Hardening off your seedlings is an important step to insuring they bound into growth and production when put unto the ground.
Hardening off refers to how we acclimate seedlings; who have been started indoors, to their final outdoor environment, by slowing getting them used to increased amounts of sun, wind and rain. If we do not harden off our seedlings, they will experience what is called “transplant shock” and likely die, or at least not grow well and thrive. Hardening off does require a bit of flexibility and may be the most attention intensive part of starting your plants from seed indoors. The process only takes a couple of week though, and the opportunity for observation is great, so do not be discouraged. You are strengthening the babies you started.
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Steps to Harden Off seedlings:
- Check the seeds catalogs and packets to find out the cold or heat tolerance of your seedling type and take this into consideration when hardening off.
- Ideally, only expose your plants to filtered sunlight for a hour or two the first couple of days. You can also begin on a cloudy day and leave them out for 2 or 3 hours
- Gradually expose them to more sun at a rate of 1 to 2 hours per day of time outside.
- Be sure to bring your seedlings in at night for at least a week as they are not likely used to cold nights. Bring them in if frost threatens.
- Do not leave them out if the weather calls for high wind or heavy rain, they are not strong enough yet to handle these conditions, yet.
- By a couple of weeks time, you want your seedlings out all the time and they can then be planted into your containers garden. You can harden them off and keep them in their smaller containers longer depending upon your schedule.