2012-03-28 / Fields & Yields

Time to harden off tender transplants

By Peyton Sapp Burke Co. Extension Coordinator

If you’ve ever purchased pretty, flowering plants from a greenhouse, only to have those plants suffer (wilt) and/or eventually die after you’ve planted them in your garden, then those plants may not have been ”hardened off.” Hardening off plants is one of the jobs members of the Burke County Master Gardner Association have ahead of them while preparing for the annual plant sale in April.

When a plant is grown under the protection of greenhouse or inside conditions it must be slowly acclimatized, if it is to be moved successfully to the outdoors. This hardening off process normally takes place over a period of a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the plant and the weather conditions at the time. The plant that has been protected from sun, wind, and a range of temperatures will need to be toughened to withstand these conditions in your gardens.

For instance, tomato plants are sun-loving plants. But tomato plants grown exclusively under greenhouse conditions must be gradually exposed to direct sunlight. To harden off tomato plants, begin exposing them to the morning sun for a brief period in an area protected from harsh winds. Bring the plants back into a protected or shaded area, and, over the next few days, gradually increase the time the plants are exposed to the outside each day. Once the plants become acclimated to full sun during the day and the cooler night temperatures, it will be safe to plant your tomatoes in their “forever” home in your garden.

Thanks to Mrs. Suzanne Payton, Extension Master Gardner Volunteer for working on this article. To find out more about hardening off tender transplants, you can contact Mrs. Suzanne at suzannepayton@bellsouth.net. Also, don’t forget to mark your calendar for April 27th. The Burke County Master Gardner Association will be holding their annual plant sale from 3– 6 p.m. at the Southern Bank Pavilion. For more information on this or other garden related issues, contact the Burke County Extension Office at 706-554-2119.

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