How to Harden Off Indoor Plants to Prepare Them for the Outdoors

May 03, 2011 | 4:05 pm

Seven years ago we bought our first home! In those seven years, we completely destroyed the carpet in the living room. It has had every conceivable substance spilled on it (let your imagination go wild)! We decided it was time to replace the gross, embarrassing, worn-out carpet with new hard wood floors. Floors that I can easily sanitize to remove all disgusting substances my girls, the dog, and dare I say, husband manage to spill.

For one week, our living quarters were transformed into a construction zone. We moved all of the living room furniture into our little dining area. To make room, we moved a few items out of the dining area, including my four tiered plant stand/greenhouse. The weather had improved and I thought the deck was a suitable short term place for the plant stand, which included the flat of vegetables we had started from seed.

Well, I was WRONG!!! On the third day of our remodel, the wind picked-up and the plant stand fell apart, piece by piece! I walked on the deck to find my precious seedlings scattered all about. My two-year old came out and said, “Oh, no Mommy!” (I had a few other choice words of frustration.) We played the “pick up” game and put the plants back into the tray. A few seedlings had broken stems and consequently ended up in the compost pile.

Our trusty contractor installed beautiful hardwood floors in less than four days and I was able to move the plant stand back inside. However, the seedlings did not assume their sheltered, pampered life with weekly fertilizer feedings on the plant stand. Unintentionally, I had started the hardening off process.

Hardening off is a gardening term used to describe the process of preparing your plants for the outdoor elements. When you start seeds inside, they are protected from wind and temperature fluctuations. The leaves and stems are soft and vulnerable. If plants are not toughened up, they go into transplant shock and quit growing for a couple of days or more.

To prevent transplant shock and prepare seedlings for transplanting in the garden, place them in a location protected by the wind and full sunlight for a couple of days. I put them near the side of my house during the day and brought them in at night. Once I have done this for a couple of days they have hardened off and are ready to be planted in the garden.

While I’m waiting for my veggies to harden off, I am spending my time admiring my clean, sanitized hard wood floors!