Hardening Off

It’s time to start hardening off the babies. At least, for those of us in the Northern Piedmont (and in the mid-Atlantic area). Yep, time to start hardening off the hardy annual vegetables that were lovingly started indoors. That include you people who took one of my “Starting The Veggy Garden from Seeds” workshops a few weeks ago.

Everything but parsley – maybe lavender and pepper (they all can take several looong weeks to germinate) – should be up now.


Continue to give basil, tomatoes, pepper, marigolds and any other warm lovers like eggplants plenty of light and warmth. Take them outside on sunny days only when the temperature is above 50F/10C (mmm… maybe even 60F/16C for eggplants). Place them in a sheltered spot, just an hour or two the first time, then more and more progressively over the course of a few days until they can be left out the entire day when it’s mild. It’s not time to plant them out yet – by a long shot – but fresh air and sunshine will do them good.

Lettuce, cutting celeri, arugula, cilantro, etc should be hardened off to be planted out soon. They like it cool, really, I promise. A day like today, cloudy, moist and above freezing is perfect to start hardening off those babies. Put the flats out during the day and bring them back in at night. Do this every day for a few days (again, if it’s sunny, just an hour or two the first day, or place the seedling trays in filtered sun – if it’s cloudy or rainy (not violently pouring rain though!) leave them out altogether – with the aim to plant them out this weekend or early next week. While the flats are basking out make sure the soil is well moist (they will dry out fast). Try to pick a cloudy or lightly rainy day to transplant, or do it at the end of the day. Water well and gently. GENTLY, I say! If any leaf gets stuck to the ground during the watering process, gently brush the seedling to straighten it up. It’s OK if there is a freeze, they can stand it once hardened off. Check on them often to provide constant moisture for a few weeks after transplanting. It’s better to water early or late in the day. Water at mid-day on a parched seedling is not good!!!!


Cabbages, kolhrabi, leaf brocoli, kale should also be given plenty of fresh outdoor time as long as the temperature is above freezing, transplanted to larger pots once they’ve got a set of true leaves and to the garden once they’ve got 4 or 6 true leaves. Feed them well too!

Same regimen with onions, except wait until they show a little heft before transplanting out. Sme say when they are thick like a pencil, but I say as soon as they are thick enough for you to handle comfortably.

Questions? Use the comment section. Happy hardening off!

2 thoughts on “Hardening Off”

  • Thanks for all the tips here. This is a relatively new venture with the seeds this year for me, and I’m trying this all in containers! I’ve just started hardening off the arugula, snap peas, spinach (the seeds from Paris germinated, yay 🙂 and radishes. The direct seeded lettuce doesn’t seem to have germinated yet … I’ll patiently wait before planting another round.

    Love your blog and all the services you offer!


  • Thanks for stopping by Barbara, and thank you for the nice words.

    Growing from seeds is a lot of fun for me and allow me a much greater varieties of plants than if I were to buy them all – not to mention a lot cheaper!

    To happy veg growing!

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