Hardening off seedlings: preparing for transplant!

It’s time to transplant the seedlings!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hardening them off. This means gradually exposing the seedlings to outdoor weather to help them adjust to it. This way, when they are planted outside, they will be more likely to grow well rather than go into shock and possibly die.

The hardening off process involves a bit of thinking ahead, but for the most part it’s simple to do. Most of my gardening books have slightly different guidelines. I didn’t know which to follow so I did my own thing. The general idea is the same.

General guidelines for hardening off plants

  • Day 1: set plant outside for one hour, preferably somewhere protected from wind and direct sunlight
  • Day 2: set plant outside for two hours, same conditions
  • Day 3: set plant outside for 3-4 hours
  • Day 4: Set outside for about half the day
  • Day 5: More than half the day
  • Day 6: Full day. Bring it in at night.

You get the idea. You can time it differently according to your schedule. For example, I’m not home during weekdays, so I did “Day 3” several days in a row until the weekend when I could set them out for half the day. If the plants seem sturdy, you can start to expose them to direct sunlight and wind. On the final day, leave the plants outside all day AND all night, then transplant them the next morning.

 

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Most of my books say to harden off for a week but I took two weeks due to the weird weather fluctuations we’ve been having in Ottawa this month. One day it is 30°C then two days later it is 5°C. I was concerned that the extreme temperature differences might be too hard on the plants, so I gave them extra time to adjust.

Note that if you are planning to grow your plants in containers or in an area sheltered from wind and direct sunlight, it’s not a bad idea to harden them off but you don’t need to worry as much as you do when planting in an open area. I’m putting basil and strawberries on my balcony and I transplanted them into larger containers last week and they are doing just fine.

As for the peppers and tomatoes that will go into the plot, the wind has roughed them up. That’s okay. They should be fine.

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I chose to transplant them on Saturday, partly because I had the day off and partly because the weather network called for rain that afternoon. I like to plant seeds and seedlings right before a rainy period in case I don’t have time to stop by and water them every day. It’s important for seeds and young plants to be watered regularly as they can die easily at that stage.

Anyway, I managed to get them in before it rained.

 

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I’m quite proud of the fact that I had tomato cages set up and ready to use. I wasn’t that prepared in previous years. However, it would probably help to stake them as well. As you can see the one tomato plant is staked but the others aren’t. I will have to go back this week to fix them.

Since planting them yesterday, I have gone back today to check on them and they are all still alive. Fingers crossed that they all do well! I’m still getting the hang of growing my own plants from seed. It’s not as easy as buying pre-grown plants from the market.

Do you have any tips for transplanting seedlings? What have your experiences been like?

 

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