How to harden off tomato plants
Slow move to the sun
Growing strong tomato plants
“Hardening off” is acclimating your indoor grown seedlings to normal outdoor growing conditions. In anticipation to transplanting tomatoes in the garden, you will first need to expose them to sunlight and outdoor life gradually.
This is also a good practice if you are moving houseplants outside for the summer. While managing unruly and heavy houseplants can be daunting, tomato transplants are simple.
No matter how bright your grow lights are, natural light will shock or even burn transplants. Heavy rain, wind, bright sunlight can kill or at least shock young transplants.
Whether you plant hybrids or heirlooms, getting plants off to a good start is the best thing you can do to enourage growth and fruit production.For more ideas to reduce transplant shock, consider using compostable or organic containers.
Why harden off tomato plants
Hardening off tomato plants lessens transplant shock, allowing pants to quickly establish in their permanent location. This practice can also keep tender plants from sunburn.
Making the move
Before moving your plants outside – During the indoor growing period gently brush the tops of tomato plants. Lightly waving your hand across the top of the plants will encourage sturdy stems and help them survive harsh winds.
3 or 4 weeks before moving your plants outside, transplant them into individual containers.
Making the move – Plan your garden space, leaving 3 feet between tomato plants. The more common advice is to space 2 feet apart. For determinate or hybrids like Celebrity, that is OK. I grow big indeterminate heirloom tomato plants. These plants usually grow big and just keep on growing all season. Give them more space and I believe you will get more fruit and less disease.
Locate tomato stakes or cages. Install stakes now before or at the time when you plant the tomatoes.
Transplanting - Trim off the lower leaves and branches, leaving only the top growth. If you have leggy or tall tomato plants, just dig the hole deeper. Plant the tomato deep enough to cover all but the top three or four inches of the plant.
This will give give your plant an opportunity to a strong root system able to reach deeper for moisture during the hottest part of the summer and grow a sturdy stem system.