How to harden off seedlings successfully
Hardening off is the process of exposing newly grown seedlings to changing temperatures, varying levels of sunlight and wind. It helps seedlings adapt to outdoor weather conditions for healthy growth. It reduces plant stress during transplanting.
The main aim of this process is to slow plant growth. One should be careful as it can stop plant growth if carried out to an extreme.
Here are a few steps to follow to ensure the plants are not stressed.
Reduce watering frequencies and fertilising
Reduce watering frequencies and stop applying fertiliser a week before transplanting. In case there are signs of wilting sprinkle little amounts of water.
Choose a location
Choose a protected spot for warm days and increase amounts of sunlight each day. This is achieved by leaving seedlings extra hours compared to the previous day.
Place a fan near the seedlings. The fan will create movements that make seedlings wiggle and bend a little. The movement causes a rapid stem strength. This is preferable if the seedlings are to be planted in open fields.
The fan will also control damping-off by increasing airflow and circulation.
Make sure you don’t put the fan too close to the seedlings or in one spot from one direction.
According to homesteadandchill.com, you should rotate the fan around the seedbed for each plant to experience varying levels of wind.
If you can't afford a fan, you can also place the seedlings in an open field for a few hours.
When the temperatures drop, return the seedlings indoors or use row covers to offer extra security and warmth. When there is a rise in the temperature, sprinkle water to the seedlings or take them in a shade.
After transplanting, check on your plants regularly. Wilting in the first day is normal as some plants might take time to adjust even after hardening off.
In case some plant experience prolonged wilting it’s important to water them. You are also required to monitor temperatures closely for healthy growth. ?
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