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Hilltop's Gardening Wisdom & Tips

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Hardening Off
-- or --
"Get Tough or Die!"

Many of our customers say that the plants they get from us take right off while plants that they purchase elsewhere fare poorly or die. While we pride ourselves in growing a superior plant, we know that much of the "taking off" is because we harden off our plants. It is a cruel world out there and only a toughened plant will survive.

What is considered in hardening off:

  • Sun a plant just out of a greenhouse will sunburn if not hardened off first. (Think of sitting on the beach all day after a winter in the office.)

  • Wind a plant will wilt in the wind if not hardened off; foliage can become wind burned; breakage can also occur. Do not start to harden off plants on a very windy day or a very windy location.

  • Cold a plant grown in a warm greenhouse or house will not tolerate cold as well as a plant that has gotten used to the cold slowly. (You feel cold at 45 degrees in July, but 45 degrees in January may feel warm!) Get your plants used to cooler/colder temps before planting out. A "winter hardy plant" can die in a frost if it hasn't been acclimated to cold temperatures.

Here are the steps to harden off plants:

  • Start the hardening off process on a mild day that is neither too windy nor too cold.

  • Put the plants out in the spot that they will eventually reside, but just for an hour or two; then move them into a shady and less windy spot.

  • The next day, double the time out in the sun and wind before putting them back in a sheltered spot.

  • The third day, double the time again.

  • By the 4th day they are usually tough enough to be planted in the ground.

The Good News is all plants offered in our outside sales area are already hardened off for you! They are ready to go out in your garden (provided the weather is acceptable.) However, if you take that hardened plant home and keep it in the house or garage for a week, it will lose all toughness and will have to be hardened off again. Also, any plants that you have grown in the house for the winter need to be hardened off before being planted out.

(Plants offered inside the greenhouse have not been hardened off, so you need to do that for greatest success.)

Gardening Wisdom #6, 3/21/2008 © Hilltop Farm

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