As new gardeners, yes that is what you are if you are growing your own. You may not realize the importance of hardening off seedlings.
When I first started with seeds I didn’t know it was crucial to cut back the seedlings, and I didn’t know about hardening them off.
Depending on where you live this step is important to harden off seedlings and plant them in their forever home- your garden.
Let’s also add that in this new world of quarantine it gives us something to do and look forward to.
Imagine a nice ripe juicy super red tomato right now? Freshly sliced on a turkey sandwich or whatever your heart desires. Let’s take the time now to invest in a bountiful harvest.
Because I know I’m not the only one thinking shopping at a grocery store may not go back to normal this summer.
So why bother with this step?
Your little babies don’t like stress. And neither do we. When we grow them in our nice controlled environments they aren’t ready for a breeze or full sun.
If you don’t harden off the plants may be stunted, slower to produce, or even the unthinkable- death.
We need to expose them a bit and get them ready to sustain life in the garden.
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So How to Do You Harden Seedlings?
Begin to put them outside 1-2 weeks before planting in your garden. This should be near your last frost day in your region. Start with hour intervals. The first day only leave out for about an hour.
At first place them outside in a shadier spot that is protected from wind.
Each day you can place them in a post with a little more sun. You want them to WARM up to that full sunshine.
If it is a super windy day, keep them inside. If you get a May snow storm and temps fall below 45 degrees keep them inside. I know the thought is depressing, but it could happen. 🙂
When you harden off your seedlings, they will be able to tolerate light and unexpected frosts with minimum damage.
Once the overnight temps are above 50 degrees you could leave them outside. If I leave my plants outside a full night the next day I put them in the garden.
Hardening off may seem like a pain but it is so worth it. Especially when you have an unpredicitable growing season.
And in our new land of quarantine, it gives us something to do each day.
Keep in mind depending on the plant you are growing, hardening off dates may be different. Think of your cold weather crops like onions, beets, spinach etc. These will be able to go in the ground sooner and you can start to harden them off eariler.
Planting Seedlings in The Garden
When you plant these seedlings in your garden it’s a day of rejoice! Pick a day to plant that is cloudier if possible. Or when the sun is not directly beating on your garden. Dig a hole bigger than your root ball.
Fill the hole to the plants root line and tap the soil around it.
Water thoroughly that first day. As needed after.
If your babies get a little wilted soon after, don’t panic it can be what’s known as transplant shock. Keep an eye on watering and you should see the plant recover.
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