Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Get them ready for the real world

It’s important to take your time when it comes to moving your new seedlings to the great outdoors. This applies whether you grew your own vegetables and flowers from seed or bought them from a greenhouse. Moving your plants from the house or greenhouse directly into the garden without giving them time to adjust will mean you'll lose most, if not all of them.  At the very least, you’ll set the plants back weeks due to transplant shock. This slow transition from indoors to the outside is called “hardening off”. Hardening off plants gradually exposes them to outdoor light, wind and temperatures. The process is easy, but it takes time. In fact, you should plan on a week or so to get your immature plants ready to transplant into the garden. 
On the first day, pick a sheltered, shady spot under a tree or on the patio and leave them there for 3 or 4 hours. Bring them in that night. The second day, leave them out 5 or 6 hours, the third day 6 or 7 hours.
On the fourth day, set your plants in a place where they will receive morning sun. Morning sun is not as harsh as afternoon sun. This will help your plants adjust to direct sunlight. Gradually increase sunlight exposure over the next few days. After 7 or 8 days, your plants should be ready for the outdoors. Even then, you'll want to keep an eye on the forecast. The average last day of frost is May 10, but this can vary greatly. Be prepared to bring your plants back in if the night time temperatures fall.
Products like Wall-O’-Water will protect your plants into the low 30°’s. N-sulate is a frost blanket that will help protect your plants at night.
If plants are small enough, throw a box or bucket over them to keep the frost off. Make sure you keep your plants watered during this hardening off process. Being outside means they will dry out faster, so keep an eye on the watering. Finally, when you’re ready to plant, pick a cloudy day. This will help your plants make the transition from container to the garden even easier.

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