The process of gradually introducing seedlings and plants to local conditions, allowing them to acclimate to the harsher sun, temperatures, and reduced water so that they can survive outplanting.
Hardening Off in the Forest Garden
Seedlings grow accustomed to the conditions of the environment in which they are grown. Hardening off seedlings is essentially easing seedlings into an environment with harsher conditions than those they’ve known since sprouting in the protected and ideal growing conditions of the nursery.
In warmer climates, gradually removing shade and reducing watering prepares the seedlings for the heat and dry conditions. In cooler climates, plants are often started indoors or in a greenhouse. The plants are gradually brought outdoors to prepare them for the fluctuating temperatures and wind gusts they will inevitably face.
Approximately one month from the start of the rainy season,Trees for the Future farmers gradually begin removing the shading materials from over their nursery beds. Initially they remove shade for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. Then after three or four days, they reduce shade by another couple of hours. After two to three weeks, the seedlings will tolerate full sunlight with minimum shock. Farmers also gradually extend the time between watering periods until seedlings are capable of surviving a week or more without water.