Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Hardening off
While the weather’s been kinda iffy and my seedlings haven’t done much of anything. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the Burpee Organic seed starting I used really isn’t good. I have a GB about this.
Anyway… some folks are curious as to hardening off those homegrown seedlings and greenhouse plants. Mine will not be going anywhere unless/until they get bigger!
Hardening off is the process of acclimating your precious, babied plants into the wild outdoor garden! The process should begin a couple of weeks before they’re actually going to be planted in the soil. For warm season vegetables/fruits in zone 4 that is traditionally after Memorial Day! Give zones on either side a week or two difference
The idea is to gradually introduce them to their new environment. Start by putting them outdoors in a protected, shaded spot on warm days for a few hours and slowly increase the time and amount of sunlight.
Be sure to bring them in at night. If it’s super windy, don’t take them out, their little stems will be brutalized or if the temp drops below 45 degrees.
You can reduce your watering schedule as well. Just don’t let them wilt. If you have a cold frame, that’s fabulous, but you don’t have to.
The hardening process is intended to slow plant growth, not stop it! That will cause enough damage that you’ll lose any chance of the fruit/vegetable or flower you were hoping for!
Keep in mind that during this process, your plants may not look the best as they’re a bit stressed but give them time.
Don’t fertilize your transplants right before or during the process of hardening off, that will add stress they don’t need.
When planting your tomatoes, this is one of those plants who will not argue with you if you plant it too deep. Tomato plants will start growing roots from any point that touches the soil. In fact, many folks plant them quite deep, this leads to a more sturdy plant. This is a video I did in 2013 when I hosted/produced a show called DigIn Minnesota.