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Hardening off - /ˈhärdn-iNG ôf,äf/ - noun

April 17th, 2019

Definition: The process of gradually acclimating seedlings and plants to new and unprotected environments.

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 warmer climates, gradually removing shade and reducing watering prepares the seedlings for heat and dry conditions. In cooler climates, plants are often started indoors or in a greenhouse. As the seedling grows, gradually leaving it outdoors for extended periods of time will prepare the seedling for the fluctuating temperatures and wind gusts they will inevitably face.

In the Forest Garden: 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 removing shade for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, 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 by two to three days. The number of waterless days is progressively extended until seedlings are capable of surviving a week or more without water.