What is Hardening Off?

Hardening off is a gardening technique that involves gradually acclimating plants to outdoor conditions before transplanting them into the garden. This process helps plants adjust to changes in temperature, sunlight, wind, and other environmental factors. By gradually exposing plants to these conditions, they become stronger and more resilient, making them better equipped to survive and thrive in the garden.

Why is Hardening Off Important?

Hardening off is important because it helps prevent transplant shock, which can occur when plants are moved from a controlled indoor environment to the harsher conditions of the outdoors. Transplant shock can cause plants to wilt, become stunted, or even die. By gradually exposing plants to outdoor conditions, hardening off allows them to adapt and develop stronger root systems, making them more resistant to transplant shock.

How to Harden Off Plants

There are several steps involved in the process of hardening off plants:

1. Start Gradually

Begin by placing your plants outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outside over the course of a week or two. This allows them to gradually adjust to the increased sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and wind.

2. Protect from Extreme Conditions

During the hardening off process, it’s important to protect your plants from extreme weather conditions. If temperatures are expected to drop below freezing or if there is a risk of frost, bring your plants indoors or cover them with a frost cloth or other protective covering.

3. Increase Exposure to Sunlight

As your plants become more accustomed to being outdoors, gradually increase their exposure to sunlight. Start by placing them in a partially shaded area and gradually move them into full sun over the course of a week or two. This helps prevent sunburn and allows the plants to adjust to the intensity of sunlight.

4. Water and Fertilize Appropriately

During the hardening off process, it’s important to monitor the moisture levels of the soil and water your plants as needed. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Additionally, continue to fertilize your plants according to their specific needs.

5. Gradually Introduce Wind

Wind can be a challenging factor for plants that have been grown indoors, as they are not accustomed to the movement and strength of outdoor winds. Gradually expose your plants to wind by placing them in a sheltered location at first and gradually increasing their exposure to breezes over time.

6. Transplant into the Garden

Once your plants have been hardened off and are strong and resilient, they are ready to be transplanted into the garden. Choose a suitable location, prepare the soil, and carefully transplant your plants, taking care not to disturb their root systems.


In conclusion, hardening off is an important step in the gardening process that helps plants adapt to outdoor conditions and prevent transplant shock. By gradually exposing plants to changes in temperature, sunlight, wind, and other environmental factors, they become stronger and more resilient, increasing their chances of survival and success in the garden. Remember to start gradually, protect from extreme conditions, increase exposure to sunlight, water and fertilize appropriately, gradually introduce wind, and finally transplant into the garden. With these steps, you can ensure that your plants are well-prepared for life in the great outdoors.