Hardening off Seedlings: Why Do I Have to Do That?
If you have ever wanted to start a garden, or if you already have one, the appeal of growing plants from seed has definitely occurred to you. If you haven’t thought about it; take a trip to your local nursery and load up on all the plants you want to grow. Now take a look at the cost!!
If you are anything like me, you don’t see spending so much of your hard earned money on plants to grow your food as a cost-effective strategy. I would rather pay the $2 for a packet of seeds and go from there. I still spent $30+ this year on seed, but when you factor in that I will have well over 60 tomato plants, the cost of just the tomatoes puts me way ahead.
So you have all of your starts going well and you are starting to think about putting them out into the garden.
You have to harden them off first before throwing them to the wolves (Mother Nature in this case).
A seedling or plant started indoors is much like humans after being trapped inside all winter long. If you stay outside all day in the sun you are going to end up burnt, right? Think of your seedlings in a similar fashion. They have to build up a little strength and resilience before they can just go outdoors to live.
This is what “Hardening Off” will help your seedling do- become strong enough to grow and flourish outdoors.
You already have your seedlings inside on your windowsill or other location. The key is determining if the temperature and conditions are appropriate to allow them to survive.
The first day you put them outside, make sure that they are shaded. Allow them time outside for a few hours. Return the box indoors for the night. Repeat this process every day until you can comfortably leave them outside overnight (make sure the temperature is going to stay above 50°F the entire night).
Once your seedlings have a home outdoors, then repeat the process of acclimating them into full sun.
Try to time this in increments where the seedlings will be fully ready in a little over a week.
Once you are comfortable with their progress, go ahead and plant them in your garden. (Once the danger of frost has passed, of course.)