A casual look at gardening in the north suburbs of Chicago and a look at our local CSA and Farmers' Market.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Acclimation or Hardening Off Your Plants
Well the past week has been wonderfully warm. We have left our plants outside each day to help them acclimate to the elements or to harden them off. Seedlings grown indoors usually need a period of time where they gradually get use to the elements of nature. The leaves will slowly develop a thicker cuticle that will help to prevent transpiration or the loss of water through a plants leaves. This period of acclimation or hardening should be done 7-10 days prior to transplant to the outside on average. Some plants will need more time to adjust so the best policy is to pay attention to what your seedlings or plants are telling you. Also when you first start to acclimating them to the outside an hour or two is more than enough. You can increase this amount by another hour or two each day. Until they are left outside all day long. If you are worried about bad weather and don't want to leave them at home by themselves outside, you can always take them to work (if your workplace is amenable to this sort of thing). However remember if it is going to get less than 50 degrees you are going to want to take them inside. Many of these plants do not do well if forced to be in weather less than 50 degrees for an extended period of time. Also remember to give your plants a drink when they need it. They will dry out faster outside and wilt faster (especially in the first few days of the hardening off schedule). If you follow these instructions that by the time you are ready to leave your plants outside (after the possible last frost date) they should be hardy and ready to survive the elements of mother nature.
Farming and the environment have been a passion of mine for along time. As a kid I would help my grandfather with his garden and I would play in the streams and forests that made up the Arkansas and Ohio backdrops of my childhood. As an adult I have focused my life on educating children about the wonders of nature and the joys of gardening. I have worked at environmental education centers as well as learning farms. For the last five years I have worked and devoted much of my free time to Prairie Crossing Charter School, whose mission is to educate the next leaders of our world about the importance of the environment and sustainable farming.