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Hardening off...

Posted by franknjim 5 Peoria IL (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 15:00

Since we are having weeks of unusually high temps I have been taking things outdoors to take advantage of the weather. I started sowing seeds Feb. 1st so I have quite a few things growing. I tried counting them and I stopped counting at 500. I started a few things waaaay too early but I had been constantly pinching them back to try and keep them compact.

I'll have to keep a close eye on the weather forecast just in case the temps decide to return to normal.

Anyone else in zone 5 doing the same?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hardening off...

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 17:30

I take my trays outside everyday that its at least 40F when I leave for work which typically is about half the days. Even seedlings that have just broken the surface go out. Occasionally I'll get a couple plants that die probably because I left them outside too long too soon. But since my nursery shelves and coldframes are pretty much full the small losses I forget about quickly and something else takes their place.


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RE: Hardening off...

I'm in zone 4 in minnesota and we started having summer during the last few days of winter. Upper 70's and lower 80's and now we've 'cooled down' to the 60's. I've never seen anything like it.

Since a few of my were ready to be re-potted into something bigger - I was out of light space anyway. So I transitioned them outside over a few days. I really didn't expect to have that option in March! I'm still keeping most indoors because it's a more controlled environment for these tender little guys. And, it's inevitable that reality will soon hit us with a snow storm.


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NOAH Weather says that the warm weather is here to stay through Summer. I am working on getting everything outdoors.


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RE: Hardening off...

JMO but in your zone you are really pushing your luck. I hope it holds for you.

Closely monitored hardening off is one thing but gjcore's outside at 40 degrees when gone all day is a whole other high risk ballgame. Good luck.

Dave


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RE: Hardening off.....

I'll definitely bring everything inside if the temps get close to freezing. The weather right now is too good to waste by keeping everything indoors under lights. They will grow faster and stronger outdoors. I still have all of the smallest seedlings indoors until they get a little bigger. I am here all day every day so I can watch things closely.


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RE: Hardening off...

Is there any disadvantage to bringing them out early if the weather changes and you need to bring them back in? Or would you simply need to harden them off again? This wacky weather is affecting all sorts of old seasonal habits!


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RE: Hardening off...

Is there any disadvantage to bringing them out early if the weather changes and you need to bring them back in? Or would you simply need to harden them off again?

Exactly. Rushing the whole process reflects a basic misunderstanding of what "hardening off" is and how it works.

The whole purpose of hardening off plants is to gradually adjust those that will soon be planted to what will be their permanent growing conditions and it is done 7-12 days prior to the time they can be planted permanently.

Change those conditions back and forth, back and forth altering the extremes of air temp, wind, and light exposure and they aren't being hardened off - they are just being heavily stressed. The effects of that stress will vary with plant types but summer vegetables such as pepper and tomatoes plants will not tolerate it at all.

Once plants go out for hardening, they need to stay out. If they can't stay out and be planted then it is too early for them to go out in the first place.

Dave


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RE: Hardening off

Being that store bought plants go from a green house to days in a dark truck to a new growing situation and then to another growing situation, they must be extremely stressed when you buy them and take them home. If those plants can handle being shifted to and from different growing conditions, so can others and it isn't all that big of a deal. They do sell pepper and tomato plants that have been shifted many times before you take them home from a store and they seem to grow.

If you are gauging this Spring by what happened last Spring, that really doesn't work anymore just the same as if you would have tried to compare Summer two years ago with the Summer we had last year. Even the USDA has shifted growing zones because things have changed.


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RE: Hardening off...

FranknJim are you a gardener? I don't really care about stresses of store bought plants. They're not the seedlings I've nurtured. Besides, I've seen many a store bought plant whither & die if not hardened off properly (usually that's done at the nursery before you even know it).

Hardening off in March in zone 5 is bad gardening, and no experienced gardener will tell you otherwise. I hope it works out for you. But if it doesn't you're going to have a heck of a lot of plants to replace.

Newbies: don't do it. It's not worth it.


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Re: Hardening off...

I have a very green thumb and have been growing all types of plants since I was a child. I have a large T5 lit three tired seedling cart upstairs plus 17 dual lamp shoplights set up in the basement. I have about 500 annuals that I started from seed this year in addition to the 40 pots of hosta that I brought indoors Feb. 1st. I have about 200 varieties of hosta in the ground which I know the name of every one of them in addition to a great many bulbs, perennials, ornamental trees and shrubs. My entire front yard is solid garden.

I give away plants numbered in the hundreds every year because I grow and propagate more plants than I can use. A great many "experienced" gardeners like to say that you cannot grow anything under Silver Maple trees. If I actually believed that I wouldn't have the garden that I do.

I never recommend that others try the things that I do. I start too many seeds, grow too many plants, garden in a difficult growing environment where I cannot till or amend the soil, I water extremely heavily and frequently. I always tell others that what I do isn't easy. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time.

mehearty, What I was asking in this thread was if anyone else is taking advantage of the weather. I was not telling others that they should do it. If you don't agree with my doing it, that's fine. Asking me if I am a gardener shows where your head is at. You should try doing a search for my username here on GW and you will find my photos. Something you should have done before you asked if I am a gardener.


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RE: Hardening off...

Being that store bought plants go from a green house to days in a dark truck to a new growing situation and then to another growing situation, they must be extremely stressed when you buy them and take them home.

Why do you feel that is the way commercial growers handle their plants? Perhaps in some parts of the country things are done very differently than around here but no other commercial grower I know - even the really big ones - would treat their plants that way. Even Bonnies, one of the biggest nursery distributors in the country, use local growers so their distribution of plants remains regional and local. There is no "days in a dark truck".

But hey, they are your plants to do with as you please.

Dave


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RE: Hardening off...

I must say, I visit a few different forums for gardening; and I appreciate the knowledge that I've gained on here. But, compared to most gardening forums - this one has a different vibe. Lashing out and asking someone if they are a gardener? Just because they choose to take their plants out for 65+ degree weather?.
Meahearty, I'm hardening a few plants in zone 4 in March so I guess I'm a "bad gardener". Yikes.


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I'm must be a bad gardener too, I guess. I finally put my pansies outside. Based on the continuation of La Nina, my only risk is a tornado or straight line winds this year. I planted my perennial seeds early based on the NOAA forecast of La Nina. I'm going to repot a few plants and put them outside soon too. Any other year, I would not have consided it.

I'm 170 miles south of Peoria in St. Louis. A lot closer than Maine.


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Am presently hardening off dill, parsley, fennel, cilantro, lady lavender and my newly rooted lemon verbena cuttings. So far so good and this is zone 4.


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I could use some advice about hardening off. I'm still a new gardener and this is the first time that I've really tried growing from seed. I need to get my seedlings outside in about a week and a half. The forecast looks good, maybe just a tad bit chilly but no freeze or frost risk. We will be away for a while and I need them under my automatic watering system so they have to go outside ready or not. So here's my question, do I really need to move them outside to harden them off? They are on a VERY bright windowsill. It gets direct sun all day every day. I open the window for a few hours every day. They catch a pretty steady breeze since this is also an upstairs window. What do you think?


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RE: Hardening off...?

I set mine in the shade with some early morning sun outdoors for about three days before I move them out in the open in full sun. I keep them up against the house, garage or fence to act as a shield from strong winds. Some people use a week to harden off. You have to keep an eye on them because they will dry out much faster outdoors and strong winds can get them bent over.

A very bright window sill indoors is nowhere near as bright as the direct sun that isn't going through glass. If you try to put the plants straight into full sun it will fry them. A slight breeze through a house doesn't gust up to 20-30mph.

I always rush things so that is why I only keep my plants protected for three days before I move them into the open. They usually sit around for awhile before I go planting them in the ground. Things that go into pots and baskets usually get planted first.


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I'm probably not as carefull as I need to be. I just put them in a deep shade spot for one day, then in a morning sun spot the 2nd and 3rd day; then to full sun (as long as it's not going to be a really hot, sunny windy day). They seem to do fine with this. It probably depends on what you are hardening off.


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I should have said that these are tomatoes, peppers and a few flowers but I'm not as worried about the flowers as the veggies.


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Tomatoes & peppers should not be placed outside until the temps are right. If the nights are too cold, you may set them back if they are left outside. Better to baby your warm weather veggies.

What are your over night temps like?


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RE: Hardening off.

I found a weather site that gives freeze and frost forecast maps along with other types of forecasts. This will give you an idea of what is coming your way here in the US.

It looks like Winter isn't over for a few areas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Intellicast Freeze Outlook Map


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RE: Hardening off...

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 24, 12 at 10:39

That map looks a little iffy to me, although it is without much close detail....

It appears to show approximate last frost for my location as 3-30, and we've had frost here many years on 5-1...I keep notes :) Unlike much of the rest of the country, we've been below normal temps for the last month.


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I sincerely hope you jump starters didn't get your plants zapped by the 20 degrees we had last night. Hopefully your part of the country didn't get it. As tempting as it was, our last frost date isn't for 2 more months. Sometimes I stretch it and squeak them out a but early, but not this early.


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Yea, I definately bring them in at night if they forcast anything lower than 45.


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Dear mehearty in South Maine,

No bad weather still here in STL! 82 here today! I have even put out more plants outside. My overnight temps are 60 to 55. LA Nina!


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To anyone,I have been reading these posts.I'm wondering why if you are raising all these seedlings,you don't invest in a simple coldframe.I have a greenhouse & I put a lot of hardier plants like petunias out in the coldframe,usually April 1 but started early this year.I also took a cue from my local nursery & started putting plants outside my greenhouse next to house on east side.I pay close attention to the evening news & cover anything I'm concerned about.I'm trying to hide things from the dreaded whiteflies(addressed in another post).
Peppers,of course,are very tender & I wouldn't put them out.
Coleus,which I start lots of,I keep inside all the time.If my tomatoes were transplanted,I might set them outside on these 65-85 days.They'd go into shed or coldframe at night.The wind is a big issue for me.No plants appreciate it be it a warm day or cool.
Ha,ha,ha yes I'm a gardener,50+ years.
Doris


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I can think of several reasons for me:
1) I don't want to take up that space in my yard.
2) It would have to be HUGE to be of any use.
3) I don't think it would give enough protection.
4) There's no place to put it that I would be able to get to it...by the time the snow is all melted and the ground dried enough to walk on, I'll be able to use the greenhouse.
5) I don't know what I would cover it with to keep a moose from stepping on it and breaking through it.


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RE: Hardening off...

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 29, 12 at 1:11

digdirt said "Closely monitored hardening off is one thing but gjcore's outside at 40 degrees when gone all day is a whole other high risk ballgame. Good luck."

hehe, Ok man thanks for the good luck but I don't really need it. My plants are thriving. :-)

In my climate and microclimate area where I place my seedlings it is protected from the wind and generally bright sunshine. It works for me.


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RE: Hardening off......

Instead of investing a bunch of money in a cold frame that gets used very little and wouldn't hold anywhere near the amount of seedlings that I start I would rather invest the money in more room indoors for starting and growing from seed. I spent around $500.00 this year to add 11 more shop lights and more room for growing.

Everything I started putting outdoors 10 days ago is doing great. Frost temps haven't come close to my area. I have been watching the frost/freeze forecasts closely. I still have about a half dozen flats to get moved outside. I think I have around 25-30 flats in total this year.


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Looks like NOAH missed the mark when they said warm weather was here to stay back in march. My motto has always been"don't plant anything out that you are not prepared to cover or move or lose" until May.The weather is different now.They may have changed things on the seed packets & changed some of our zones but the thing to keep in mind is to expect extremes.To me 85 in March is extreme & it might well be 25 degrees in May.So far the apple trees have been spared.I left a large petunia out as a test & it is fine. There was ice on the birdbath
Doris Iowa


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RE: Hardening off...

This is an entertaining thread to say the least.

I've moved perennials, annuals and tomatoes/zucchini/peppers/and cukes outside a few days in the shade on 70+ degree days. I always bring them in at night. They all look fine.

I was planning to put a lot of stuff out tonight/ over the weekend but the soil temp is prob too cold here. Probably wait Til next weekend or so. I have over 1000 seedlings in our sun room. They are ready to be moved and I'm ready to get them out.


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RE: Hardening off...??

I have had to move things into the garage twice. Everything is doing great and growing well.

What has been a pita is covering and uncovering about 200 leafed out hosta in the yard.


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RE: Hardening off...

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 16, 12 at 15:04

I missed this "The effects of that stress will vary with plant types but summer vegetables such as pepper and tomatoes plants will not tolerate it at all."

If my pepper plants are stressed from my system they sure don't look it. The pepper seeds were sown ~ February 15th.

Photobucket


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RE: Hardening off...

I'm going to try my hand at growing my own tomatoes from seed. A friend gave me seeds for a heirloom Iris tomato. So I am grateful for all of the info on hardening off. Now if I can just do while working full time.


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