For years I failed at hardening off seedlings. I would read in gardening books about putting seedlings out in full sun for a couple of hours everyday for two weeks. Well, this probably works well in the northeast where a lot of early garden books were written, but not in the South. Our sun is too intense for such young plants.
My other problem was that I would faithfully put seedlings outside only to promptly forget them. Guess what happened? I would go outside a few hours later to find all of my young plants dead or dying. This was very disheartening until I changed my tactics.
I solved this problem three ways.
- I put my seedlings in partial shade when I set them outside for the first few days. It’s too hot here to set them in the sun. After all, they’re baby plants with immature root systems, and they aren’t really in soil anyway.
- Potting soil is a mixture of things usually with peat moss or coir (coconut hull fiber) as the main ingredient. These two items dry out quickly so I make sure plants are watered well before I leaving them outside. You’re exposing plants to different levels of light and wind. Wind, especially Oklahoma wind, will dry out your plants faster than you say “Let’s buy more seeds.”
- I set a timer. It may sound simple, but this is the best way to remember to bring my plants back indoors. I set one on my computer or even my kitchen stove. Since the plants are in the shade, I usually leave them out longer–about four hours a day. I then bring them back inside and set them in a window.
I hope these three tips help you with hardening off your seedlings. I know they helped me. For more tips on growing vegetables and gardening in general buy The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff