How to harden off those plants….

you’ve worked so hard on.  The biggest thing to remember is that you’re plants have been in a controlled environment for several weeks now.  If you were to plant these in your garden right from the home, they might live if it’s real warm out.  But if the evening temperature drops below 50, you might come out one morning to find that all you’re plants have died.  You can find all kinds of information on the Internet about hardening off.  Many people advocate a process that is 2 weeks long.  My experience using that time frame has been successful.  But remember, I’m a square foot gardener, so by nature I’m a bit lazy.  Could I cut that time down by 50%?  I sure could.  Here is how I do it.  First, once the evening temperatures are at 50 or above, it’s time to start thinking of hardening off.  You need to protect from the obvious things-snow and rain.  The other main thing you need to protect your plants from is wind.  That will dry and kill off your plants as quickly as anything else.  Pick a sunny day when there is either no or very little wind.  Temperatures should be between 60-75 degrees.  Water your plants as you normally would.  Then bring your plants out and put them in a shaded area for about 4 hours on day 1.  Bring them in at night. Repeat this on day 2.  On day 3 water as normal, but put your plants in direct sun for 4-5 hours.  I put mine in the 2X4’s shown above.  It protects them from wind.  This is simply 2-2X4’s places on top of one another.  Bring them in at night.  Repeat this on day 4.  On day 5, cut your water a bit and leave them in the sun for 8 hours.  Bring them in at night.  On day 6, give your plants just as much as you did on day 5.  Place in sun for entire day.  At night, leave them outside-but covered as shown in the bottom picture.  Temperatures have to be above 50.  This is the 2-2X4’s with windows on top of them.  I got these from an apartment building who was redoing all their windows.  It helps retain a little heat and keeps the wind off the plants.  If there is ever any wind during this process, all I need to do is cover my box with the windows.  I won’t cover it all the way, but I will make sure that they are getting the light they need and that their getting no wind.  Day 7-water to keep moist but let your plants have full sun.  In the evening leave them out all night-covered again.  Day 8-same as day 7 but now you can keep your cover off at night.  By day 9 your plants should be hardened off and ready to be planted in the garden.  By reducing your water a little, and by exposing your plants to the sun and the variability of temperatures at night, they should be ready to go.  Just remember to keep the wind off them-even if that means you’ve got to cover them at night.  Also make to vent your box if the day is sunny and hot.  You don’t want it to get too hot under those window.  If you don’t have windows like those shown, just cover one of our 2X4’s in 6-mil plastic and staple it to the wood.  This will do the same thing as windows….

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3 thoughts on “How to harden off those plants….

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  • by John D. Wheeler

    I think you are being overly cautious about the wind. Definitely, you do have to watch out for them drying out because of too much wind, but I just water more. Being exposed to the wind should help their stems grow stronger. Also, I have a very windy site, so they’re going to have to get used to it anyway. Of course, I also start about 4 times as much as I have space to plant, so my ideas of what kind of losses are acceptable may differ from yours.

    • by Jim This is post author

      While it’s true that I don’t want to lose anything that I’ve worked on for the last 6 weeks, one of the necessary things that needs to take place is a decrease in watering. If you continue to water during wind in order to keep your soil moist, it’s negating the whole idea of hardening off. Your plants will be in transplant shock a lot longer than those plants which were hardened off correctly. My garden isn’t that big and I keep a tight schedule so I can’t afford to lose things along the way. Thanks for coming by and commenting John…where are you located?

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