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Posts Tagged ‘hardening off’

img_1918Its sounds rather naughty, but truly, its a gardening term. True to form, it means bringing your winter seedlings outside and “hardening off” the first true leaves and stems to the outdoors. My technique? After burning many, many plants and having a good cry, I learned the hard way to be patient.

What I do is simply bring out each tray and leave in a light shaded area once air temps reach 60 during the day, and 45 at night. Any colder, and they all come back inside. But this is Minnesota, so for heavens sake, they need to  handle cool evening temps.

Why a shaded location? Any direct sun for more than, say, an hour will burn the leaves. After a couple days of continuous outdoors in light shade, I move them to a dappled sunny location. CHECK for dryness – they will dry out faster outside, especially if there’s any spring breezes.

Within a week in dappled sun (part sun, part shade throughout the day), they are ready for more continuous sun. Again CHECK for dryness. Now is the time to start a feeding schedule. I’m really lazy about this – when I remember, I add a tablespoon of granular fertilizer and/or fish emolsion, to the water bucket. This is less than what is recommended and with good reason – these dear seedlings are not quite ready for prime time.

After a total of ten days, they are “ready” for planting. BUT be sure the ground temp is at least 50 degrees in shade before planting – the seedlings will sit and sulk. EXCEPTION are peppers, tomatoes and vines – they must have warm air temps and soil temps before planting or will develop diseases and frankly, they really sit there and sulk. No fun. Keep those plants in warm sheltered spot until last frost date in your area.

NOW: plant squash, melon and related summer vines indoors now. Plant late season potatoes outdoors now (plant when the dandelions are blooming).

Happy gardening! Let me know of questions or comments!

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