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After re-potting tomato seedlings from plugs to larger pots (that they'll live in for about a month before they go out in the garden) it is recommended to let the plants recover from transplanting by not exposing them to bright light.

The weather isn't cooperating with my schedule and my best option to keep the seedlings warm and dry would be to keep them in my windowless garage. I can't leave the door open either and the artificial lighting is minimal.

Would the plants do okay in total darkness while they recover before moving them to finish outdoors when the weather is better?

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You can do that, but not for more than a couple days, before giving them light again. You don't want to see any signs of etiolation, or you will have to 'harden off' the plants back into light. If you have to hold them longer than that, try to find some better lighting, indirect sunlight or a bright fluorescent or LED bulb. Even if it's cold, the darkness will often promote etiolated growth, and that's not good.

I've actually had good results planting the tomatoes out in cold damp weather. I haven't ever had any cold damage whatsoever unless the temperature was below freezing overnight and the plant(s) were uncovered. I usually stick 'em out early, before the frost is over, and just toss old bed sheets/cardboard boxes weights down/similar protection overnight when frost is expected. So far, I've had great results, and good early results. Red (or black) plastic below the plants really helps. Just don't use fabric. The landscape fabric lets the soil underneath dry out, crust, grow weeds through, and be a mess.

You could put them out for a couple hours a day (assuming you have time) and then bring them back in, and herden them to the weather for a few days, and then move all your starts out early. You'll likely still need to cover them occasionally, with how cold this spring's been.

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  • How much light would they need during this resting period? Would a regular 60w equiv LED near them be enough? I also have this huge 400w equiv LED bulb (see twitter.com/OrganicLawnDIY/status/584145333451694080) that I'm trying to figure out how to set up for them if that's not too much light. I have covers for them but we got some cold snaps and temp under covers are a little too close to frost. After I put them out to finish growing before going in the garden I can use some shade fabric to harden them off again. Am going to try red plastic for the first time this year. – OrganicLawnDIY Apr 9 '15 at 22:12
  • @OrganicLawnDIY Wow! That big LED light would be perfect! If it seems too intense up close, just move it back a bit. The 60w equiv. would be a little dim, but better than nothing. – J. Musser Apr 9 '15 at 22:14
  • I'm growing more than just for me this year which is why it's a little challenging space wise. Do you have any rough idea how many lux/ft candles is ideal post re-potting and hours per day? Couldn't find any info searching. Others I've read keep them in the garage but theirs have windows and they sometimes open the door. They're about 80% hardened off but I had to stop because of the weather. Will finish hardening them off using shade cloth after they move to bigger pots. – OrganicLawnDIY Apr 9 '15 at 22:28
  • I always just kept mine under a lath/cheesecloth frame after repotting. I don't know the exact ideal light (rough idea, about 25,000 lux), but lower than straight sun (which is about 32,000–100,000 lux). It's really not rocket science, the plants are more adaptable than they're sometimes given credit for. – J. Musser Apr 9 '15 at 22:34

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