This year, I decided to start my vegetable garden from seeds. I wanted to save some money versus buying plants from the store, but I also wanted the experience of growing my own food from start to finish. There were a couple of steps I didn’t know about until doing further research – how to harden off my seedlings was one of those steps. Hardening off seedlings is basically preparing your seedlings for life outside. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. They have been growing and living in a stable and controlled environment inside where there is no real exposure to the elements. Hardening them off gives them a transition period to get acclimated to some of the new things they’ll experience without just throwing them out to fend for themselves. In this post, I’ll explain how I’ve been doing this with my own seedlings and also provide some further in depth information you can check out on your own from people who are far more experienced than I am.
The first and probably most important thing to consider when getting ready to harden off your seedlings is the weather outside. You don’t want the conditions to be so extreme that the seedlings become shocked or die because they’ve been exposed too quickly. For my first day of this process, I waited for a day that was slightly cloudy, not too windy, and definitely not raining. I placed the seedlings under my covered patio, away from direct sunlight, and let them sit outside for about an hour. Afterwards, I brought them back inside, and made sure nobody got too tousled by the wind. We did have some light winds that day, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You want your seedlings to grow strong roots to be able to withstand wind since they will likely be exposed to it outside at some point. The early exposure to the light wind helps trigger their roots to grow nice and strong so they can keep themselves upright even with a breeze. Luckily, everything went smoothly the first day.
The second day, the weather was about the same as before. This time, I placed them outside in the same spot, but left them out for two hours instead of just one. You want to gradually increase the exposure. On the third day, I placed them outside in the same spot for several hours. The several hours was a bit more by accident on my part than intentionally, but no seedlings were damaged. I sighed a breath of relief and was proud of the little seedlings for seeming to transition so quickly. If you’re looking for a more structured set of instructions, check out the Homestead and Chill blog post about hardening off seedlings. She gives great day by day instructions. I am more winging it and learning by my own experience, but did use this blog as somewhat of a guide. So far, my less than perfect process has worked for me, but I live in a fairly forgiving climate in California. If you live in a more extreme weather zone I’d definitely recommend checking out their post.
Yesterday was my fourth day of hardening off my seedlings. I left them out almost all day. The first half of the day they were under my covered patio, but then we had some people over and needed the table, so they went out into the direct sun. I was a little nervous about this at first with it being the warmest part of the day but the seedlings did great! I was outside all day as well (it was like 72 degrees outside!) so I was able to keep an eye on them and make sure they didn’t start drooping, burning or doing anything that looked bad. I’m happy to say that they did great, and I think with a few more days of transition, they’ll be ready to be planted outside! I can’t wait!
Once the seedlings are ready to be planted outside I’m also going to install my new soaker hose irrigation system. I will be sure to document it so that I can create a post here. I’m excited to have a system set up as I’ve always watered my plants myself and it wasn’t always the best outcome. I think having an irrigation system will help me save time, money and hopefully keep my plants more luscious and alive longer too! Are you working on a garden this year? Are you to the point of hardening off seedlings yet or just getting ready to seed?
Until next time!