Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hardening Off Seedlings

About a week ago, I started to harden off my seedlings. This is a very important step to growing vegetable seedlings indoors. Hardening off simply means to slowly introduce the seedlings to the outdoor environment.

I can't stress enough how important it is to do this and to do it slowly. If you try to skip this step or do it too quickly you will kill your seedlings.

Your seedlings were germinated and have been growing in an optimum environment. They have been kept well watered, at the perfect temperature and have never known wind, direct sunlight or bugs. You have to introduce them to the real world slowly.

The way I do it, is to start about a week or more before I want to transplant seedlings into the garden.  I put the plants on my back porch out of direct sunlight, on a day that has little to no wind, and is about 50° - 60°. I leave them there for no more than two hours and back into the grow room they go.

The second day, I expose them to the same conditions but for about 4 hours this time. It is important at this time not to have any direct sunlight or significant wind.

Third day, now we can slowly introduce direct sunlight, still beware of wind. I try to have this be a Saturday, so I am home and can keep an eye on the seedlings while there out. I try to go for about 6 hours of direct sunlight on the third day,

The forth day, I go for eight hours, direct sunlight, slight wind if I am lucky. 

Fifth day, I go for all day, direct sunlight, slight wind, and I expose them to the night air, until about 10pm. 

 From the sixth day on, I leave them out, preferable in a place that protects them from high wind, round the clock. 
After a couple of days of round the clock exposure, I place my seedlings into my cold frame until I am ready to transplant them. I regulate the environment inside the cold frame, by how much I open the lid. I can hold them in the cold frame for weeks.

Keep seedlings protected from high wind

This was the 3rd day. It was warm, overcast, no wind and drizzly, that allowed me to leave plants out all day and night on just the 3rd day

Light rain is good

The 1st seed was planted in mid February, this is two months later

My cold frame that my dad and I built. The last stop before going into the garden

I can keep then here for weeks if need be. I simply raise or lower the lid as needed.

This gives me a buffer between when the seedlings have been fully hardened off, and when the garden and weather are actually ready to except them

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