my season from front end, for 6 months. I did my homework. If I took a chance it was s all well calculated.

YMMV.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Seysonn,
Where in zone 7b is it currently only 43 to 59 degrees on avg?


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

seysonn - my point is you did that " With couple of hoops , a cold frame, and by black plastic cover I pushed my plant out as much as 6 weeks ahead."

That isn't nearly the same as what you keep insisting is safe to do - planting them early WITHOUT any of those things.

The OP wasn't using any of them and neither are any of the others who say it is too early.

So what you have is "living proof" that planting out early can be done IF one is using cold frames, hoops and black plastic. It is not proof that planting out early can or should be done without them.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Here in this area if you want to have tomatoes that set fruit it takes planting early. Also the bigger the plant, and closer to having buds on it the better. Though we have warm days, and nights can be cool. It is not uncommon here to have days in the 70's for a couple of weeks, with lows in the upper 40's. Then have one day that it starts to rain, then freeze with a drop of 65 degrees, with a day or two of ice. Then warm back up.

I had to replant 3 times this year though the results in my garden this year are way better than I had last year by far. It took planting. Covering, uncovering. Finding everything under the covers dead anyway. Replanting, covering, uncovering. Finding the plants dead again. Pulling hair out, saying a few thing that my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap for saying. Replanting again, covering, uncovering. Praying, and then having the weather cooperate a little. the results are better now.

Attached is a pic taken a few weeks ago. It is starting to look like a jungle in the raised beds now.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Posted by ncrealestateguy 7b (finerhomesofcharlotte@gmail.com) on
Mon, May 5, 14 at 8:05

Seysonn,
Where in zone 7b is it currently only 43 to 59 degrees on avg?
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I am gardening in Sammamish/Issaquah WA. area.
Just take today: 44 to 60F : Yesterday was 43 to 59F

To Dave:

I only used Cold frame and hoops during the hardening off process. Once I planted in the beds I did not use them. Although I was ready to protect my plants IF needed but even with temps as low as 38F I DID NOT do anything at all in terms of protection.
HOW ABOUT buying plants from HD and planting without any use of cold frame and hoop ? I have done that too (RC ML, has doubled in height)

I have PROVEN at least to myself, time and time again, that tomatoes are not that cold sensitive. They like to have THEIR FEET WARM it is ok if THEIR HEADS GET COOL (lol. w/ apology g.b. shaw)

The skeptics, can wait as long as they want. I am just presenting my experience here and this is no THEORY or like "my neighbor says blah blah blah ".


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I only used Cold frame and hoops during the hardening off process.

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Hardening off seedlings means exposing them to outside conditions that they will encounter, It means helping to toughen up the cuticle of the leaf epidermis so when planted out that they will be less susceptible to sunburn and windburn.

It means moving them initially to shady conditions for a few days, then partial shade for several days more, then full sun for evenmore days, and only taking them back in if high winds or heavy rains are expected.'

So I don't see hardening off to be accomplished by cold frames and hoop houses.

Carolyn


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Hardening off seedlings means exposing them to outside conditions that they will encounter, It means helping to toughen up the cuticle of the leaf epidermis so when planted out that they will be less susceptible to sunburn and windburn.
Carolyn
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No Mam ! Not necessarily the way you describe.,

Hardening off is a process of introducing plants to outdoor conditions GRADUALLY(note capitalization !). That means, Sun, Wind heat and/or Cold.
So when I was doing that, I could not (and would not) leave my plants out in the 43F, even 45F outside overnight (coming out of 65 F indoor condition), the very first night. some people take them back to their garage. But I had hoops and cold frame. So , late in the afternoon, i put them under the hoop or in the cold frame.
I took them out again the following day, ..give them a little more sun, a little more wind, a little more cold , ... continue the process until they are ACCLIMATED.

Maybe if had to wait til JUNE, I did not have to do all that much. But I did it in LATE MARCH / EARLY APRIL. That is 6 weeks ahead of conventional way ( i.e. mid May). So basically I did COLD HARDENING more than anything else.

AND the thing is that I have produced actual result that is out there right now . I am not just talking some theory or hypothesis and ""my grandpa said this , and my neighbor said that"".

YMMV

This post was edited by seysonn on Mon, May 5, 14 at 14:50


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

CenTexan ,

I know your Texas weather can be crazy. I have relatives and friend who live in Dallas area.

But our PNW weather is very tame and it does not go from one extreme to another. But the cold and rain drag on and on like for eternity. So you have to learn how to cope with it. My other option would've been to wait til June and plant. Then I would've had 3.5 months effective grow season.
. So that option went out of the window.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I swear it's like dealing with a teenager!

The story changes every time someone calls them on it. They have an answer for everything and tell it with a straight face. And while adults are often wrong, they are NEVER wrong, just misunderstood.

Thankfully most of us grow out of it sooner or later.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Ditto Dave.

Why do I even TRY to interact with him I'm beginning to wonder.

Perhaps time to rethink what I want to do, as to trying, or just letting it all go.

But when I see something that I feel needs clarification, the former teacher part of me kicks in, unfortunately.

Carolyn, the farmer's daughter, who was raised on what we call a truck farm here in the East, who was sitting atop the water reservoir tank of the plant setter at age 5, graduated to one of the plant seats below shortly after that, and was getting up very early in the AM to help her father take the sash off the cold frames before she went to school, then putting them back on later, with quilt covers for the night and where we had many acres of tomatoes. Those in the cold frames were raised in the greenhouse that had shelves so that they didn't get sun all the time. Plants for later set out were sowed directly in the soil, then pulled and layed in a sideways bushel basket with wet burlap bags to keep them moist.And yes, she picked in the fields and also packed for market and since her father had a bad back she often had to get up at 4 AM to go in the truck with him to pull the baskets from the back to the front so the wholesalers could see them as they went down the main walk at the commercialmarket. Putting it another way, she's been growing tomatoes at one place or another since she was maybe 10 yo and will be 75 this June. Please send dark bittersweet chocolate.LOL


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Looked at my neighbors tomatoes and they look like they're saying, "why didn't he pick the tomato plant beside me"! lol They look all cold surrounded by straw.

One year I grew a tomato in the house just in the window of a cool attic dormer. The leggy plants were in a 20 gallon trash barrel and I used to cover them in the house with row cover cloth(heavy stuff). I ate my 1st tomato in March. Then it stopped flowering. On April Fool's Day I set it outside and covered it with the cloth again. It suffered frost damage but eventually bounced back and I was eating tomatoes in May. At some point I plopped the 3 5-6 feet tall plants in the ground in a big hole. Eventually it died of disease.

Last year I set my tomatoes in a greenhouse(cold)in mid April and they were able to get by. However I was taking weed block and covering them at night. Low lying 8 foot peak 20x20 GH got real hot in the day.

Those tomatoes only survived because they were protected. I've made the mistake of planting in late April and watched others make the mistake of early May here. The plants without protection get stunted and look petrified for the rest of their life.

My tomatoes last year LOVED 120+ degree sauna conditions that I would regulate down to 90 with a whoosh of the hose(not on the plants but driving the hot air out). Man did they take those Bonnie plants to the woodshed. All because I gave them womb like conditions. Some plants you can abuse but tomatoes want to be loved.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

This is the picture that I took a couple of hours ago. I am glad I planted as early as I did with the ones that survived. I will just say if you plan on planting very early. Be ready to cover, and cover plants. Also be ready to replant at least twice. As well as being ready to cover again for a couple of weeks past the last frost date.

We had a late freeze that was 3 weeks past the prohected LFD here. All but one of my plants survived. Note I am now dealing with the problem of plants galore as I have to figure out what to do with all of the extra back up plants I am hardening off now.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

My tomatoes are telling me firmly they don't wanna go out.

I started hardening them off this weekend, putting them out only when it was over 50 F, then bringing them back inside. More burn on the leaves than I've ever seen.

You gotta listen to the plants.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

centexan254 - have you ever tried WOWs (Wall o'Water)? I'd think they would work great for you in your unstable climate for early plant out. And much easier than cover and uncover and cover, etc.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I swear it's like dealing with a teenager!

The story changes every time someone calls them on it. They have an answer for everything and tell it with a straight face. And while adults are often wrong, they are NEVER wrong, just misunderstood.

Thankfully most of us grow out of it sooner or later.

Dave
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Pure rhetoric without substance.

There has been no story to be changed but 100% action with results.
"""Ditto Dave (Carolyn). ...

Ditto as I wrote above.. Do your thing. You don't have to interact.
Case closed.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

All this confirms to me to wait, wait, and wait! As much as I'd love to push the envelope, I'm not willing to cover, replant, etc. I'm having a heart attack just repotting a few of them because they grew so fast and I still have at least another three weeks to go, if I'm lucky! I'm listening to the experts!


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Here is the time line;

On March 24 I started a thread Called "

TIME TO GET TOUGH.

The same they I took about 20 plants outside. As I said in that thread I just gave then an introduction to fresh air, some breeze and some indirect light. I put them under hoop overnight.It was going to get down to 43F that night.

From then til April 3rd I continued the hardening off process SLOWLY but SURELY.
On April 4th and 5th planted them out in the beds, PERMANENTLY, no hoop, no cover no WOW.
That is just about ONE MONTH ago.

Here is a picture (bloody Butcher in bloom, sowed seed on Feb. 27, planted out April 5)

FN:
I have lived in the State of Missouri few years. It is nicknamed "Show MeI " state.
Talk is cheap, show me action and results !.

This post was edited by seysonn on Mon, May 5, 14 at 22:23


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Seysonn, the lower stems look a bit unhealthy. I would remove them. Are you sure they aren't too cold?


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Sharon, Thanks for the comment.

Those in the lower part are just OLD leaves. I have pinched the tip and left the stem to be there to fall off by itself. The color of the foliage is not as light as seen in the picture. It is actually much darker. I took the picture with my phone.

One more thing: I have planted 2 of them together. Just to experiment. .

And here is a Sungold ;


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Pure rhetoric without substance.

There has been no story to be changed but 100% action with results.
"""Ditto Dave (Carolyn). ...

Ditto as I wrote above.. Do your thing. You don't have to interact.
Case closed.

******

Pure rhetoric without substance? Your conclusion only, and response expected,

Neither of us NEED to interact with you but neither of us wants to stand by and see wrong/confusing misinformation posted.

Case closed.

Carolyn, who spends maybe 90 % of her time at another message site and a few other message sites, but will continue to stop by this Tomato Forum to see what's up.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I agree with Dave making a distinction- while I am zone pusher, it is calculated risk. I use what I know and what experience of growing in my conditions have been helpful in the past. My raised beds get covered with black landscape fabric about 3 weeks prior to planting, my WOW are set up few days prior to going in, my plants get organic matter in the beds, including microbial inoculants and occasional foliar drink of liquid pick me up stuff... I rarely loose any plants in WOW and currently my babies are happy and clappy even outside weather has been in 50 daytime and 40 at night. It gives my plants better root growing period and helps them to adjust well. In two weeks I won't be able to close up WOW but then I generally do not need to close it ... I do not have as good results if I plant them after Memorial day.
Am not saying my way is The way. I am all ok for people experimenting and finding out what works for them in their climate and how much work they are willing to put into their babies.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Linda, What distinction did he make? The point is I wanted to push my season's start. And I did not have any greenhouse or high/low tunnel. I have only used cheap hoop( about 3ft high) and a cold frame just during hardening off period (Mar 24 to April 3). This is instead of running back and forth to garage, nothing more. People do it during hardening off time, all the time.

I have done it also as you described by TAKING CALCULATED RISK. I HAVE USED BLACK PLASTICS TOO BUT no W.O.W. NO overnight protection whatsoever after planting.

And the point is I HAVE DONE IT vs they SAYING : It cannot be done. They have not even tested JUST ONE SINGLE plant to show anything otherwise. So that is why I say TALK IS CHEAP.

They have been saying all along that you should not plant out as long a lows are below 45F. Which is ok if they keep it as a personal preference but not to push it and generalize it . I have seen my plants go down to 38F more than once and twice.
I am talking based on reality and what I have experimented and they are TALKING talk.

ONE MORE PROOF:
Silvery Fir Tree Tomato in pot: It has buds.


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To my eyes those tomatoes look a bit stunted. At least in my experience when I see a tomato go out too early they look kind of rubberish after a while and remain like that for the rest of their life. They could snap out of it but this is kinda how much April fools day planting went. Granted weather in early April here is much more severe and the damage my plants sustained was worse but the question is it really worth it unless you can really protect it? I say no. When spring really turns on and everything turns green tomatoes grow. It's also possible in climates where it doesn't get too cold in early April you can get away with a lot more. You've got to know your area and if it works for you that's all that really matters. I'll baby my tomatoes some more because they're relatively small and can grow better in the house than outside. I'll take the time to rot and ph balance my pine bark and the tomatoes will appreciate the wait and effort to give them a better place to live.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

seysonn - your talk like everyone whose opinion differs from yours is just making it all up. Like no formal research has been done on this, no controlled experiments, no replicated testing, and no personal experiences? You think no botanist, no horticulturalist has ever studied this? It has, they have, numerous times.

You think the info and guidelines suggested here by others only exists here on this forum? That there are no industry standards? No common practice guidelines? You think none of us have ever tried this? That folks who have been gardening far longer and on a far bigger format than you haven't learned anything in the process about what works and what doesn't work?

Apparently so since you refuse to understand that all this is nothing new. All you have done is something many gardeners have tried many times over the years and found that the risk outweighs any possible gain.

You think you have some sort of great accomplishment here. Something a bunch of photos prove as fact. Something never tried before!

More importantly you think can draw broad general conclusions from this one time experiment - conclusions like air temps below 45 degrees are no threat to the plant - and then pass those conclusions on to others as fact that it will work in their garden too.

But all you have really accomplished so far is to keep your few plants alive in your garden, in your climate, with lots of luck. You can't even know yet whether they will thrive or even survive the long haul. Sure they may bloom, some may even set fruit. But you have no way of knowing if any damage has been done to the root system or plant circulatory system. You have no way of knowing what the incidence of blossom drop or BER will be, what the degree of disease and pest susceptibility will be from the stress you have put them through, what the production ill be compared to normal, etc.

And it is all so unnecessary since there are proven, well tested ways to push early planting times and reduce the risks by half or more but for some reason you chose not to use any of them and now claim they are unnecessary.

Don't get me wrong. I hope it all works out for you. But if it does ALL it proves is that with luck, it worked for you in your garden, this year. It won't be gospel, it won't be doctrine, it won't be proof of all the far out conclusions you want to claim as fact. And it sure as heck won't mean it will work for everyone else too.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Remember when talking about soil temps there are sites one can check and even they give a 5 day forecast. Dave you must live in very cold pocket Greencast says your soil temps are 70-75f

Here is a link that might be useful: Geencast


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

And it is all so unnecessary since there are proven, well tested ways to push early planting times and reduce the risks by half or more but for some reason you chose not to use any of them and now claim they are unnecessary. (Dave)
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My test and result is/was done on well planning and thought of methodology and the results I got proves that. There could be other ways and methods . I am not saying there is not. But you kept being negative about what I have have been doing from the day one (March 24) calling it cold turkey. You might be a botanist and expert and what not. I never said you are not. I just challenged and found a way to do it. And it has not been a pure luck or an accident. I can replicate it over and over. Sure, I did take a chance but it was a CALCULATED risk and I had options to protect my plants even if temperatures went down to freezing mark.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Risk? You live in a relative balmy climate compared with a lot of us. Your climate is forgiving. Have you every experienced snow in April? We got about 3 foot several years back on April fool's Day.

I think what some others might be worried about is you encourage others to plant too early and perhaps lose their seedlings they can't replace.

What works in WA state might not work elsewhere. I know it won't work where I am in SE MA. We have to be careful.

We all want desperately to see signs of life again...so we plant early. However for some that would be devastating. There would be plenty of science to suggest those in certain climes can get away with murder but for so many others this is not possible.

Climate is a personal thing, it's relevant to where one dwells. There are countless factors. Many climes are so moderate the night time lows are hardly distinguishable from the day time highs. So many people experience nothing like this so caution should always be observed.


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Forecast low 35 at 5am tomorrow, "feels like" temp of 31. We just covered the lettuce, no way would I have my tomatoes out yet without protection. Haven't quite hit the avg LFD. Haven't even bothered to take the soil temp yet, but next week will to see if warm enough to plant beans (should be warming up by Mother's Day).


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Risk? You live in a relative balmy climate compared with a lot of us. Your climate is forgiving. Have you every experienced snow in April? We got about 3 foot several years back on April fool's Day.
%%%%%%%%%%

There is a statistical thing called "Last Frost Date" , say a 95/5% probability factor. What it means is that the same can happens after that date in Washington or Michigan or anywhere else. The difference is that LFD in my location is April 5th, and in your location might be May 25. Again, it means that there will be a 5% CHANCE OF FROST AFTER THAT DATE BOTH IN WASHINGTON AND MICHIGAN. It has nothing to do how harsh or mild it has been prior to that or in the winter.

So, your yard stick is your LFD. Same is mine. It can happen in both location with the same 5% probability.

Actually, your temperatures climb much faster in zone 6 Michigan/ Mass after your LFD than here at the PNW. Still our lows after one month passed our LFD is around 43F. And day high average is like 59F. So the bench mark is LFD not April or May or June.
I hope you get the picture.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

The picture is you're not taking as much of a risk. We sometimes get frosts into early May.

One must not apply your climate to another though.

We will experience warmer temps than you and it will happen rapidly but because we are extreme and other locals the same one must place a disclaimer.

Your risk on April 5th would be mine in March. 2 years ago yes but that was once in a lifetime.

Don't just say anyone can plant tomatoes in early April without explaining your climate.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Dave you must live in very cold pocket Greencast says your soil temps are 70-75f

Yep, lake shore in a valley for the main garden. But the gardens up the hill at 300' up the hill are easily 70 - especially after that past 3 days of close to 100 degrees. I have my own collection of micro-climates. :)

NOAA, like most sites, gives frost dates probability in 90, 50, and 10 % readings. My LFD is April 15 but I still have a 50% chance of hard freeze up until Apr. 30th and 10% until May 5th. I've planted out as early as Apr. 1st under cover in pre-warmed soil. Couple of years I lucked out with no problems. Other years I've lost a third to half the plants.

Last year we had snow and ice on May 2nd. This year it was 50 degrees high with a low of 35 on Apr. 29th and 96 high and low of 64 degrees on May 2nd. Next year, who knows? Only proves there are no absolutes when it comes to plant out day.

I could easily plant out now except the next 3 days call for severe thunderstorms with large hail, high winds and a tonado watch. Could wipe out 100 plants in less than an hour. Common sense asks why risk it?

So williammorgan - excellent points you made. Well said.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Your risk on April 5th would be mine in March. 2 years ago yes but that was once in a lifetime.
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Whatever , whenever your last frost date is . I was not talking in terms of a FIXED DATE.
As I have tried to say before, LFD is a benchmark. Lets take 90/10 version. It means that there remains a 10% chance of frost after that date. They have even 95/5 probability. So lets say mine is April 5, Yours is May 15. In both places there is EQUAL CHANCE OF FROST after the given LFD and the risk is the same in both places. This is a STATISTICAL GAME like throwing a dice. The 90/10 probability means that one in 10 years you will have a frost , 9 out of 10 you won't. As we pass that LFD, the probability diminshes geometrically and with the aide of today's technology you can almost reduce it 1 percent and thus your risk becaomes much smaller. THIS IS CALCULATED RISK.

And as I said, before we are in a disadvantage in PNW when it comes to warming up after LFD. Look at this, I am in zone 7b/8a. Most of You guys in zone 6a/b are going beat me by early June. Past your LFD you have an advantage to the tame PNW weather.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

The last frost date is not set in stone!

Our LFD is around May 21, and last year I was all set to plant out (as usual), but I talked to some market gardeners who told me that they never planted out until June 1 or later. I waited, and we had a frost!!!!!

This year, with all the weird weather there has been everywhere, I'm certainly not going to risk planting early just to risk having my irreplaceable seedlings wiped out by a late frost.

Linda


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Well, it didn't get as cold here as predicted (I didn't get up til 6, though I was awake much earlier, it was 40 then). And the 10-day forecast from Weather Channel, and monthly from Accuweather (if you trust such things) are showing above-normal temperatures for the rest of the month, except for 1 60-degree day followed by 81! So typical May weather, all over the place. Lettuce is sure to bolt, could possibly put out the tomatoes but I haven't hardened them off yet, and I started them later this year so most of them aren't really big enough yet. I don't even have all of them in 3.5 - 4" pots yet, still potting up from 606s and I do like them to have a bit more of a root system.

Some years you time everything perfectly, others you have to wait for the weather, still others the weather turns nice earlier than expected and you're not ready. Hard to tell in Feb and March what it's going to be like in May. But I'd rather be a little later than too early. Last year the beginning of June was "too early" here - more wet than cold but had to replace half the plants, and nothing really did terrific anyway.

Unless you've got a GH, you just can't control the conditions for hardening off, planting out, or all season long. WOWs and tunnels help, but can only do so much. And if you don't have that stuff, you're at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I wonder if the OP has planted out by now, or soon?


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

At my current location in Southern California, the weather is such that it is hard to kill a tomato no matter how I grow it.

When I put tomato in the ground or in an outdoor container early when it is still relatively cold, the worst thing that happens is that the plants just don't grow very fast until it warms up. They don't really die or show much ill effects as far as I can tell but that's just my climate.

The tomatoes transplanted later at warmer times tend to catch up to the earlier planted tomatoes pretty quickly and there isn't much of a delay, if any, in terms of blossoming, fruit setting, etc.

My question about the big debate in this thread is this: Is 4 inches of extra growth in about a month really all that significant and worth the associated risks, whatever they may be in your climate?

4 inches may seem a lot when the plants are small, but when the weather warms up it seems that a young tomato can get that much growth in a few days.

Also, couldn't the same by accomplish by other means like up-potting while keeping the plants indoors or having the plants grow in a somewhat protected environment, like a cold frame or hoop tunnel, during this time instead of just having them exposed?


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Remember when talking about soil temps there are sites one can check and even they give a 5 day forecast. Dave you must live in very cold pocket Greencast says your soil temps are 70-75f

Here is a link that might be useful: Geencast


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Is 4 inches of extra growth in about a month really all that significant and worth the associated risks, whatever they may be in your climate?

No, not IME in my gardens here. As I said above, experience - if only by trial and error rather than actual research based - shows that the risks can outweigh any possible gains. Using season extending tools like black plastic soil warming and WOWs or similar can cut those risks by half or more but they have their own side-effects.

Over the 5-6 years I used them to set some plants out 2-3 weeks early the normally planted plants of the same variety would catch up to them in size within days and the most I ever gained in actual early fruit set was 5-7 days. But they do save all the work of covering and uncovering the plants.

Dave


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

The last frost date is not set in stone!

Our LFD is around May 21, and last year I was all set to plant out (as usual), but I talked to some market gardeners who told me that they never planted out until June 1 or later. I waited, and we had a frost!!!!!
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Yes Linda, LFD is not set on stone. It is just a statistical number based on past weather data. That is why it is based on probability (commonly 90/10). Which means frost still can happen with 10% probability for some time in the NEAR future.

Secondly: As being a benchmark, it does not mean that the following day you rush out and start planting your tomatoes, peppers etc. You have to consider the COLD TOLERANCE?SENSITIVITY of a given plant not just the actual frost.

ON EXTENDING THE SEASON:
Extending the season might not be that advantageous in locations/zones/climates that weather warms up quickly, shortly after LFD and there you have a long hot summer. BUT here in the PNW it is a different situation. The weather warming pattern is turtle like. Our lows in average will stay in 40s til June. and the highs will be under 68F till the end of June. That is why the late planted plant is not going to have gang buster growth to catch up with those planted 4 weeks before.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Your last frost is almost in June and you're planting this soon? I'd have protection on stand by.

I'll plant my tomatoes around memorial day when the lillies of the valley bloom. If I was cheating with protection I'd plant sooner but not in the open air with soil not quite baked yet.

In mid June the tomatoes here will explode with growth. Not quite Long Island/NJ but I expect some nice San Marzano Redortas. How I treat them now will determine how nice they are later.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

our last frost is almost in June and you're planting this soon? I'd have protection on stand by.
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Did I say that ?
FIRST: my LFD was like April 1st.
Again, it does not mean that I could necessarily go ahead and plant out on April 2nd. You have to check your soil temp and extended forecast. I planted out (I think on April 4th). There has been time that I have even planted a few days BEFORE my LFD, when the extended forecast looked favorable. But if the extended forecast indicated that 3 days down the road there will be a frost or lows under 40F, I would've not planted any tomatoes. .

There is ALWAYS an element of Risk and Reward. It is a trade off. If you DO NOT WANT any risk, wait a couple of weeks or even longer. .

ANOTHER POINT:
It is not just all about growing tomatoes either . As humans we dare to challenge the elements of nature. Why would one live in places that there are Floods, Hurricane, Earthquake , harsh winters and summers ? !!!
We dare to fight and challenge. That is part of human life and destiny. JMPO


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Good Lord. This is about tomatoes??????? This is not brain surgery. This is TOMATOES. Big deal, people ! Yeah, they're tasty and fun and a lot of work but tomatoes are not going to save the world. BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL !!!


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

DHLCAL, yep, 4¨ of extra growth is a big deal here. One, our May and June temps are not always optimal and we have sluggish time going... two, I really like having tomatoes fairly early, not just 2 weeks in August.
3. There is whole load of great tomatoes in 85-90 days range that I will never see because Sept here already starts having cool nights, so often you end up with loads of beautiful green tomatoes by the time first frost hits...


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

How about LATE PLANTING ?
Actually, per local tradition should've waited til after Mothers Day weekend.

I planted bulk of my tomatoes on April 4 and 5 (about 15 of them ) Then I add more gradually. But they have all been outside all this time, anyway.

Yesterday I planted the LAST BATCH consisting of 5 plants. Now I have roughly 30 plants and have 3 extras laying around with no home to go. This is after giving away 6 plants to relatives. When you start from seed, you will always have extras. I have composted some in the past.Not a good feeling, I can tell.

Now the maintenance work begins : tying up, pruning, talking to the plants , checking the flowers ten time a day :D


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

so often you end up with loads of beautiful green tomatoes by the time first frost hits...

Perhaps a good time to mention the health benefits of green tomatoes!

Using a screening method that previously identified a compound in apple peel as a muscle-boosting agent, a team of University of Iowa scientists has now discovered that tomatidine, a compound from green tomatoes, is even more potent for building muscle and protecting against muscle atrophy

Pay me now or pay me lata! (SNL reference)

Here is a link that might be useful: Green is Good


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

@seysonn

One thing you might try as an experiment is to plant some tomatoes later around Memorial day and see how they fair against your original planting.

I am going to go ahead and pull the trigger and plant out today. It's only 2 days before average last frost date, but the ground is probably a bit cooler than normal even though we have had several days in a row of almost 90. Good chances for rain and clouds the next week should help in hardening off. 10 day has a few lows between 45-50, but the plants have been outside in almost that environment for several days. With all of the rain it might be 2 weeks before I get another window.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

0 day has a few lows between 45-50, but the plants have been outside in almost that environment for several days
%%%%%%%%%%%%%

That is perfect weather. Even after over a month of plant out, this week we will have lows down to 43F.

On planting experimentally on/after Memorial Day , I have no space to add anymore. But I am sure my early April plants will have some fruits by then. I know in climates that weather warms up FAST, early planting make little difference. But here in PNW, weather warms up like turtle. So every day of early planting counts. This is a COOL country here. I can grow lettuce all summer long.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Thanks for green tomato info!
I might go ahead and plant another batch that will go directly into ground with no WOW over this weekend. Weather reported to be stable however we ALWAYS have that bad storm around this time... generally they predict it early enough...


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

I've had it with Chicago weather! Chi-beria!!

For me, where I am southwest of Chicago, the time to plant is usually always around Mother's Day - this weekend. Why? I don't know. Tradition.

As usual the mercury is up and down and will be for weeks. And this year is particularly awful. But I started my seeds around my usual dates - typically a little too early and they are ready to go. The plants are actually on the tall side and really should go in the ground. But, surprise!! Next week is going to be in the 40's overnight. Not deadly perhaps, but the seedlings look great and I don't want to set them back.

So I decided to try a mini-hoop house this year with black landscape fabric over the soil. My neighbors will have plenty more to talk about.

I've got landscape fabric on the garden already to help warm the soil a little. A soaker hose will go underneath prior to planting. The plants have been out during the day for a week and overnight the last two nights. They go in Saturday morning while the family sleeps in. Afterwards, I'm going to cover the tomatoes and a few cucumbers with the mini-hoop covering.

Cost-wise the product I bought is middle-of-the-pack. It's a semi-transparent white plastic over wire hoops. It ought to stand about 18-24" above the soil.

I will plant on Mother's Day!! (queue Viking laugh). Chi-beria be darned.

(Please work, please work...)


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Some of you people just need to either build some greenhouses or move to more sensible locations like the rest of us and leave your current tomato hell holes to people who don't grow stuff.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

DHLCAL, you're just mad because you can't produce green tomatoes like the rest of us!

(He said from the coastal fog bank.)


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Well, we do get green tomatoes here. But gotta be careful or they suddenly turn ripe on me.

First tomato picked of the season just now: one single Sun Sugar.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

For some reason I tortured myself and read all the 60 or so posts on this thread.

To summarize my conclusion: YMMV, and not all same numbered zones are created equal, and do not rely solely on LFD.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

We finally have some nice weather but the lows could always dip. I am extremely tempted to plant today. However I would not just leave my plants without help.

They have a raised bed which is about 16-20 inches and even more if I plant them in hills. Another advantage of a raised bed is the soil heats up faster than the native ground.

I have a big pile of weed guard/block cloth. I can cover them with a nice lightweight warm blanket with that stuff.

Traditionally it's Memorial day here. The phonology is plant when the lily of the valley is blooming. They have buds but no bloom but then again they're not in my raised bed.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Rest of my group is going to be planted today in open raised beds with black fabric covering. Forecast is not the best but still stable enough.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Very good Linda. That is a Happy Mothers Day.

Black fabric or plastic can help with the soil temperature. Obviously the heat absorbed by the black materials can only heat a thin layer of soil underneath. But that is fine. Even if it just prevents fast cooling at night and due to air flow (winds , breeze). The main source of soil heat is the ground itself and the heat that rises up from the core of the planet Earth constantly. All you need to get started is a soil temp around 48F to get it going. It should get up to over 60F in a short time with black plastic/fabric. Tomato plants' top foliage ( and most plants) don't need a lot of heat. They need moderate amount of direct and indirect light.


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

So the planting in WOW pays off. My plants doubled up in size for these 2 weeks, robust, dark green leaves, thick stems, setting up flower and looking great. Most people have not planted theirs, although this is first year I am seeing increase in simple cold frames and row covers at our community gardens so there are few people that planted some. Couple of people planted uncovered tomatoes about a week ago, bought in store as large size pots- those look trashy, lots of environmental damage.
I have planted all my tomatoes and created plastic wall wind protection around the bed, this area calls Windy city for a reason. So far so good. We will drop for 3 nights into low 40 but soil in beds holding very nice temps so am not worried. Did plant some peppers and eggplants so we will see, those ones usually like to stay about 50...


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RE: Planting out Tomatoes early

Good luck , Linda.

Low 40s, being 42F+ is fine, as long as the soil (where the roots are stay warm (50F ++, at 4"+ depth).

Other things about night lows:
If you look at HOURLY temperatures, you will see that the low last an hour or so. Lets say the low is forecast @ 44F ( 5:am). This will be a typical hourly temperatures pattern:

3: am >>46F
4: am >> 45 F
5: am >> 44 F
6:am >> 45 F
7 am >> 47 F
.............

The other thing is windchill effect when Relative Humidity is low. That can cool off the plant and remove moisture from it faster than if the winds were calm. So by having a wind barrier , or WOW, or cage wrapped with something can provide a good cushion.
FN:
-------------------------------
starting as of yesterday, we are going to have a nice 10 day weather, mostly sunny, temps in 65 to 80F range(for highs). I look forward to seeing my matoes to get a real boost for the first time since I planted most of them on Apr 4-5.


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