Shape Up

It’s that time! The target Plants On Deck dates is approximately April 20. That’s just a little over a week away so it’s time to get the little guys in shape by hardening off the fussy tomatoes, orange cosmos (bees seem to love them), and  cucumbers. (It’s also probably past time to plant a few Swiss chard and melon seeds.  Someone should get on that.)

Anyway, hardening off is a tedious but important process that POD rarely executes perfectly. Basically, it involves setting your seedlings out in the elements to gradually become acclimated to the cruel, cruel world.

First, take a peek at the 10-day forecast. For tomatoes, we’re hoping for evening lows, from the 20th on, no lower than 50.  (Check.) For cucumbers and melons, 60 would be preferable.

Day 1-4 Because every gardener has a right to a shortcut or two, POD chooses to begin the hardening off process by opening the window an inch or two to let the fresh air and breezes in. A gentle breeze will help strengthen your seedlings’ stems.

Day 4-6 Place your seedlings outside in a sheltered, shaded area for an hour or two.

Day 6-8 Gradually increase exposure to sunshine. Don’t let them wilt!

Day 9-10 (or 14, if you’re really good and patient, which POD isn’t) Continue gradually increasing the amount of time your seedling spend outside until you feel confident enough leaving them out overnight.

Then, voila, after performing the seedling shuffle for a week or two, it’s time to transplant.

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6 thoughts on “Shape Up

  1. This is a good guide, thanks for typing it up for us! I grew up gardening in a southern climate, and I never knew about hardening plants off because it wasn’t necessary. I planted seeds outside and fought off the bugs. Imagine my shock when I moved north, started tomatoes indoors, and plunked the seedlings outside for their first day in the sun. They looked like someone had put them in the oven.

    If I had the patience, I’d test lots of common plants to see just how patient you have to be with this process. I’ve had a lot of trials and errors over the last few years, and it’s always interesting to see which plants can tae it and which can’t. Tomatoes, peas and onions burn easily, but peppers, cucumbers and beans come through the same experience just fine. Though of course it’s best to erro on the side of caution, the way you do!

    Best of luck this year!

  2. Great instructions! We have been hardening off seedlings for two weeks now (even though the Tomato Daddy is a softie and doesn’t want to risk anything to his babies) and they seem to be getting stronger.

    1. Thanks, Felicia. The open window trick does seem to be working for now, but I know I’ve got to take the real plunge soon. I feel Tomato Daddy’s pain.

    1. I hear ya. Patience isn’t the only problem: hours at home (or, more accurately, lack thereof) seem to be an issue, too. I’m hoping the open window phase can be stretched to most of the week.

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