Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hardening off

Last year I started much of my garden from seed and if all goes well this year it will be almost entirely from seed.  One of the things I think most people, myself included, tend to overlook is the hardening off of plants that have been grown from seed before planting.
plants from seed hardening off

This "hardening" off prepares them for the harsh realities of the garden; those realities of cool nights, hot sun, and dry spells.  Today I started the process with three trays of mostly vegetables and herbs I started from seed.  If all goes well I plan to leave them out for only an hour or two today and then again tomorrow.  After that I will probably set up my "greenhouse" shelves out on the deck with the plastic cover and let them do a night covered.  If all is still looking good then I'll unzip the cover for a night or two.  All of this of course depends on the weather and my "remembering" (which is where my hardening off error usually occurs!)

I love to do plants from seed as it gives much more variety than you can buy started.  The problem is however, they can't be replaced.  The tomato plants in the picture I started mid April so it's taken them a month to get to this point.  I can start more seeds but then they'll be later than I want.  The point is, it's wise to carefully harden off.

MSU has an article with the basics on hardening off.  If you are starting plants from seed I encourage you to give it a read (it's not too long.)  Or maybe you tried seeds in the past but somehow after planting they didn't thrive?  This could be why.  In the article I learned to limit moisture during this time which I had not heard or done before.  My first instinct is to bring them in and after a hot day in the sun give them a drink. 

At any rate, I'm hoping my seedlings do well this year.  Hope yours do too!

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