The Garden Decoder: What Is the ‘Hardening Off’ Process?

Congratulations! You did it. You began with seed and raised all those little seedlings. You provided the best potting mix. You watered, not excessive, not insufficient. You provided light to grow. You provided whatever they might ever request for, and now you have trays of future Cherokee Purple tomatoes, Trinidad Moruga scorpion peppers, and Fairy Tale eggplants.

You’re delighted to take the seedlings you have actually grown adoringly from seed, and plant them in your garden.

Not so quickly.

You require to solidify them off initially.

What is ‘solidifying off’?

Above: Sweet pea seedlings at Floret Flower Farm. Photo through Floret Flower Farm, from Ask the Specialist: 7 Tips to Grow Cut Flowers in a Tiny Garden, from Floret Farm

Solidifying off is prepping the seedlings for life outdoors. Those seedlings had the life when they were inside. Their every requirement was fulfilled. They desired for absolutely nothing. (You are a fantastic plant mommy!) Today, they require to be outdoors, in the sun, the rain, the wind, and whatever else Nature can toss at them. Solidifying off is sort of like sending your kid off to college prior to they begin a life of real self-reliance. It is the shift phase to permit your seedlings to accustom to the brand-new outside life.

Why do seedlings require to be solidified off?

Basil seedlings growing in CowPots. Photograph courtesy of CowPots, from Letter of Recommendation: CowPots, My Seed-Starting Secret Weapon.
Above: Basil seedlings growing in CowPots. Photo thanks to CowPots, from Recommendation Letter: CowPots, My Seed-Starting Trump Card.

Plants grown in a regulated environment aren’t utilized to the unchecked outdoors. No matter how strong your grow lights are, they are no match for the sun, which is several times brighter than your finest grow light. There is no wind to pull on their little roots or stems. Rain originates from above and not all of it will be mild. Solidifying off permits the plants time to develop their natural defenses to make it through outdoors.

How do you do it?

Above: Historically, conservatories provided a location to solidify off seedlings on their journey from the comfortable boundaries of the greenhouse to outside planting beds. Photo by Erin Boyle, from 5 Favorites: Cold Frames to Heat Up the Garden

  • Inspect the daytime temperature level and make certain it’s above 50 degrees F.
  • Choose a cloudy day to begin. The plants require to form a cuticle layer to safeguard them from the sun. It’s a waxy finishing that imitates a sun block and limitations evaporation.
  • Since they do not yet have a cuticle layer, water them whenever you put them outside.
  • Leave them out for a couple of hours in the shade in a protected location.
  • Bring them in every night.
  • Slowly increase the time outdoors every day throughout the very first week.
  • Beginning the 2nd week, move them so they get more sun every day however still bring them in in the evening.
  • Inspect them at the end of the 2nd week. If they look strong and healthy, then they are solidified off and all set to plant.

Do all plants require to be solidified off?

No, plants that are belonging to your location are typically adjusted to the regional growing conditions and do not require to be solidified off if begun exterior. Nevertheless, considering that solidifying off is a basic procedure that does not do any damage, it’s much safer to solidify off if there’s any doubt. Solidifying off appropriately offers your plants a strong start in your garden and sets them up for a plentiful harvest.

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