Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hardening Off Seedlings

Seedlings have been enjoying quite a pampered life inside your home. They get watered regularly and do not have to deal with the wind. But my garden is outside. So how do I safely transition my seedlings from my house to the garden?

Hardening off seedlings is a gradual transition to strong sunlight, wind and cool nights that occurs over 7 - 14 days. This prevents your seedlings from going into shock. During this time you want to cut back on watering the plants just enough so they do not whilt.
  1. Begin 7 - 14 days before you plan to plant the seedlings outdoors.
  2. Place plants in a wind sheltered spot or pick a mild day. Allow the plants to be in sunlight for   3 hours per day.
  3. Bring plants back indoors each night.
  4. Increase exposure to sunlight a few additional hours at a time and gradually reduce frequency of watering, but do not allow seedlings to wilt.  Do not fertilize.
  5. After 7 days, the plants should be able to handle sun all day and stay out at night, if temperatures stay above 50 degrees Farenheit. Make sure that the soil doesn't dry out and the plants get baked in the sun. 
  6. After  7 - 14 days your plants are ready to transplant into your garden! Try to do this on a cloudy day if possible to reduce shock.  Water well after planting.