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Can tomato plants tolerate 35F weather for 24 hours?

 
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I was ambitious and went ahead and transplanted the tomato plants I got from the nursery last week.  We had record breaking warmth and the 10 day forecast didn't show anything in the 30's.  It's now 36F at noon, and although the forecasted low is 36F overnight, I'm concerned this might destroy the plants being in 36F weather for 24 hours?  Do I need to dig them up now (I guess I could wrap the root balls in kitchen bags), and bring them inside for overnight?  I'm in Tulsa, OK.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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If they die I can't replace them because Nursery is closed due to covid 19 and not being an essential business.
 
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That's an interesting question. If they don't freeze they will probably survive.

There is both cold tolerance and frost tolerance to be found in tomatoes.

When a plant breeder is looking for cold tolerance a good way to screen would be to leave a tray of genetically variable tomato seedlings in the fridge for about a week. Those that survive it have cold tolerance genetics.

Normally though with normal tomato plants the highs are important for recovery between chilling periods. However 24 hours is no week. So as long as it warms back up and doesn't freeze I would guess they'll make it.
 
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My guess would be that they will be ok if you can cover them. Covering the plants will hold the heat in the soil around the plants and also to protect them from frost.

Even an old sheet will offer some protection, just make sure the sheet is held up over them not on them.
 
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You rushed the season a little, but I suspect you will be OK. It has been pretty warm this spring.   Do cover the plants at night and uncover first thing in AM.  If it looks like there will be a freeze, use a spray bottle of water on the plants before you cover them. Tulsa sits a little to the south of me latitude wise, and I have been tempted to put my plants out.
 
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I'd cover them for sure, with thicker sheets if you can.  They maybe are hardened off a bit from being in the ground but I'm guessing they're a bit tender yet.  

If you're really worried, string some christmas lights around them and run them to give off a few watts of heat (but only in conjunction with a blanket)
 
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I've saved around 50 milk jugs to fill with hot water if we get a late frost.  

The nursery should file for an exception.  Gardens put a lot of food on the table, sadly none of it is measured...
 
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No idea how big your plants are but I would suggest covering them tonight and maybe each night for a while yet.  Tomato plants don't do well even in the low 40's overnight.  

I started two dozen plants in January one year and had them four feet tall and put them outside the end of May.  These plants were healthy and strong and I plasticed them at night for the first week or so but then we got a bit warmer and I figured I should be good, they were dead within just a couple weeks of overnight lows in the low to mid 40's and possibly some lows in the mid to upper thirties.

If you don't have good plastic available, you can do individual plants with garbage bags if need be.  Place some stakes taller than the plants around the plants and just slip the bag down over at night and hope for the best.  My issue here is that we still have lows in the low 40's even in the middle of August, as yet I have never managed to get a single tomato plant to survive outside for a season yet in 10 years of trying.  I have lost at least 325 tomato plants in my attempts, anywhere from new sprouts sprouted outside in June to the four foot tall plants started in January in the house to everything in between.  We can get a day time high in mid August of 80 to 90 F and then be a low 40F that night.  By the end of August we are generally cooling off again and most years we have to start building fires again about the third week of August.  My situation is clearly more extreme than yours so you will certainly have better luck than I, but from my experience you want to keep them above the 40's at night and in the 30's should really be avoided if at all possible.

I have a lot of experience at what temps kill tomato plants... lol...  I have trouble keeping them going in my house at times when we are gone for too long, as I cannot feed the fire and the household temps can drop into the 40's or even into the 30's on extreme occasions.  

Good luck I hope your plants make it, losing my tomato plants is very frustrating for me...
 
Mike Haasl
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I've tried using garbage bags before and the plants still died.  I suspect they only give you a degree of help (as in 1 degree F).  If you can use sheets or blankets or thick tarps, it would be much better in my experience.
 
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I want to second what Gray already said.

I personally think hot water is the best possible way to keep your tomatoes alive and healthy.  If possible, I would fill up some container with hot water.  But keep the containers capped or covered.  Milk jugs can be a great option, so can 5 gallon buckets either with a lid or or a garbage bag over the top.  Water has a tremendous heat capacity so it will radiate out heat all night, and if temperatures don’t pick up by mid morning, the water should be replaced.

Ideally, the bottom should be insulated—a board is fine—and keep the veggies covered.  This will trap the heat in, keep the plants safer and make the hot water containers last longer.

Good Luck!!

Eric
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Okay for each plant, I am gonna fill up 1/2 gallon mason jar with hot water and sit next to plant a few inches away then cover both the plant and jar with kitchen bag.   Plants are less than 1 foot tall but roots buried deep.  14" raised bed.
 
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