Is it time to harden off your seedlings?
Hardening off seedlings is a time to transition seedlings, you have started indoors, before planting them in your garden outside. This will make them strong and enable them to withstand harsh weather conditions they are not used to.
If you were to take the seedlings you start indoors and plant them directly in to your outdoor garden, they may be severely stunted or they may not survive at all.
Your seedlings need to slowly adapt to outdoor conditions: wind, rain, sun, and temperature variations.
You will want to start to harden off your seedlings (weather permitting) about 3-4 weeks after your plants have germinated and have at least one set of leaves other than their seed leaves. Seed leaves are thin, smooth leaves that come out of the seed at germination, most will fall off after the plant has matured a little.
How to harden off seedlings:
Harden off seedlings by slowly exposing them to the outdoors. Taking it a day at a time, gradually move your plants from the shade into the sun for more and more time each day.
About a week to ten days before transplanting your seedlings into your garden, water your seedlings and set them outside in a sheltered, shady place, not in direct sunlight or wind. A covered patio, covered porch, on a bench, or under a tree are all good locations to harden off your seedlings.
The first few days, you will want to do this early in the morning or later in the evening, when it is not too hot or sunny. Be sure to bring plants inside at night and any time the weather is windy, rainy, or cold (below 50 degrees).
Expose the plants, gradually to more sunlight each day, working up to keeping them in the sun for two to three hours a day by day four or five. Keep placing them outside each day, so by the end of the week to ten days, your seedlings will be hardened off enough to stay in the sun all day.
On an overcast day, transplant your seedlings into the garden and water them well.
If you don’t have enough days of nice weather for your plants to harden off, transplant them to larger pots, so they can continue growing without being stunted.
Critters, such as raccoons and mice love to dig in fresh dirt for worms and insects to eat. They usually come out at night, so bring your plants in by dark.
Is this the method you use for hardening off seedlings?