Harden-off Your Babies Right

Hardening off trays of seedlings along a warm brick sidewalk
Hardening off trays of seedlings along a warm brick sidewalk

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Gradually expose them to more sun at a rate of 1 to 2 hours per day of time outside.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
More seedlings hardening off in the sun
More seedlings hardening off in the sun

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Jicama Seedlings are the biggest

Jicama Seedlings at Prior Unity Garden

Upon checking in on the seedling babies this morning, the jicimas are the biggest.  We do not grow many of them, but they work really well in 5 gallon bucket containers in our roof garden, so we grow a few.

Jicamas  (Pachyrhizus erosus) are a root vegetable native to the Americas. They have a cool refreshing crisp taste that is wonderful in salads or as the base of a cooling summer salad.

Although they require a long growing season, folks say, 9 months, we have had great luck with them on the hot sunny roof and think they grow fine in our area (zone 7b now, we had been zone 7a)

Jicamas are a vine with pretty purple flower, but do NOT eat the flowers, leaves or seed pods as they are toxic !  It amazes me how such a yummy root can come from a plants where I cannot eat the rest.

After the plants get to be a few feet long, around three feet or so, you can trim them so they are bushier if you like.  We do not tend to do this, since we are growing them on the roof and not up there looking at them all the time, we want maximum energy to go into root production.

Who has seeds:

Bountiful Gardens: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=43

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: http://www.kitchengardenseeds.com/cgi-bin/catview.cgi?_fn=Product&_category=131

Both have signed the Safe Seed Pledge !

Jicama Seedlings at Prior Unity Garden