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How to Harden Off Plants
We are SO ready for gardening season! Many of us have plants that we started from seed or purchased from local garden centers and now that the last chance of spring frost has almost passed we are ready to transplant our starts into the garden.
Not. So. Fast.
Those plants have been lovingly cared for in your sunny window sill, on your kitchen table and in the nursery greenhouse for several weeks and planting them out in your garden without hardening them off is setting yourself up for a garden catastrophe.
Transplants need a gradual introduction to the harsh garden environment. Each day you need to set them out for a short time, in the shade to start, to expose them to the dry air, wind and heat. Bring them in every night, then set them out a little longer each day. This gradual introduction to the outside world produces hormones that help that plants stand tall in the wind and withstand direct sunlight.
If you have shade cloth, a cold frame, or some other kind of season extender you can leave your plants outside a little longer.
Either way, it's important to give them good start at growing outdoors with a gradual hardening off period.
Here's a guide to a successful home vegetable gardening from MSU Extension. Good luck!
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