SANDIA SEED BLOG

Seed growing tips, recipes & more! Read all Posts »

Strengthen Seedlings Before Planting

Strengthen seedlings before planting

 

Before your seedlings graduate from indoor growing conditions to the planting bed, they need to acclimate to outdoor growing conditions. The process of transitioning seedlings from indoor conditions to the outdoor realities of wind, cold, and direct sun is called hardening off.

Tackle the hardening off process slowly, over the course of a week or two, and you will have sturdy seedlings ready to withstand whatever nature throws at them. If you rush the process, and you could scorch, damage, or even kill the young plants.

Start Slowly - Harden off fragile seedlings over the course of 6-14 days. The idea is to expose plants gradually to outdoor conditions, each day incrementally increasing the time seedlings spend outside.

Withhold water gradually over the course of hardening off. Do not allow seedlings to wilt, but also do not pamper them by keeping soil perfectly moist.

Stop fertilizing seedlings 3-4 days before you plan to start hardening off. Do not fertilize again until you plant seedlings into the garden.

Provide Protection - Initially place seedlings outdoors in a sheltered spot – protected from wind and direct sun. Each day following, expose plants to another 30-60 minutes of filtered sunlight. Work your way up to giving plants direct morning sun, followed last by noon-day sun. By the end of the hardening-off period, seedlings should be experiencing the same amount of sunlight that they will receive in the garden.

Bring seedlings inside for the first two nights. If shuffling seedlings from place to place proves too difficult, tuck them into a partly shaded spot for a few days. Great choices include a location under a tree or picnic table, a covered porch, or an area next to a building where the structure's shadow will shelter seedlings. After 3-4 days, move the seedlings to a slightly sunnier site.

Watch The Temperature - Keep tabs on predicted nighttime lows. If temperatures dip too low, move seedlings indoors or cover with a row cover, which protects plants from frost while allowing water and some sunlight to pass.

Plan to leave seedlings outside overnight by the third or fourth night. Place them near a building or beneath a table to provide some protection. By the sixth night or so, expose seedlings to night air without any protection.

Time To Plant - After seedlings experience a week or so of hardening off, you will notice stems are stockier. Tuck plants into the garden on an overcast or drizzly day when the winds are calm. Water in seedlings using a fertilizer solution diluted to half strength.

After planting, continue to protect seedlings if high winds, frost, hail, or heavy downpours threaten. Shelter plants beneath buckets, row covers or cloches. A plastic gallon jug with the bottom removed makes a good cloche for a seedling.


Seed Catalog

Find more growing tips &
tons of seeds to grow in your garden
in our Seed Catalog!