|Photo by Judy Sedbrook, CSU|
Most of us are in Colorado because we love the sunny days but the cloudy, overcast weather in our current forecast is really a gift for gardeners at this time of year because it's the perfect time for hardening off. This is the process of acclimating your seedlings to the outdoors - an important step in gardening success.
You spent hours looking at seed catalogues and carefully selecting the vegetable varieties you wanted to grow. You've babied your seedlings with the best possible care and now they are beautiful! Please don't skip hardening off!
On a mild day, begin by setting your seedlings outside in a sheltered location for two or three hours. Over the next week, gradually increase the time the seedlings are outside and move them out of the sheltered location to increase their exposure to sun and wind. Start to cut back on watering. Biological reactions will gradually occur and your tender seedlings will become better equipped to respond to their new environmental cues and growing conditions. Generally, this process takes a week to ten days, depending on how protected they have been compared to their new growing conditions.
Remember to watch the forecast for falling temperatures - in Colorado, we are not out of the woods yet as far as cold temperatures go. So be prepared to protect your seedlings appropriately. Even after they are in the ground, there may be some weather that calls for some thing like floating row covers as frost protection. Here's more information: http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/4dmg/Garden/harden.html
Call Jefferson County CSU Extension Master Gardeners at 303-271-6632 if you've got questions on any type of gardening! We'd love to help you. Gardening power to the people!!