HARDENING OFF SEEDLINGS BEFORE YOU PLANT THEM IN THE GARDEN IS AN IMPORTANT STEP. FIND OUT WHY YOU SHOULD HARDEN OFF SEEDLINGS AND HOW YOU CAN DO IT.
WHAT IS HARDENING OFF SEEDLINGS?
When you "harden off" your seedlings, you are simply allowing the seedlings to get used to being outside. By placing the seedlings outside for longer periods of time each day, they have a chance to get used to the new climate they will be living in.
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WHY SHOULD YOU DO IT?
The hardening off process is important to get your seedlings accustomed to being out in the weather. So far, they have been under artificial light with no wind or scorching sun. If you go straight from this pampered state directly out into the elements, there may be more losses. Take a little time to harden off your seedlings now before transplant time.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
This is a simple process, but I promise, it's a step you don't want to skip. Your seedlings will have a better chance of surviving and thriving if you harden them off.
To harden off your seedlings, first figure out your last average frost date or when you are going to transplant your seedlings into the garden. Use a resource like this site at the Farmer’s Almanac to find your average last frost date.
About two weeks before the last frost date or transplant date, pick an overcast day or a shady or partly shady spot in your yard to move the seedlings that will be transplanted. Make sure that the temperature is warmer. It should definitely be above freezing, but for plants like tomatoes and peppers, think at least 45 to 50 degrees.
Leave the seedlings out in the shaded spot for about two to three hours
Increase the amount of time the seedlings spend in the shaded or partly shaded spot each day.
Start placing them in a sunnier spot until they are spending the entire day outdoors.
Make sure that you bring them in at night!
Do not put them out if the temperatures are below freezing!
Water the seedlings regularly. Now that they are going outside in the wind and some sun, they will dry out more quickly.
Check for sun scald on the leaves of the plants. If the seedlings get too much sun too quickly, they may burn.
Once your seedlings are hardened off, it’s time to plant them in the garden!
That's it! It is really as simple as allowing the seedlings to be out for longer periods of time each day with more and more sun.
Some of the most important things to remember are:
Water! Don't forget to water the seedlings. You may have to check them throughout the day depending on what size pot they are in. If it is windy, they will dry out more quickly.
Check the temperature. If it's going to be very cold in your area, don't put the seedlings outside that day. You don't want your plants to freeze.
Go slow. The more time you can take to harden off seedlings, the better the chances of them thriving.
Put them in a safe place. Keep the seedlings in a spot that rabbits and other animals won't get to them.
If you notice they are getting sun or wind burn, just put them back inside. They should recover.
SHOP THIS POST
Watering can: I wish I had this one. It's steel and will last forever!
Plastic Trays: These make it so easy to move your seedlings around.
Shade Screen: If you don't have a shady spot in your yard, you could buy a shade screen to give your plants the shade they will need.
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