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Hardening Off - Getting Ready For the Real World - Paul Betz

Hardening transplantsAn important step in producing transplants is the “hardening off” process. Taking plants from the greenhouse to the garden is too much stress for most plants, and they are likely to die or be damaged from the shock. The greenhouse is a pretty easy place to live; no real wind, even temperatures, and someone to water you when you get thirsty. Think of the garden as the real world. The plants have never been on their own before.

The process of hardening off can be as simple as putting the plants outside in a protected spot during the day and then bringing them back in at night. Try to keep them out of any strong winds, long periods of intense sunlight, and watch their water. Too much will keep them from having the practice of being dry every now and then, but they will be loosing more water to transpiration now that they are outside.


We used to have a set of bows that came off the side of our greenhouse that we used as a cold frame. It had its own plastic that we could roll down at night.  It was a great system; when it was cold; we could roll up the wall of the greenhouse and get some heat in to protect the plants. We did outgrow that system though, so now we have a separate greenhouse that is unheated that we use instead. We roll the sides up really high, and only cover the plants at night or during a really hard rain. If the temperatures are going to be below 35°F, I use a heater to keep out the chill.


Expect the plants to look a little wilted for the first day or two during the “hardening off” process. They should come back after a few days. It is ok to talk to them and tell them what is going on. They will appreciate the kind words, and will come to understand that you have their best interest in mind.


Take Good Care, Paul


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