June 1, 2011

Hardening Off

Seedlings that have been grown indoors or in greenhouses are very delicate. Their life has involved perfect temperatures, ideal humidity, the right amount of sun, and a pest free environment. This makes for silky-smooth leaves, and wimpy stems. Perfect for little insects to gnaw on.

Time to beef up your plants to prepare them for the garden.
This is also called "hardening off"
(Hardening off my plants. And yes I was drinking wine while enjoying my little plants)

What happens if you don't harden off your plant:

  • I jumped the gun and placed my wussy plants outside on a sunny day and their leaves were burned by either the sun or the wind. You can see their leaves have turned a pale color.

  • Your plant may "bolt" or "go to seed". The plant becomes stressed and confused so it produces flowers/seeds as quickly as possible, ending your chances of consuming a yummy vegetable.
(Kale that has bolted)
  • It may affect your plants growth.
How to harden off your seedlings:
  • Harden off your seedling for 7-10 days. 
  • The first day you will want to give your plant indirect sun for two hours. This can be done by choosing a cloudy day or placing the start in an area that receives just partial sun (I placed  mine in the shade of our bamboo, so it allowed some sun through).
  • Over the next few days, leave out your plants for longer and longer periods of time.
  • Gradually expose the plant to wind.
  • Gradually expose to cooler temperatures at night.
  • Direct sun seems to be the most harmful to the seedlings so make sure that is the most gradual element you add.
You may want to spend 4 or so days hardening off any vegetable starts you purchase from the store. Especially if the start was in a greenhouse or protected from the elements when you purchased it.

Cheers to buff plants!
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