Wednesday, May 6, 2009

hardening off the seedlings

Happy seedlings enjoy a short trip to the balcony. After about a week they'll be ready for the garden.

It's finally time to start planting all our wonderful tomato, pepper, and herb plants out in the garden! It's very exciting and I can't wait to get all the little guys and girls out in the dirt where the belong. Since February they have been nurtured, cared for and loved. Now it's time for them to grow up and venture out into the big, sunny, and nutrient filled garden plot. However, there is one last step required before the little plants are ready for the big life. The process is called "hardening off" and it will greatly improve the plants chances for successful growth outdoors.

For 7-10 days before planting your seedlings out in the garden you should start setting plants out during the day and bringing them in at night. Set the plants outside for most of the day in order to transition them into living under harsher conditions than the cozy countertop or windowsill they enjoyed indoors.

Start by placing them out in a semi-shady area for the first couple days; somewhere that gets a few hours of full sunlight, but not an entire day. After a few days, start positioning the plants where they'll get more and more sun. If there is a hard rain or a particularly windy day make sure to keep the plants indoors.

Near the end of the week they should be able to comfortably sit under full sun for the whole day. Make sure they stay well watered during this process. If after a week the plants are not showing any signs of stress, you're ready to plant them out in the garden.

Some ways in which you can start the "hardening off" process are as follows:
  • as soon as your seedlings start to present themselves begin the practice of "petting." Gently, sweep your hands across the tops of the plants, or agitate them a bit by shaking their containers. In this way you'll promote stronger stem growth.
  • a few weeks into the seedling growth process set a fan to low and allow to it blow on the seedlings a few hours a day.
  • on nice days keep windows open in the room the seedlings are living in order to promote air circulation (make sure the temperature is warm enough first!).
Unfortunately for Tom and I, our balcony never really gets full sun for more than half the day. However, even this much is enough to improve the success of our seedlings in the garden.

By this weekend these guys will be ready to go! Check out some more pics of our seedlings enjoying the balcony and getting a taste for the outdoors:


  1. They look pretty tough. I wouldn't mess with any of those if I saw them on the street.

  2. It will take the plant five days to high-five you!