Harden Off Seedlings. Toughen Them Up!


Avoid Transplant Shock Harden Off Seedlings!

An important step in the transplant process is to harden off seedlings to make them stronger by acclimating them to the outdoors BEFORE you stick them into an in-ground backyard garden, a raised garden, or a container.

Hardening Seedlings Outside



If you skip this hardening-off step, there is a higher likelihood that the seedlings will experience transplant shock.  The plants will not root well and they will be poorly developed.



I Think About It This Way…

I remember the number of times I moved from place to place over the years.  It was pretty stressful…leaving a familiar area…packing everything up…leaving things behind or throwing them away…trying to adjust to a new and immeasurably different environment.


It’s the Same Way For Seedlings

They are just babies, after all…and, they are even more susceptible to the stresses of a move from their comfortable indoor climate to the vastly different outdoor backyard garden environment.

Harden Off Seedlings Outside

Remember, once they are in their permanent garden home, they will have to deal with all of nature’s elements.

So, try to ease their pain and give them a chance to get used to the change, a little bit at a time, before the final transplanting.

On the first day, move them outside to a protected area, not in direct sunshine or wind, for an hour.  Next day, do it for a couple of hours…and so on.  After a 7 to 10 days, you can let them spend several nights outdoors but, make sure that the nighttime temperature will be at least in the 50 to 60 degree range.

NOTE:  During the hardening off, check your seedlings occasionally.  If they are drooping or wilting, give them some water.  If they appear stressed, move them to a more protected or shady location.

Then, your seedlings will be ready to thrive 24/7 in the great outdoors.


I Pamper My Seedlings From Birth Through Baby-hood and Beyond

They are my children.  After all that work, I want to give them the best chances for transplant survival and, ultimately, a bountiful harvest.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that!


How Tough Are They?

Three small boys were bragging about how tough there were.

The first boy said, “I’m so tough…I can wear out a pair of shoes in one week!”

The second boy said, “I’m so tough…I can wear out a pair of jeans in one day!

The third boy said, “That’s nothing!  When my parents take me to see my grandparents, I can wear them out in one hour!”


Make Those Sprouts Tough!


How much credence do you give to toughening up your seedlings before planting?  Personally, I know I would lose the majority of them if I didn’t gingerly acclimate them to the outdoors.  What are your thoughts?  Tell me in the comments below or send me an email: jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com.


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

2 thoughts on “Harden Off Seedlings. Toughen Them Up!

  1. Rina Reply

    I found this article to be very helpful to me, thank you. I love to start my plants off from seed instead of going to a plant nursery to buy seedlings. So I start the seeds off in a starter tray and the garage until they are about 6 weeks old (or until the plants are around 6 inches in height). I would then put them outside in a sheltered area for a week or so. In other words, I wouldn’t take them back into the shed overnight but now I will take your advice and do just that so to make their adjustment to the outdoors better for them.

    regards 🙂

    • Jim Reply

      As I mentioned in the article, treat your plants like your children. You would never force your kids to make an extreme change in their environment or circumstances. You would expose them to it gradually. It makes life much easier for everyone.

      Matter of fact, I like a more gradual change even for myself!


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