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Saturday, May 2, 2020

How To Harden Off Seedlings

Getting your seedlings to a healthy state and ready for the great outdoors can be a challenge in itself.

They've been loved and pampered indoors, probably under fluorescent grow lights with pretty consistent temperatures.  So there's no doubt that it can be a big shock for them when they are moved to the variable and sometimes harsh elements outside. 

In order not to lose those precious seedlings to the weather, you need to harden the seedlings off. 


Hardening off “ is the process of SLOWLY changing the seedlings' environment so as not to send the seedlings into shock which can cause them to become weaker and susceptible to problems later, and may even kill them.

When to harden off seedlings?

Start the process of hardening off your seedlings a couple weeks before you anticipate planting the seedlings out into your garden. The timing of that depends on your location and the type of plant.

Generally, vegetables are categorized as hardy, half-hardy and tender. Here is a guideline to help you figure out your timing based on the zone you're in.

Hardy Vegetables

Recommended Minimum Growing Temperature is 40 degrees.

This category includes Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Cabbage, Onions, Leeks and Parsley.

Half-Hardy Vegetables

Recommended Minimum Growing Temperature is 45 to 50 degrees. 

This category includes Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Lettuce, and Endive.

Tender Vegetables

Recommended Growing Minimum Temperatures as follows:

Squash, Pumpkins and Sweet Corn – 50 degrees.

Cucumbers and Muskmelons – 60 degrees.

Basil, Tomatoes, Peppers – 65 degrees

Seedling in the sun on a table

How to harden off seedlings

There are three important things to consider.

The sun

The most treacherous element for young seedlings is too much sun. The sun is much more powerful than any fluorescent light that the seedlings have been growing under, so limiting the seedlings' exposure to the sun's rays is of paramount importance.

The wind

As the stems of your homegrown seedlings may not yet be very sturdy, protection from strong winds is also important. Any sheltered area that will receive dappled sunlight is perfect to start with.

The temperature

A sudden shift in temperature, especially night-time temperatures, can be deadly to the seedlings at this stage.

Now for the Specifics

After 15 years of growing seedlings indoors successfully, here is my yearly process for hardening them off.

Two weeks before I want the seedlings to go into the ground, I will start to harden off my seedlings.

Note:  Once the hardening off process begins, those seedlings need not go back under any fluorescent lights.

Week One

Days one, two and three.

The seedlings go outside two to three hours each day in the dappled late morning sunlight. I use an inside corner of my deck and let the sunshine through the wooden slats. 

The deck corner also shields the seedlings from any strong winds. After sunning, the seedlings go back in the house right inside the door for the rest of the day.

Days four, five, six and seven.

I expand the hours of dappled sun to four to five hours per day. After that, back into the house, they go. Their sunning time now reaches a bit into the afternoon.

Week Two

The seedlings are stronger now, so I move them onto a table on the deck for some full sun, starting with two to three hours a day and adding an hour a day through the week. 

Instead of taking them into the house now after their trip in the direct sun, they go back to the corner with the dappled sun for the rest of the day. I keep an eye on them for any leaf wilting or sun-scald. The seedlings will tell you if they're not happy.

Weather permitting, they stay outside at night now but err on the side of safety. If in doubt, bring them back in for the night. I've been known to forget once or twice during the two-week period, and find that the seedlings are always stronger than I think they are. But why take the chance?

By the end of week two, they're pretty much outdoors day and night, and should be looking happy and healthy!

A few side notes

  • Begin to cut down on the water now while the seedlings are hardening off, but don't let them wilt. You don't want to baby them too much. 
  • No fertilizer during the hardening off process.

Planting a seedling

Time to plant out

At this point, a light fertilizer is recommended to give the seedlings-turned-plants an extra boost. Water as needed, especially if they look a bit wilted.  Do Not Overwater.  This has killed more seedlings and plants than lack of water.

It is still important to keep an eye on the weather forecast, especially the night temps. If a late frost or cold threatens, a nighttime covering may still be necessary. A milk jug with the bottom cut off, staked into the ground with a thick stick can do the trick to warm the plant on a colder night. Keep an eye on the plants for any sun scald, and give them a bit of a shady respite if necessary.  

A piece of cardboard folded in half and tented over the plant can shield the plant from too much sun.  In the event something heavier is needed, sturdy sticks around the plant can hold up a thicker blanket for the night.

That's it!

Hardening off seedlings can be rather labor intensive, but it's only for a few weeks, and I find it's a small price to pay for healthy, productive veggies through the season!


Where to go next!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Use of Epsom Salt on Hostas

Hostas continue to be one of the most popular perennials in shady and party shady gardens. It's no wonder. Hostas are easy to grow and care for, they don't require a lot of special attention and they come in a vast array of sizes, shapes and great leaf colors.

Since the real beauty of hostas lies in those gorgeous colorful leaves, it is only natural to seek out an organic soil amendment that will enhance leaf color and help the plant grow bushier and healthier. That's where Epsom Salt comes in.

The idea of using Epsom Salt in the garden is not a new concept.  It's been around for generations because it works.

So what are the advantages of using Epsom Salt in your hosta garden?

Well, the main ingredient in Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate which is an important soil additive for healthy plant life. It allows plants to take in nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen and assists in the creation of chlorophyll which is used by the plant to convert sunlight into food.

The benefits of Epsom Salt on plants are many including that it’s organic, it’s gentle on plants and it’s inexpensive! 

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Here are some specific ways Epsom Salt helps with plants in general.

  • Improves flower blooming.
  • Enhances a plant’s green color.
  • Helps plants grow bushier.
  • Greatly improves a plant’s ability to produce fruit and flowers.
  • It’s safe, and there is little danger of problems from overuse.
  • It doesn’t build up in the soil and it won't have buildup that will clog the root cells of your plants. In fact, Epsom salt can be used for potted plants that have developed a salt accumulation.

Another big advantage of Epsom Salt is its versatility in the way it can be used. You can sprinkle Epsom Salt over a large garden area, you can use it to circle around plants or you can add a solution of Epsom Salt to a garden sprayer.  Click on "garden sprayer" right above.  This is the one I use.  It's a half gallon, it's easy to hold and sprays beautifully.

How to Use Epsom Salt on Hostas

  • For potted hostas, mix two tablespoons of Epsom Salt in one gallon of water.  Water the potted hostas once a month with this mixture.
  • With the same solution, you can use a sprayer to spray the mixture directly on the leaves to keep them lush and healthy,
  • A few tablespoons of Epsom Salt around your ground hostas in the spring will give them a great early boost.

On a New Hosta Garden Area

If you're starting a brand new hosta bed, sprinkle up to one cup per 100 square feet and work it into the soil.

gardener planting a seedling

To Help with Transplant Shock

Did you know that using Epsom Salt can reduce transplant shock? Plants can become weak and wither right after transplanting, and Epsom Salt can help reduce that transplant shock to the plant roots. The solution to use for this is one cup of Epsom Salt per 100 square feet. 

Slug Control

Hostas are known for their ease of care, but they do face one problem: Slugs! Damage from slugs appears as multiple holes chewed through the hosta leaves. The most damage will be done to varieties with thinner leaves or hostas that are variegated.

To fight this problem, apply a narrow band of Epsom Salt in a circle around the hosta. Since Epsom Salt is a scratchy substance, it will pierce the skin of any slimy creature when it crosses over it.

Epsom Salt is also effective for combating beetles and other garden pests. A solution of one cup of Epsom Salt per five gallons of water is a great deterrent to them.


Add the use of Epsom Salt to your hosta care regiment this season. Your hostas will thank you with their continued beauty and health!

Want to try using Epsom Salt?  Click here.


Where to go next!


This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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