ChristinaC, I sympathize. Every year I want to start flat after flat of seed
, but I cringe at the thought of lugging the trays in and out of the basement every day. And who has time to leave them out gradually an extra half hour every day. Like I can leave for work late an extra half hour every day just to harden my seedlings
I am so lazy when it comes to hardening off, that I have been using the following method to harden my plants
, and I've had pretty good success.
Here's what I do:
1) The first day, try to bring them out when it is overcast, or later in the day.
2) Put your plants
under the protection of shade and wind. Some sort of shelter with north or east exposure is best to reduce sun exposure. I use my front entryway that faces east. The house is the west wall and the garage is the north wall. There's an overhang so it gets minimal morning sun.
3) I don't have as many plants
as you do, but the way I maximize on my space is to use storage shelfs so I can stack flats above flats.
4) Every day I move my plants
further away from my doorway. This way they get a little more sun and wind every day, and I don't have to lug them back into the basement. (Another secrete is that I have is when my seedlings
have several true leaves and are 3-4" tall, I put an oscilating fan on low several feet away from my trays. I gradually turn the fan speed up to create a stiffer wind. This beats brushing the plants
every day to prevent leggy plants
5) By the end of the week, I move the flats out from under the overhang close to the driveway. I'll leave them there for a few days.
6) Half way through the second week, I'll move them to the back of the house to my patio where they'll start to get afternoon and evening sun vs morning sun. I will keep them partially shaded again, and slowly move them into more light.
7) By the end of week two, the plants
are hardened off nicely, and I am ready to plant
8) The only time I bring them in, is when there is threat of a late frost or freeze. We had two of those this year in the Chicago suburbs.
I use the same procedure for my tropicals (plumeria, gardenia, pineapple, aloe and flowering ginger) and works well for them as well. I always seem to rush and burn my banana plant
, but it sure beats moving everything in and out every day. Hope this helps!