Saturday, I set my lettuces and cabbage seedlings outside on the deck to harden off. Out of enthusiasm, I didn’t bother to look up any how-to articles. Or maybe I thought I knew how this should go.
But if I had researched the hardening off process, I would have known that “…Initially, you will put plants outdoors only for short periods of time, perhaps for a couple of hours.”
The rationale? Seedlings started indoors are spoiled, delicate creatures. The harsh conditions out-of-doors may do them in.
Uh oh. Beginning day one, I left mine outside all day.
Lucky for me, Saturday was a bit cloudy since I also didn’t know that “…You’ll want to set them in a semi-shaded area of the yard. Gradually, you will increase the time plants are kept outdoors; you also will gradually increase their exposure to sun.”
Really? They’ve been outdoors for three days straight and at least eight hours a day.
I’m blaming the sudden change in weather for trying to rush the process. Today the thermometer on the deck reads 79.8 (that’s Fahrenheit). My worry is that the weather turned too warm for cool weather crops. I have to remind myself that in March we can still get more snow, much less more frost.
Reading on, I discovered a third important how-to, which is “…As part of acclimating the plants to the outdoors, you also will cut back on watering. This will allow plants to toughen and will prepare them for being transplanted.”
Oops. I watered my seedlings every other day, as usual.
Despite my errors of laziness and ignorance, my plants have thickened and grown. They don’t seem as leggy as they did under fluorescents. A couple of pots that hadn’t germinated now have.
I plan to transplant them to the garden on Sunday. That will give them a full six days of hardening off. Maybe it will be cloudy so that they won’t wilt in a day of full sun. And hopefully, we won’t have freezing temps before they have a chance to fully acclimate to the out-of-doors.
Need more information about hardening off? Look for Hardening Off Isn’t Hard from the University of Colorado, quoted in this Blog, and Hardening Off Transplants, from the University of Nebraska.