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Hardening Your Plants
The season is approaching to start thinking about starting your own vegetable or flower plants. As you start the seeds indoors and they begin to grow, it does not take long before they need to go outdoors. The idea of sticking the seedlings right into the ground when the weather warms is tempting, but not what you should do. You need to harden them off first, before you plant them outdoors in the garden. By doing a few things while they are in the comfort of your home you will lesson the shock they experience while making the transition to outdoor living..
Run Your Hand Over The Plantís Tops
While the plants are growing indoors, run your hand over their tops. By doing this several times a day will help the stems to become strong. You can also use a stick or a piece of paper. Some people place an oscillating fan in the room. Without blowing directly on the plants, this will simulate air currents that helps the plants grow strong.
Young seedlings need some fertilizer in order to grow. Pick one that has phosphorous and potassium. These two ingredients help the cell walls to thicken and become strong. Be sure to read and follow the label directions for proper dosage and the frequency they need. Too much can burn the plants and kill them.
Set The Plants Outdoors
Another way to help harden the plants off is to take them outside for an hour every day. Do this for one week, when the weather turns warmer and is not freezing. Place them on a covered porch, or in the shade of a big tree for some protection. For the second week, leave the plants out for several hours. Continue increasing the time outdoors until it is time to plant them in the ground.
Water the seedlings before you transplant them into the garden with a solution of 2 ounces of baking soda dissolved in 1 gallon of water. This will stop the plants from growing temporarily, while at the same time increase the plantís strength.
One week before transplanting in the garden, stop feeding them and cut back on the water. This will help them to adapt better, when the weather turns dry.
When you do plant them outdoors, make sure the soil and air temperatures are warm. My mother used to make a little home for them. She would save old milk jugs. By cutting the bottom from each one, she would stick this into the ground over the plants. When the sun was shining, it would heat the air up inside the little milk jug home, like a hot house. This gives them a big head start on the season. By helping your plants now, before they go outdoors, you will be ahead of the growing season.
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