Steps to Hardening Off PlantsSet the plant outdoors in a sheltered area for a couple of hours on nice mild day and return indoors at night. ndoors could be the garage or a garden shed if it’s a mild night. It's important to protect the plants from strong sun, wind, cool temperatures and heavy rains.Each day, the plants can be exposed to one more hour of direct light. Each night, move the plants back to a sheltered and enclosed environment.The process can take 7 to 14 days, depending on weather conditions and the variety of plant.During the hardening off process, carefully watch the weather forecast, especially the first few days. If strong storms or low temperatures are forecast, keep the plants inside.Plants that are perennial but forced in a greenhouse will handle temperatures down to 33 degrees but will benefit from a plant cover like a cardboard box or an old nursery pot.After the hardening off process is completed, your plants will be able to tolerate most of spring's unpredictable weather, but continue to take steps to lessen their exposure to extreme conditions.
Plants that are hardened off are sturdier and put on new growth much more quickly than plants that are not hardened off. If you plant a hardened off plant next to a plant that wasn't, it will take the plant that was not hardened off about one month to catch up. Hardening off, it is a little extra effort, but definitely worth it.
In our midwest climate, cool spring temperatures, strong winds and bright sun can be very stressful to plants that have been grown in a greenhouse. To minimize risks to tender plants, they must go through a process known as "hardening off."
1. When you buy a hanging basket from Sweet Briar Corner Market Osmocote slow release fertilizer has been incorporated in the soil at planting time. If you plant your own basket, incorporate a slow release fertilizer in the soil as you plant. Follow the package directions.
2. Sweet Briar Corner Market baskets and containers have Soil Moist incorporated into the soil. Polymer moisture crystals are like magical little garden helpers. They mop up little puddles of water around roots so plants don't drown. They release the water back to the roots as the surrounding soil dries out, keeping plants from wilting between waterings or rainfalls. We do not use Soil Moist with geranium plantings. Geraniums prefer drier soil.
2. Overwatering is a bad thing, but so is underwatering. Try not to ever let your plants dry out to the point they wilt. If the soil dries out completely, water repeatedly over a 30 minute period to rehydrate the soil. As a general rule water your plant when the top inch of soil is dry. Water logged pots don’t allow the roots to get oxygen and can be as detrimental as under watering.
4. Rotate baskets if they are placed on a porch or other area where one side gets more light than the other to promote even growth. Set your baskets in a protected area if strong winds are expected.
5. Deadhead plants such as verbena and daisies to keep them in bloom. Many plants such as petunias and calibrachoa will keep blooming without deadheading, but removing spent blooms keeps your baskets looking great!
6. In May fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer once every two weeks. Mix up the fertilizer and water the plants just like you would if you were using clear water. It normally takes a good half of gallon of water to really water a 10” wide basket or raised container.
7. In June as the weather starts to get warm to hot, fertilize weekly, again with a good soaking. If the weather turns really hot as it sometimes does in Late June you may need to fertilize every third watering. By now the plants are really growing and starting to tumble down from the basket or fill out across the flowerbed.
8. July is when the cutting back occurs. Around the 4th of July, (after your big party) get some of the slow release fertilizer that you bought in spring and re-apply across the top of the planter. At the same time, trim back some of the longer branches just enough to bring the plant back in line with the bottom of the pot or basket. Don’t remove too much at the maximum cut back 20% of the branches or 1 in five shoots. You can also just give it a general light trim. Your plant will be out of flower for a few days, but will come back stronger than ever. By now with July’s heat you should be watering at least every other day and begin to fertilize every other watering. I know it sounds like a lot, but if you want a plant to grow lush and beautiful, full of blooms, you have to feed it!
9. August is, hot, humid, & sometimes with monsoons. Keep up the water and fertilizing, and again, if the plant starts to look straggly remove a few more branches but never more than 20% or give it a general trim as before.
10. It is September and the plants should still look good, start to back off the watering and the feed, but shape the basket with the last pruning of the season.
Make your hanging basket a burst of color all season long!