It’s Time For Seedling Boot Camp
Seeds started indoors are tender little babies! They have been pampered and coddled with consistent, comfortable conditions and now need to attend baby boot camp to toughen them up for life in the great outdoors.
If you are new to starting seeds indoors, see Seed Starting 101: How to Start Plants From Seeds.
About two weeks before outdoor planting time, you should begin to ‘harden off’ your seedlings, gradually introducing them to outdoor conditions and less consistent watering.
This is necessary for all types of seedlings including veggies, annuals, perennials, and anything else you have started from seed.
During the hardening off period, pay attention to extremes in heat and cold, intensity of the sun, wind, and rain so your bambinos are not damaged from sudden or intense exposure.
TIP: This two week waiting period is a good time to prepare the soil in your outdoor beds and containers so everything is ready to go at planting time.
How To Harden Off Seedlings
1. Start introducing them to the outdoors under controlled conditions
- I place all of my seedling pots, trays, and soil blocks in plastic bins which act as mini greenhouses.
- I like bins with attached folding lids and somewhat see-through containers to let a bit of light in.
- To get started, each morning the bins are placed on the covered patio for a few hours.
This will be the first exposure to indirect sun (as opposed to indoor growing lights) and cooler air temperatures.
2. Gradually increase exposure to heat and cold, sunshine, wind, and rain
- Day by day, I increase the outdoor time and how much sun and wind they receive. I water them as needed, but perhaps not as consistently as I did indoors. This is real life, seedlings!
- The first few days I bring the bins back indoors at night.
- After that, I leave them outdoors all the time, closing the lids if temperatures dip near freezing.
- If frost is expected, they’ll come back indoors and stay in the coolest part of the house (the basement) overnight. The next morning, out they go again!
- If the weather goes according to plan, after two weeks, the seedlings will be stronger, with thicker stems, ready for planting in the garden beds.
3. Plant seedlings outdoors
Outdoor planting time is not only determined by when your seedlings are strong enough, but by the signs and signals outdoors indicating that risk of frost has passed and the soil has warmed sufficiently. Let nature be your guide.
And good luck to those baby seedlings. With the right beginning and good soil, sun, and water, they should do just fine. #proudmama
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