Bringing Your Seedlings Outdoors
How to harden off your seedlings.
Your indoor seedlings will suffer a major setback if placed directly into the garden. Scorched plants will turn white or brown. Any that are not directly killed, will definitely suffer and growth will be stunted. Cool nights and high winds can also affect your delicate shoots.
A week to ten days before your planting time (when all danger of frost is past) you will need to start hardening off your seedlings. Start by taking them outdoors in a shady, sheltered area for a few hours. Bring indoors at night. Each day increase their exposure to sunlight. It takes about a week for them to be tough enough to withstand full days of sunshine. During this time they can stay outdoors overnight if there is no danger of frost. This all seems like a lot of work – and it is if you have lots of seed flats – but without this hardening off process, all your hard work indoors will be for nothing. Do not fertilize and just water enough to prevent wilting at this time. This will make your plants tougher.
While your plants are hardening off it’s a good time to check and clean your planters. To get rid of last year’s soil borne diseases, thoroughly wash you planters in 4% bleach and water solution. Make sure they are well rinsed. You may find that some of your clay planters have broken or chipped during the winter. This would be a good time to replace them with the new lightweight UV protected planters that mimic the look of terra cotta or choose a planter from one of our container gardening items.
You can transplant your seedlings early into planters that you can move in and out of the sun.
When it is time to plant into the garden or containers, try to pick a cloudy day to reduce plant stress. Make sure soil is damp (not soggy). Carefully remove plants from their containers by gently working the container while holding plant at the base. Do not pull on leaves or top of stem. Get as much dirt with the roots as you can. Set in the transplant hole, fill with dirt and tamp down gently. Water and lightly fertilize to get them off to a good start.
By Joan Adam