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Grow with KARE: Hardening off seedlings

Anyone who started their seeds indoors needs to take these important steps before planting them in the ground outside.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — If you’ve started seeds indoors this year there is a super important step to do before planting them in the ground. Skip this and your plants will suffer.

It’s called hardening off… a process of slowly acclimating your tiny seedlings to the outdoor world of strong sunshine, big swings in temperature and wind.

Start the process by setting your tray of seedlings in a location with dappled sunshine, like under a tree, on a porch. Keep them there for only an hour or two on the first day. The next day leave them a bit longer. And a bit longer the next. Avoid putting them out on extremely windy days, or pick a sheltered location.

After a few days, set them in a location with a bit more sunshine, not for the whole day, but for just a few hours.

Continue to increase the amount of sunshine and total time outdoors that your plants receive until they are out all day in the full sun. The whole process takes about 2 to 3 weeks.

Remember to bring them indoors or at least in the garage each night to protect them from frost. Cool weather plants can stay out overnight after they have been fully hardened off to stay out all day. Warm weather plants like tomatoes and peppers should come indoors every night until lows are above 50.

Hardening off strengthens your plant as is adapts from growing solely indoors to growing out in the big wide world. Avoiding the transplant shock of going straight from a protected environment to the open garden will mean healthier seedlings and more importantly, a richer harvest!

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