If you’ve resisted the urge to put your plants in the ground, good for you! The weekend for planting is upon us but I know with the warm weather we’ve been having, there has been temptation to buy and plant early.
Even with the long weekend just around the corner, there are still some things you need to do before you leave your seedlings outdoors for good.
The process of hardening off is fairly simple and we’ll get to that in a minute. The reason behind it, though, is something you should understand so here goes.
From the time your plants were seeds, they were incubated and nurtured in the comforts of a greenhouse. The air was warm, there was water all the time, and there was no wind to speak of. The conditions were, one could say, perfect. That is, perfect until that little seedling must venture forth into the unpredictably harsh reality of the real world. Sort of like kids…
Hardening off prepares your plants for survival. The 5 day process builds stem, leaf, and root strength, allowing your plant to handle almost anything nature can throw at it.
You may have had your plants home for a while, bringing them indoors overnight or leaving them out of the elements in some other way. The hardening off process exposes them to the elements slowly so as not to overwhelm them.
There are many places you can go online to find this process but I have found that most of them assume either you don’t work/work from home or can rush home to move your plants around the yard throughout the day.
For those who spend their days away from home, here’s a simple guide.
Day 1: Early in the morning, water your plant well and leave in a shady spot for the day. Bring the plant indoors for the evening and overnight.
Day 2: If your plant dried out the after the first day, water it well again and place outdoors where it will receive morning sun but afternoon shade. Bring indoors for the evening and overnight.
Day 3: Water well. Place your plant in a spot where it will get some morning sun and a little bit of wind. Leave out overnight if the temperatures are going to be above 10°C.
Day 4: Water well and place in a spot where it will get the sun the plant tag calls for (part-sun/full sun, etc). Your plant will wilt but don’t panic and avoid the temptation to water. Leave out overnight.
Day 5: Water well in the early morning and let the water soak throughout the container. With wet soil, your plant is now ready to be transplanted to the garden.
Once planted, water deeply to encourage downward root growth. If you constantly provide only a small amount of water, your plants will search no further than they need to for a drink. This can be dangerous when the hot, dry month summer months roll around. Deep roots create drought tolerant plants.
Prepare your plants for the Canadian summer with a little prep work. It may delay your planting by a day or two but you (and your plants) will be glad you waited.