Hardening off? What's that?!
Hello kitchen gardeners,
Did you enjoy that taste of summer during the past couple of weeks? We surely did and to be honest, we could not resist to take the risk of planting our warm season crops outside. It's always hard to believe that there'd be something like frost again. But you can't be sure, it's just the end of MAY!
Statistically the last frost day has past and we don't need to worry about it anymore. But the next two or three nights are going to be cold again. It's supposed to go down to 4 degrees Celsius! If you live in a mountain area it might even get colder. Check the weather forecast for your area here: Hawkesbury, ON - 7 Day Forecast - Environment Canada (weather.gc.ca) If you planted your warm season crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, peppers and basil already outside, you don't need to panic though. Properly hardened off crops will be ok with temperatures around 4 degrees Celsius.
>> Hardening off? What's that?
This is a very important and simple technique to get your tender seedlings used to the outdoors. Most seedlings bought at a nursery or super marked are not hardened off yet. They come right out off the greenhouse and are used to these cozy protected conditions. If you'd plant them outside right away, they'll get shocked by the harsh environment. Exposed to wind, sun and temperature changes they will most likely suffer. The leaves might turn yellow or white from sunburn and windburn or wilt from too high or too low temperatures. The leaves might roll up, wrinkle and even die. Tender buds might get harmed as well. This all means a lot of stress for your plants and lowers their resistance against pests and their energy to grow and produce fruits.
So what to do? It is in fact as simple as putting your plants outside, every day a little more. Expose them to the outdoors slowly, start with 2 hrs in a rather shady place, then move them into the direct sun after two days, extend the time outside slowly over a two weeks time. By the end of the two weeks they should stay outside over night as well. Now your plants are good to go into the soil. Don't forget: you need to do that with your own homegrown seedlings as well!
So, if you did all that to your plants, you should be good. If you are still worried about their resilience, cover them with some frost protection - row covers, old blankets, empty buckets and so on. You can find more tips about frost protection in this blog post: It's cold at night for your baby plants! (mynordicgarden.ca)