The First Time Gardener: Hardening Off Plants

Tomato seedlings before going outside.

Tomato seedlings before going outside.

Since I’ve been waxing eloquent (or maybe not very eloquent) the past few days about taking seedlings inside and outside and inside and outside and whether or not I’m abusing them in the process, I thought now would be a good time to talk about hardening off seedlings. We’ll use what I did as a comparison against what you actually should do. (Isn’t it comforting to know that even though I supposedly know what I’m doing, I still sometimes decide to do something different? Luckily, plants are usually forgiving!)

So if you start some seeds indoors, they need to be acclimated to our Kansas weather before planting in the garden. This process is generally called “hardening off.”

The RIGHT way to harden off plants:

1. On a nice, warm day, set the plants out in a semi-shady, protected area for a few hours, then bring them in. Do this for 2-3 days.

2. Gradually move the plants into a sunnier, less-protected area over a period of a week.

3. After about a week, start leaving the plants outside all day and overnight to adapt them to both high and low temperatures.

4. In about 2 weeks, plants will be mostly adapted to the highs and lows, full, bright sunlight, and at least moderate wind.

What I actually DID this week:

1. Put the tomatoes out in the middle of the garden on a warm, sunny day, then left them overnight and into the next day.

Tomato seedlings after a little too much time in the sun.

Tomato seedlings after a little too much time in the sun.

2. Put the peppers and eggplant out in the middle of the garden the next day.

3. Took them inside when the weather threatened.

4. Put them back outside again, even though they were looking a bit scorched.

5. Brought them back inside for the weekend.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on April 24, 2009, in Around the Garden, Family of 4 Garden, The First Time Gardener and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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