Makin’ Habaneros – Part XI: Hardening
Before you consider moving your plants outdoors there are still some precautions that we must take.
First of all, our little seedlings will still have some pretty weak stems on them, the second that any real wind comes their way they will be severely damaged. Secondly, our seedlings have been somewhat protected from their light source. Our plants, either grown on a windowsill or under artificial lighting such as florescent fixtures have never felt the full power of the sun. Even on a cool day the sun’s rays can burn. Ever been skiing in the spring? I bet you got a nice tan didn’t you?
It is very easy to get those stems a bit stalkier. About 3-4 weeks before you are ready to move your seedlings outside, start to introduce a little wind into their daily routine. The plant will slowly adapt, devoting more energy to thickening up it’s stem than it would towards producing more solar receptors (leaves).
I place a fan near by, on a low setting, for a few hours a day to slowly waft a bit of a breeze across my little guys. This is kind of like a work out and you will start to see the stems pumping up to handle the newly introduced element.
Now, picture a field of thousands of little re-sealable bags, each bag containing water. Except our bags have a very thin layer of plastic between our water and the sun. As we all know when water is heated it produces steam, but the plastic around or bags is pretty cheap stuff, it ruptures at the first sign of pressure. This leaves us with a field of broken bags with no water left within them. If you now pictured that field is the leaf of our little pepper plant. Even after just a few minutes of sun, all the little cells on the leaf of our plant could have burst and severely damaged our seedling, possibly harming it to the point of no return. All of our time and investment gone in just a few short minutes.
Ok, ok, I don’t want to scare you from ever putting your plants outdoors but you do have to remember that while it doesn’t take just a few minutes it can happened before you know it. If any of you are parents think of this, you wouldn’t leave your newborn son or daughter in direct sunlight for a few hours would you?
I would recommend putting your plants in the shade for a few hours each day to slow acclimatize them to the powers of the sun. Within about 2 weeks you will be able to slowly introduce them to more and more directly sunlight. This will help strengthen those cell walls and help the plant ensure the full power of the sun without worry.