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I have ~2 month old bell pepper and heirloom tomato plants that have been spending the last month outdoors in full sun. Unfortunately I'm leaving on a 10-day trip, and will be keeping them watered with Blumat watering stakes. Since the soil likely dries out too quickly outdoors for the Blumats to keep up, I plan to temporariliy bring them back inside under a skylight while I'm gone to reduce evaporation. (They're in fabric pots which are pretty easy to move around)

When I get back home and take them back outside, will they need to go through a re-hardening process after getting used to indoor conditions? Or do plants, once hardened, stay that way?

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Yes, plants get “sensitive” when taken back indoors again. How much depends on how dark the indoors is an how long they stay inside.

I would be careful and not just put them straight into full sun again. I recommend a simplified and shortened hardening off phase - certainly not as careful as when moving seedlings outside for the first time.

Look at the plants when you return and check for signs of etiolation. (Paler color, “stretched” tops) The less symptoms you see, the easier will be the transition again.

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Plants need acclimation when they are moved from indoors to the out of doors in the sun as well as acclimation from out of doors back into the indoor environment.

Christmas trees sold live for example. Usually Balled and Burlapped put in a pot with soil over the burlapped root ball to sell. That root ball is also not very moist and if one tries to water a B&B Christmas tree plunked in a pot the water goes around not into the root ball.

People drag a newly purchased live Christmas tree into a very dry living room, a warm living room when they were used to cold nights and worse...when Christmas is over they drag it out of doors and 8 out of 10 live Christmas trees die. That is some unofficial data but in my experience, lots of live Christmas trees die because of non acclimation. Too little moisture for a living tree in a warm, dry environment.

Do you have a covered porch out of doors? That is where I would put those plants. A covered porch is a great transition zone. I pull all of my indoor plants out onto a covered patio/porch where there is no direct sun and there is no acclimation necessary. No acclimation necessary going back indoors for the winter either.

Your plants used to the sun should be okay if you took them indoors and watered less than what they were watered in the sun out of doors. They will be okay in full sun through the skylight or kitchen window. But your plants will be very stressed needlessly.

This is all about the thickness of epidermis of the leaves. Thin is necessary for indoor plants and thick is necessary for out of doors in the full sun.

How big are your pots, btw? What soil medium have you used? Fertilizer?

Better would be on the patio under a cover using the same amount of water. Indoors there is no breeze to increase transpiration. Indoors has very dry air. Bringing them indoors for 10 days is iffy. They might make it. I have a hard time imagining your watering system not being able to keep up. Guess I'll go look up Blumat watering stuff. How often do you have to add extra water to these plants on this Blumat system?

I am thinking the best place for your plants is right where they are. Moving plants to a new environment is sometimes worse than too little or too much water during a 10 day period.

Send us pictures of your plants, pots, what type of soil did you use in these pots, anything at all. Do you have someone who could check up on your plants out of doors? Changing the environment is tougher on plants than changes of other elements.

  • Thanks for the detailed response! Unfortunately I don't have a covered porch — I live in a townhouse in a city so the only outdoor space is the rooftop and a front north-facing balcony that won't be able to fit all the plants. I could potentially split them up since it'll get pretty tight indoors anyway. There are 20 5-gal & 7-gal pots so it's quite a bit to water. I have a friend who is willing to help but I don't want to inconvenience him too much. Plus accessing the rooftop and dragging watering cans up there is a bit of a pain and I'd be asking a lot of him if I kept them up there. – Tai Sep 19 '18 at 5:09
  • Tried moving the rooftop plants to the balcony today as a compromise. It's north-facing and most of the sun exposure happens in the afternoon vs. on the rooftop where they get drenched in full sun from about 9am to 5pm. I wrapped the outside of the fabric pots with some plastic to limit evaporation through the sides of the pots, and I'm testing the Blumats to see how much water they actually draw in (comparing it with a "control" container to see how much of the water source is lost to evaporation). Hopefully between all of this and my friend coming every 4 days we'll be good... – Tai Sep 19 '18 at 15:56
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    This solution sounds sane and smart. Tai, good job, I am fairly sure you couldn't have done better! Very nice thinking. Have a wonderful trip! – stormy Sep 20 '18 at 5:12

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