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Hardening off you Seedlings

How to Harden off Seedlings

You’ve started your seeds indoors and you’ve awaited their germination and now they are growing into strong independent seedlings! The weather is starting to warm up and your thinking your little babies maybe ready to flee the nest! Now lets not get to hasty, were not just going to dump our seedlings to the garden and tell them to fend for themselves!

We need to harden them off first.

Hardening your plants off sounds a little harsh but this is just the process of getting your little indoor seedlings ready to make the transition to the great outdoors.

All seedlings need to spend a week or so outside before being transplanted into the garden. Even if you didn’t plant your transplants from seed and you bought them from a garden center or nursery I would still use this hardening process. About 7-10 days before planting your seedlings into the garden begin adapting them to outside conditions.

I start slow and gradually build each day. Start by placing your seedlings outside in the afternoon for a few hours in partial shade and are protected from the wind. This should happen for two to three days. As the seedlings get more acclimated to the new climate you can keep adding hours and more direct sunlight to them. By the last two days your seedlings should be spending all day and night outdoors. Remember to look at the weather during this time.

Once your seedlings are hardened off they are ready to be transplanted into the garden!

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Planting Guide

This spring I have had a ton of questions on when to plant seeds indoors? When to transplant them outdoors? What should be planted directly in the ground? There is no exact answer as we all live in different climates and each have our own micro climate. I have come up with a planting guideline that should help you gardeners out. First things first! You need to find out what your last average spring frost date is. You can get this from senior gardeners in your area or you can call your local state extension agent and they will have an answer for you. For example Ellensburg’s average last frost date is about May 1st.

Planting Guideline


BEANS: Sow directly outdoors, Plant 1-2 weeks after average last spring frost. Minimum soil temp of 52 degrees.

BEETS: Sow directly outdoors, Plant 1-2 weeks after average last spring frost. Minimum soil temp of 50 degrees.

BROCCOLI: Seed indoors. Seed indoors 4-6 weeks before you want to plant outdoors. Transplant outdoors 2-3 weeks before average last spring frost. Minimum soil temp 40 degrees.

BRUSSEL SPROUTS: Seed indoors. Start transplants 8-10 weeks before last frost. Set out transplants 2-4 weeks before average last frost.

CABBAGE: Seed indoors. Start transplants 6-8 weeks before average last spring frost. Transplant outside 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost date.

CARROTS: Sow directly outdoors, Plant 3-5 weeks before the last spring frost date. Minimum soil temp 40 degrees.

CAULIFLOWER: Seed indoors. Start transplants 4-5 weeks before the plants are needed to go outdoors. Plant transplants outdoors 2-3 weeks before the average frost date in spring.

CHARD: Sow seeds indoors or outdoors. Plant outside 2-3 weeks before last spring frost date. Continue planting seeds at 10 day intervals to have all summer.

CORN: Sow directly outdoors. Plant seeds 2 weeks after last spring frost date. Minimum soil temp 60 degrees.

CUCUMBERS: Sow indoors. Plant seeds indoors 3-5 weeks before spring frost date. Transplant outside no earlier than 2 weeks after last frost date.

EGGPLANT: Sow indoors. Plant seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before soil warms up to 60 degrees. Transplant outside when soil warms.

KALE: Seed indoors or sow directly outdoors. Extremely frost hardy. Plant as soon as ground thaws.

LETTUCE: Sow directly outdoors or seed indoors. If seeding indoors start seeds 4-6 weeks before last spring frost. Transplant seedlings 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after last spring frost. If sowing directly outdoors seed as soon as your ground can be worked. Light frost is okay.

MUSKMELONS: Sow indoors or directly outdoors. Muskmelons need at least 70 degree soil temperature to germinate. If planting indoors sow about 4-6 weeks before soil warms up. Transplant when all signs of frost are gone.

ONION TRANSPLANTS OR SETS: Sow directly outdoors. Plant as soon as soil can be worked.

PARSNIPS: Sow directly outdoors. Sow as soon as soil is workable. Cold hardy crop.

PEAS: Sow directly outdoors. Seed outdoors 4-6 weeks before last spring frost.

POTATOES: Sow directly outdoors. Seed outdoors when soil temperature has reached 52 degrees. 2-3 weeks after average spring frost.

PUMPKINS: Sow directly outdoors or sow indoors. If you have a short growing season sow indoors 2-4 weeks before last spring frost. Be sure to harden off seedlings before transplanting.

PEPPERS: Sow indoors. Plant 6-8 weeks before the last average spring frost date. Transplant outside when soil has warmed up and all signs of frost are gone, before transplanting outside make sure you harden off your seedlings.

RADISH: Sow directly outdoors. Plant 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date.

SPINACH: Sow directly outdoors. Plant as soon as the soil can be worked. Spinach need 6 weeks of cool weather. Minimum soil germination temperature 35 degrees.

SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI: Sow indoors. Plant 2-4 weeks before last spring frost. Transplant outside 1-3 weeks after spring frost.

STRAWBERRIES: Sow directly outdoors. Plant as soon as the ground can be tilled.

TOMATOES: Sow indoors. Plant 6-8 weeks before the last average spring frost date. Transplant outside when soil has warmed up and all signs of frost are gone, before transplanting outside make sure you harden off your seedlings.

TURNIPS: Sow directly outdoors. Plant as soon as soil is tillable.

WATERMELON: Sow indoors or directly outdoors. Watermelon need at least 70 degree soil temperature to germinate. If planting indoors sow about 4-6 weeks before soil warms up. Transplant when all signs of frost are gone.

Here is a great resource to find your local extension agents information.

http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services