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hardening off schedule for newbie

Posted by njitgrad NE NJ (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 24, 13 at 13:39

This is my first year growing from seed, and so far so good. I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan.

I have a question about hardening my seedlings. Normally I plant (my veggie flats from the local garden center) in the ground on May 15th so I need to start planning a schedule for hardening off my own grown tomatoes & cukes.

Can anyone offer a newbie some advice on this? I leave my house at 800am every day, come home for lunch between 11am-12pm, and then back home again at 530pm.

1) Is it 1 hour on the first day, 2 hours or the second day, 3 hours on the third day, etc....If so, I'll have to start on a Saturday.

2) Should be seedlings be set exclusively in the shade?

3) What if it is rainy, windy, or below a certain temp on a given day? Do I treat the next day as a do-over of the day that was missed?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

nhitgrad

I have attached to the end of this the FAQ for the seed starting forum on hardening off (easy method). But I'm going to go over what I do. I don't have the option of getting home to move plants, and wife and kids are reluctant draftees to move things. I have a porch/deck (it's like a deck, but with the roof line of the house extending half way over it) that is open to the north and west. The majority of the deck is in shade most of the day. I place the plants out in the morning in the full shade the first day. Since there is some retained heat from the house and deck, I generally leave them out from that point on -- unless there's a frost warning (note that frost can occur above 32 degrees F if atmospheric conditions are right - (clear skies and still air)). [The link I'm posting says to bring them in if it's below 45 degrees] I gradually move the plants way from the house (northward) so they will start getting some afternoon sun (I'd move them every 2-3 days). Check the soil every day for dryness (If we get an early heat wave, check twice a day). I would start this about May 1st - after two weeks I consider them hardened off and ready to plant. If I have to move them inside because of frost, I try to put them out before I leave for work -- unless it's a hard freeze, the residual head in the plants and flats will allow them to be ok until the air warms up. If it's just too cold, I'll put them out in the evening when I get home. I don't 'stop' the count. unless they have to stay in for more than 1 day.

As to planting -- it apears that you in NE Jersey are either in zone 6b or 7A (check out the clickable USDA zone map at (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#)) I'm going to assume you're in the same zone 6b as I am. I'd usually plant out on the 15th as you mentioned. I would mentioned that Rohrer's seed catalog has an excellent home garden planting chart but it's only located in their print catalog as I couldn't find it on their site. For zone 6, for tomatoes and peppers they recommend planting on the 20th (after the soil is thoroughly warmed [cukes are fine for the 15th]). Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy Hardening-Off Method FAQ


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

1) Is it 1 hour on the first day, 2 hours or the second day, 3 hours on the third day, etc....If so, I'll have to start on a Saturday.

No it is an hour out, then a couple hours in, then back out for a bit longer, then back in, etc. monitoring it all the way. Any signs of damage then stop for the day and start over the next day. Weekends is the best time

2) Should be seedlings be set exclusively in the shade? Yes for the first day at least.. What is shade to you isn't shade to them.

3) What if it is rainy, windy, or below a certain temp on a given day? Do I treat the next day as a do-over of the day that was missed?

They need to be protected from wind - set up some sort of wind block. If it is a hard rain then they don't go out. Misty showers are no problem. If it is too cold then they don't go out.

Need to understand that the process of hardening them off doesn't even start until it is close to safe planting time in the garden and it cannot be rushed. And once they are fully hardened off they need to be able to stay out so if cold or hard rains are forecast then there is no point in starting it.

Planting time is delayed for many this year due to the unusual weather so if you aren't going to be able to safely plant them out for a couple of weeks then there is no point in trying to harden them off now.

Dave


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

Wow, this is pretty involved. And I thought the process up until now has been time consuming.

How do garden centers harden off their seedlings? For some reason I can't picture them doing what was mentioned above.

There is no way I can implement what Dave recommends...I'm sure its the best way but the in and out several times a day...even on a Saturday that's not possible for me.

I was thinking about putting the flats on cinderblocks underneath my deck (east side of my house) in my backyard before I leave for work and then bringing them back in at lunch time.

This will give them a small amount of morning sun, then very little sun (if any) after that but the heat from the deck should radiate in the space under the deck keeping them warm.

After about 5 days or so I would start leaving them there until I come home from work.

After about another 5 days, could start leaving them there overnight as long as the temps are warm enough.

Does anyone not think that this is a reasonable approach?


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

Garden center plants are grown in greenhouses, not indoors, and easily hardened off since most of the adjustments happen as they are growing. They only need a few days of protection from harsh winds or hard rain which is easy to do in a GH environment.

Hardening off seedlings grown indoors is the single most important part of growing from seed. It is the one time when you can easily lose all your work and investment within a couple of hours and there are plenty of posts all over the forums here where exactly that has happened. It is also one of the main reasons why only things that can't be direct seeded should be grown indoors.

So in and out say 3 times on a Saturday and Sunday isn't possible? Then with luck by Monday they could be ready to go out in a protected area like under the deck until lunch.

If not then you will have to construct some sort of shaded protected enclosure for them and hope for the best. Folks have come up with all sorts of structures - tents made out of sheets (never plastic as it traps heat), inverted laundry baskets blocked from the wind like in the FAQ, under a north facing deck or porch with a wind screen in front of it, under low growing bushes out of the wind, using row covers, etc.

It is just one of those things we have to make time to do or risk losing it all.

Dave


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

You know, this is the first time I've ever heard the "in and out multiple times in the same day" advice. I've always seen the same thing nhitgrad did, 1 hour the first day, 2 the second, etc. Ironically, I've done the "in and out" many times, but I always thought I was cheating to speed things up. ;)

Starting the plants out under the deck -- where I assume they just get dappled sun? -- sounds like a reasonable compromise to me, especially if you're checking the extended forecast and think the weather will cooperate. Starting them out on a partly cloudy day/weekend would also give them time to adjust to UV without direct sun. While I agree with Dave that best practices are ideal, sometimes we just have to do the best we can with what we've got and see how it goes.

How about holding back a few of each plant (I always have extra seedlings "just in case") inside while you are hardening off in case something goes wrong? That way, you won't be completely out of luck in the garden if your methods don't work.


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 24, 13 at 21:13

njitgrad, don't be intimated as long as you have a system and you start slowly you'll be fine. There's more than one way to do almost everything in a garden.


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

I think it's an excellent plan!

"I was thinking about putting the flats on cinderblocks underneath my deck (east side of my house) in my backyard before I leave for work and then bringing them back in at lunch time.

This will give them a small amount of morning sun, then very little sun (if any) after that but the heat from the deck should radiate in the space under the deck keeping them warm.
"


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RE: hardening off schedule for newbie

I like all of the suggestions above. When I first start I'll separate them into groups just in case one batch gets obliterated and I need to start over.


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