Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hardening Off

It's that time of year- we've reached out last frost date, and in fact we had a light frost last night. The forecast is looking good for the next week, so it's time to start digging! In preparation for this, of course, we have to transition the indoor plants to the harsh outdoor life. So we start stepwise, hardening off gradually to build their tollerance to the outdoor climate.

Well to catch up first, I went out of town last week, and when I came home, I discovered that my tomatoes had all grown about 2 inches in 5 days as their leaves became larger and they crowded each other and competed for light. They were so leggy, and viney, and had lost their crucial support system. Thus transplantation was necessary to salvage the vines. If I had been smart, I would have transplanted them 2-3 weeks ago before they started getting big. So we start with the tangled mess:
And the containers to which they were to be transplanted:
Add a little dirt, and voila- they look a little better. . .
Then the hardening off. First, for just an hour or two on a calm day with temperatures similar to those indoors. I placed them in the shade under the big tree in the back yard so as not to sunburn them:Their first day of hardening off went very well. I think the grow light set up with the fan (and not being babied in the greenhouse up until now) really helped, as they stood up to the slight temperature change, wind, and sun a lot better. Then I slowly progress them to harsher and harsher climates- here is a day or two later, temperature outside about 60 degrees, but warm and filtered sun on the deck (they stayed out for 8 hours by the end of the week):
Today I have them out in full sun in the garden beds, light breeze, 70, and sunny. They will stay out for most of the day, unless they start to wilt or get sunburned.

I plan to go to the garden store today and buy some snapdragons to replace my two failed attempts. Then tomorrow is the big day for planting seeds and transplanting some of the plants (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants will probably wait a few days longer as they like warmer weather and require a little more babying with the hardening off). So far so good! Cheers!

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