Hardening Off - the Part I Messed Up

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This is the part I messed up my first year, and by messed up I mean didn't do. Guess what plants that are started inside do NOT take well to just being planted from inside to garden.  You must harden them off slowly. So, what is this? In short it is slowly adjusting the little plants to the outside.

After the seeds are going well in the pods, I move them to a bigger pot. I have a stash of plastic containers that I have purchased plants in and use those. You can also find them on Amazon if you don’t have any handy.  Save them and you can reuse them year after year, until they crack. Many of my herbs I start in these pots to begin with as they will spread anyway. 

After the plants are doing well in the larger pots, I remove the covers and let them remain in the closed greenhouse for a week. Then I open the greenhouse for a week and barricade it so no little ones can crawl in or pull the plants out.  Once the weather is nice, warm, and sunny in the afternoons (about mid-late April), I’ll take the trays of plants outside and set them in a sheltered area that is still in the sun. If you have a large porch that faces west, you could move the whole greenhouse out there and button it back up at night. 

Pay attention to the plants as you take them back in or button the greenhouse up. Are they looking healthy yet? Do some seem to be struggling a bit? If any are starting to struggle with outside, go back a step with those plants, and give them another week to grow. Eventually around the late-April, I’ll start leaving the plants out at night by the house, if the night isn’t going to be cold, or storm. I cannot remember how many times last year I woke up in the middle of the night and ran out to bring plants in because it was thundering. 

Around the first part of May I will start taking the garden plants to the tables by the garden for part of the day. Slowly building up the time they are out there until it is time to plant them. 

Each part of process is adjusted depending on when the plants need to be in the garden, and how each is handling the outside.  The cooler season plants, like broccoli and cabbage, I harden off sooner because they are planted early.  The warmer season plants, like tomatoes and peppers, I take longer with because they don’t like the cool temperature but love the sun. 

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