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hardening off (sort of)

Posted by leira 6 MA (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 7, 12 at 13:19

Living in New England, I start many things indoors under lights.

Nonetheless, I subscribe to the idea that seedlings should spend time outdoors as early and as often as is reasonable -- even if the plant-out date is fairly far off. Volatile New England weather means that we could have a day in the 50s, 60s, or even 70s at almost any time, and real sunshine and fresh air seem like an obviously better choice than my grow light setup, whenever practical.

My question, though is this. What "brief trip outdoors" temperatures are reasonable, or even preferable, for pepper seedlings? I know that peppers might prefer temperatures that are 70F or hotter, but I'm sure they would also prefer real sunlight, and a bit of wind will make them strong.

So...where does the balance tip? Right now it's 61F outside, and tomorrow is predicted to be 65F (and it wouldn't surprise me if it got closer to 70F in the afternoon). Should the seedlings stay inside under grow lights and on top of a heat mat, or should they spend a couple of hours (or even all day) outdoors?

In case it changes your answer for these specific seedlings, rather than seedlings in general, they're about 10 days from planting, and don't yet have their true leaves.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: hardening off (sort of)

Not really sure where the break point is, but, I think you're in the ballpark. If the temps are in the 60's, as long as they are protected from strong winds and you don't overdo it with too much direct sunlight, go for it. If the temps are low 50's, I'm not sure if it's worth it.

RE: hardening off (sort of)

Well, being the impatient sort that I am, I put them out for a couple of hours this afternoon. When I brought them in, some of them had fallen over. I put them back on their heat mat, under the lights, and sprayed them with a bit of water. When I returned from dinner, they had all perked up again.

Over all, I suspect it was for the best. They'll probably end up stockier for it.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is predicted to be even warmer...

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