Tomatoes thrive in rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8. These easy-to-grow vegetables are the most popular vegetable in home gardens across the U.S., according to the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension Office. Americans eat tomatoes in fresh garden salads, sliced for sandwiches, cooked in sauces or diced for fresh salsa. Growing your own tomatoes provides an ample supply for all your culinary needs, but unless you prepare your seedlings for outside weather conditions, tender stems might snap in the wind or during rainstorms.
Place seedlings outside in a sheltered location a week or two before the last expected frost in your area. Choose an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Begin with a few hours of exposure each day. Exposure to light breezes begins the process of developing strong stems.
Bring plants inside at night to prevent damage from chilly nighttime air. Tomato plants cannot withstand frost and suffer when temperatures drop below 60 F.
Monitor plants closely for signs of wilting or sun scald. Excessive sunlight "scalds" leaves, causing them to turn pale or white. Leaves might be blotchy. Soil in plant trays or pots dries out quickly in warm weather. Water thoroughly until water runs free of the bottom of the pot. Keep soil moist.
Move tomato plants to a less sheltered area over the course of a week or more. Increase exposure to both sunlight and winds each day. Increase the number of hours your plants are exposed to the elements gradually until they can withstand six to eight hours of exposure a day. Stems toughen with gradual exposure to winds, creating vigorous plants able to withstand strong winds without snapping or breaking.