Sometimes it's hard to give all of your children equal time. As I was tending to my broccoli seedlings, lettuce, and spinach, as well as my weeding, my tomatoes were still hanging out under my grow lights, though not complaining too much about it. Earlier this week, though, I started to fret over the quality of my care, and also wondered if they were getting a little too long in the stem and not leafy enough (see photo at right). A little poking around on the Internet and observing other plants in the MSG have put my worries to rest, for now.
One useful resource I have found is the Tomatogardening.com web site. As you can see, I've been bringing the seedlings outside for a few hours each day to harden them off, and according to the site, I should have reduced the amount of water a few days before beginning the process. That's what I had been doing--it's called "neglect." They seem to be in a growth holding pattern at this point, which I had heard or read somewhere is okay, though I am planning to repot a few, particularly the ones that are still sharing a pot. Ultimately, I'll have a few plants growing in my MSG plot and a few more in containers on my upstairs front porch, the only place on my property that may allow them enough light.
I'm not the only one torn over how to transition my tomatoes into the garden. In her blog, Black Eyed Susan expressed her concerns about whether her pre-ordered seedlings would be fine on the porch for a few weeks, and in a comment to my previous post she thought her grow lights would be too hot for them. According to Tomatogardening.com, heat could have an adverse effect on their growth: "If your seedlings are getting tall and spindly, the room temperature may be too high, the light too weak, or you're using too much fertilizer (or a combination of all three)." I think that in retrospect, the grow lights have been essential in getting mine established from seed; they had been much leggier in the past without them. And these lights are not too hot either, though at this point I'm almost finished using them.
A stroll around the MSG this morning revealed that many gardeners have let already let their children outdoors for the summer. Among the seedlings that Allan has planted out, there are some Rose de Berne (above) that are at about the same stage as mine (in forefront of photo at top). I also met Amy, who purchased flats and planted them out a few days ago (see below).
All of the tomatoes I have spotted seem to be doing fine, and I was tempted to bring mine over today, but they still need a few more days of hardening off. As long as I keep an eye on them I shouldn't be too concerned. I remember in her post last month Hanna of This Garden is Illegal explained that while tomato seedlings might run the risk of being scalded, they are basically hardy, though I think I might draw the line at petting them.