This week I began what is, in my opinion, the most bothersome, or maybe inconvenient, part of gardening: hardening off seedlings. It’s not difficult, just a bit of a hassle, but of course, necessary to ensure the strongest, healthiest plants.
The process of hardening off the young plants involves shuffling trays of seedlings in and out of the growing space to slowly acclimate to the weather outside. You do not want to shock your small plants, so you must do this slowly, over the course of a week or so.
The easiest way I have found to slowly acclimate seedlings is to take the plants outside for one hour the first day, two hours the second day, three hours the third day and so on, for a total of seven hours/days. If I miss a day because of bad weather or a busy schedule, I just start again where I left off, adding a single hour every day.
It is important not to put the plants in direct sunlight until the end of the seven days, because the tender leaves will burn. I put my plants on our back deck in the shade of our house for the first few days, and later in week of hardening off, I move them under a large tree, so they get dappled sunlight and shade.
At the end of the week, I plant the seedlings into their permanent place in the garden, which is a delightful part of gardening, full of anticipation and happy baby plants!