Hardening-Off Tomato Plants

Whether tomato plants are grown from seed or purchased already grown, they may need to be hardened-off before they can be planted outside in the garden.

Hardening-off is the process of gradually acclimating plants, that have been kept indoors, to the harsh reality of the outdoors in order to minimize plant stress when they are planted into the garden.

Basically, two weeks before you want to plant your tomatoes into your garden, you start putting your plants (in their pots) outside for an increased amount of time every day as follows:

The first day, set them outside for one hour, the second day, two hours, three hours on the third day and so on for two weeks.

At the end of two weeks, they will be fully acclimated (or hardened-off) and ready to plant outside.

It's best to harden-off tomato plants in a place that is not in direct sunlight and that is protected from wind. It's also important to make sure they are kept hydrated. You will notice that they need more frequent watering during this process.

I don't do Hardening-off. It's a tedious process to me. I've tried it but after the first couple of days, I forget that I left my plants outside and they end up sitting there for 8 hours or more. Inevitably the sun invades the shade where the plants were placed and the leaves get sun scorched. Then I worry about my plants being stressed.

I just don't need that kind of pressure. So, since I was looking for an excuse to avoid hardening-off, I came up with one. My seedlings live in my unheated greenhouse from the time I transplant them from seedling trays to 4-inch pots until it's time for me to transplant them right into my tomato sauce garden.

Therefore, if my tomato sauce garden is a plastic-covered, raised tomato bed (photo on right), then they don't need to be hardened-off because I'm really only moving them from one unheated greenhouse (photo on left) to another. They will be gently acclimated to the outdoors as I start opening the plastic on the sides during the day to let air flow into the bed.

That reasoning works for me and in practice, seems to actually be working for my tomato sauce garden as well.

So, in my opinion, whether or not to harden-off really depends on how much time and attention you are able to focus on your plants and how you set up your garden.

Return from Hardening-off Tomato Plants to Planting The Tomato Sauce Garden

Return from Hardening-off Tomato Plants to Grow Tomato Sauce