Hardening: The Solution to Wilting Plants

First-time growers have lots of questions about how to get started with planting. And that's great!

We prefer that you ask these questions rather than assume you already know what to do. Then, when the plant dies, you tell yourself that you don't have a "green thumb" and swear never to plant again.

We're here to help.

Did you notice the image above this post? Where the plants are "bowing" and not growing straight? That is called wilting. And you don't want that to happen to your plants. We'll get to this more below. 

Has this ever happen to you?

If you’re new to urban gardening, there’s a chance that the same thing happened to you.

What is Hardening?

Hardening is exposing your seedlings to the sun and other forces of nature in small amounts. This allows them to adapt to their surroundings.

It's like a human baby. You don't leave your baby under the sun for too long. That's why the practice in the Philippines is to take them out early morning when the heat is not to strong. You make sure they drink their milk and water. You don't wait days before feeding them.

The same goes with plants, especially seedlings. They are still babies.

The Main Benefit of Hardening

The main benefit of hardening off your plants is to make sure they adapt to their surroundings.

That's pretty much it.

They will grow healthier. And, you avoid the 3 common problems first-time growers experience (which we'll get to below).

3 Common Problems When You Don’t Harden Off Your Plants

When you don't harden off your plants, you run the risk of:

  • Wilting. This means the plant loses its rigidity. In non-technical terms, you will see your plant bowing and most of the times lanky, instead of growing straight. This can happen from both too much sun or lack of sun. 
  • Burning. You'll know because you'll see the edge of the leaves turn brown / yellow. It's as if you placed a paper on fire starting on the edge.
  • Dying. If you are not careful, your plants can die.

How to Harden Off Your Plants

There are a lot of ways to go about this, but the easiest one is to harden off the plants for a duration of at least 7 days.

But before that, there are a few things we need to clarify first:

  • The plant has to be in a pot. This can be our coconut husk pots or other pots. The key point here is that it has to be movable. 
  • Outside area means the "permanent" place you will put your plant when they're fully grown where there is sunlight and access to water. 
  • Remember that when you first sowed the seeds, you don't need the sun. You actually need moisture more. That is why we recommend storing your newly sowed seeds indoors, under your bed, or the basement if you have one.

Here's how you do it:

  • Make sure the plant has its true leaves already.
  • On day 1, move the seedling outside (garden, open area, balcony)  for one hour. After one hour, take them back inside.
  • On day 2, move the seedling to the outside area for two hours. After the two hours, take them back inside again.
  • Repeat until you reach 7 hours or a full week. If you want, do this until you reach 10 hours. That's 10 full days. 

That's pretty much it. This is a technique our farmers use in provinces harden off their plants.

Please note that I didn't include the things that you should also do to keep your plants healthy. One of which is to water them twice daily. 

Finally, this isn't a hard and fast rule. If it is scorching hot, you might want to stick to 2 hours a day for 3 straight days, before leaving them for 3 hours. The point is to introduce your plants to the elements slowly.

If you have questions about hardening, or about gardening in general, please don't hesitate to comment below.

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