How do I begin to harden off my little seedlings?

provogirlApril 22, 2010

Does anywone know the correct way to harden off seedlings? I have never done this and want to do it right so I don't ruin all my hard work thus far.

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

For the next few days put them outside during the day from about mid-morning to late afternoonÂkeep them out of really hot sun the first few days, tho that should be easy for the next few days! Bring them back in overnite and stick them in a cold garage or the coldest place you have where you can put themÂeven a shed would work.

With the weather weÂre expecting thru about the weekend, keep doing that until the beginning of next week. Then, when the overnite temp is supposed to be at least 40, leave them outside all nite, maybe in a more protected place, against a wall or something at first.

After that just keep leaving them out overniteÂunless we get some drastic drop in temps, or a SNOW STORM. Keep them in as much sun as possible during the day (after getting them used to direct sun gradually), and in a place where theyÂll be safe from really strong winds or heavy rain or other extreme conditions overnite.

ItÂs just a matter of getting them used to the colder tempsÂand the direct sunÂgradually. (Assuming theyÂve been behind glass, BTW, the glass filters out the UV rays, which is why you need to acclimate them gradually to direct sun.)

And remember, some areas of Denver got BAD hail today, and weÂre getting into that season, so be sure theyÂre protected if we could get hailÂespecially if you wonÂt be there to quickly grab them to bring them in or onto a covered porch/deck. If they get hailed on, all your hard work is up in smokeÂI mean, down in hail!

Skybird

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:02AM
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Dan Staley

The next couple of cloudy days will work well for you, but in the mid-afternoon when the wind picks up, you'll need to watch and ensure they don't get hammered. Expect the wind to come up and hammer your little guys. I use the coldframe to protect from wind or a big box if the coldframe is full. I second the UV problem, esp at this altitude. Tough to harden off around here without wind protection, IME. You must watch if not in a box.

Dan

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 10:34AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Yes, just show some attention to the little critters, ProvoGirl.

You aren't sending them off to the big wide world right off. That comes when they are set out in the open garden. I think of the 1st couple of days as kindergarden.

They race thru life fairly quickly so kindergarden lasts only a few days. Baby, baby, baby the little guys but make them sit quietly and close together. Pay special attention to their water needs as exposure increases requirements. They seem to do just fine in filtered shade for a few hours each day. Then they are on to elementary school and actually becoming accustomed to the elements.

The curricula becomes more vigorous during secondary school. Don't allow them to languish on the side lines. Keeping a close eye on them is still important but they are growing up.

DW says, "Let them stay out at night!" Nope, not this Dad. It won't do them a bit of good, tender things that they are sitting around in tiny containers, pretending to live the fast life. I mean, what do they know?

Undergraduate work is the ticket for admission into a field. It is time for them to prove themselves. However, there's no point in carrying them this far and losing them.

Now, it is time for entering the chosen field. Groundwork with easily available nutrients and water really helps guarantee success. Companionship is important, they need to feel that they aren't alone out there. And, you MAY still need to get an umbrella over them during those first few important days. (I use newspaper gathered in half-teepees and held down with rocks ;o).

Steve

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 11:39AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Love your analogy, Digit! After all, an education is good for everyone -- uh -- I mean, everything!

:-)
Skybird

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:00PM
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Dan Staley

That's a fun way to remember Steve.

We have an Austrian pine with the dappled shade that I like if the wind isn't blowing.. Otherwise I also like the black poly hoops and lightweight row cover if I don't have the coldframe - you get some wind but not all of it and most of the light.

Dan

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:05PM
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provogirl

Thanks for all the advice everyone! I will put them on a covered porch for now and will definately be keeping my eye on the weather. We did get some marble sized hail yesterday and some heavy rain today so I will be watching. I will keep you all posted on the process, hopefully all goes well.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:56PM
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provogirl

Thanks for all the advice everyone! I will put them on a covered porch for now and will definately be keeping my eye on the weather. We did get some marble sized hail yesterday and some heavy rain today so I will be watching. I will keep you all posted on the process, hopefully all goes well.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 2:00PM
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david52 Zone 6

This year I goofed up a bit on my tomato seedlings and had them all nicely set in their domed tray with a heating mat, and after 4 days, no sign of germination. Which was when I realized I'd plugged in the wrong mat. So I plugged in the right mat, and they sprouted in two days. They were busy horizontalizing towards the light, and I took them outside into half a day direct sun, up against the building, to let the rest sprout. They loved it. It's sheltered from the wind but they get buffeted around a bit, and maybe 8 hours of sun. But they're all nice and vertical now, and reasonably sturdy.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 3:56PM
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