It's May, our garden beds are ready and we're all anxious to start planting, but it's important to take time now to get your annual and vegetable starts as ready to plant as you are.Whether you started plants in the basement under lights or purchased starts from our greenhouse, annuals and vegetables need to be acclimated to the outdoors before you actually plant them. This process of acclimating plants to the outdoor environment 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, including night time. 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. By the fifth day, they should be spending most of the night outside, unless night time temperatures are very cold. 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 17, 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. 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 or plant late in the afternoon. This will help your plants make the transition from small container into the garden even easier.