Hardening Off

I mentioned Monday that after transplanting seedlings, they would be ready to go outside when the time comes.  Well, of course, “the time comes” in different parts of the country earlier than it does here in the Northeast.  Even though we’ve had a ridiculously mild winter here in the northeast, I wouldn’t dream of setting out anything but the hardiest crops–things that are frost tolerant like pansies and violas–or early spring vegetables–until late March or early April, usually.  Tender things like peppers, tomatoes, basil and the things that really love the warmth don’t go out for me until around Memorial Day.

But you need to think of your seedlings just like you think of yourself.  Just like on that first warm spring day, you couldn’t go outside naked (for the purposes of this plant discussion) and bask in the sun all day without totally being burned to a crisp, neither can your tiny seedlings.  And it’s worse if it’s windy!  They hate that!  So remember that before you set those poor babies out and go off to work all day!

No you have to transition them out slowly–a couple of hours at a time–and in a protected area first.  And I know you have real jobs–you can start this on a weekend.  On Saturday, put the plants outside for a couple of hours, in the shade, under a tree, protected from the wind.  Then bring them back in.  If it’s not going to be very cold, you can put then in a garage or shed overnight.  On Sunday, do the same thing–outside, in the shade, for a couple more hours–then back inside the garage or shed.

Monday they can go outside all day–still under the tree or in the shade but only if it’s not really windy.  And if you’re doing this is the early spring when the leaves haven’t come out yet, make shade: Put them under a patio table, or under a couple of chairs or even under a beach umbrella–be creative but make the shade they need.

Monday night, back into the garage.  But that’s the last night you’ll baby them.  On Tuesday you’re going to give them some sun–half a day if you can manage that.  In other words, there must be a part of your place that gets morning sun–that would be best and then the sun goes around the side of the house in the afternoon.  So put the seeds there.  And leave them there Tuesday and Wednesday.  By Thursday you can transition them to full day sun.  And by the weekend, they will be ready to plant wherever it is you want to plant them.  Not as bad as it seemed, was it?

Check them for dryness in the morning and in the evening, especially if there has been a breeze–they will dry out fast and you don’t want to lose them at this point.  And on Monday we’ll talk about planting them in the gardens.

2 thoughts on “Hardening Off

  1. Ejercicios para hacer en casa March 24, 2012 / 5:47 am

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

    • gardendaze March 27, 2012 / 11:48 am

      I do tweet–you can see my twitter feed on the right side of the blog. I tweet under the strange name “watergardengodd” short for the nickname “watergarden goddess” the nickname I had when I was running the water garden department at my local garden center. It was sort of an inside joke–I said I wanted a great name like “The Fabulous Sports Babe” and there it was. It’s sort of stuck with me.

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