This is the first year I've started seeds indoor and mostly they're doing
well. I would like to start hardening them off soon since the weather is so
nice and looks like it will stay that way. Even though I'm in zone 5, it's
been getting down to only about 40 at night and in the day it's been
averaging a high of 68-75. This week is expected to get to 80. In another
thread someone said definitely don't start hardening off in zone 5 yet, but
with these temperatures is there any reason not to? Maybe I'm just too
excited to get these little guys outside! :-)
Leslie, zone 5 in the deserts of Eastern WA
"Zone 5" only describes annual minimum/maximum temps, it doesn't accurately
describe what the weather is doing RIGHT NOW. I'm in Zone 5, but in
Western Maine, my overnights are still dipping into 20's and daytimes in
high 40's. I haven't even STARTED seeds yet!!!!
If I had the weather conditions you describe, I would be "hardening off",
but probably not leaving things out overnight.
There is no reason you shouldn't TRY using your own good judgment.
Thanks for the quick responses! I'm going to start moving them out for short
periods of time and see how it goes. It's a little after 10:00am now and 60
degrees. Gorgeous! Now I'm heading back out.
zone 5, Eastern WA
I'm in zone 6 and I have started hardening off my plants. I put them
out in a semi wind sheltered area around 9:00 AM, when the temperature
gets above 50 degrees, and then bring them back into the garage around
6:00 PM. The night time temperatures are still dropping into the 30's
and 40's so I will not leave the plants out at night. When the temps
are consistently above 50 degrees I'll leave them out all night or
plant them into their permanent spots. I'm primarily talking about
tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, the potatoes, cabbage and onions are
already in place and doing great.
You just might be getting too excited if you are constantly hardening off!!!
Find out when is the last frost date in your area. Don't be fooled by a few
premature warm days. Another cold snap could kill off much of what you move
outdoors if you do it too early.
It depends on what you are hardening. My spinach and hardy lettuce are
already planted outside for example (Zone 5.5). After this weekend,
with an expected frost, I will transplant collard and cardoon as well.
A few days of hardening, and they will be able to take light frosts
without damage. In general, cold hardy seedlings will do nicely with
temperatures of 50F, and tomatoes etc. with temperatures of 60+. My
guess is that regular (not cold hardy) lettuce will do OK as long as
the lows are at 40 or above. It is recommended that tomatoes and other
warm weather veggies never be exposed to temperatures below 50. So go
ahead and take them out, and set yourself up so you can bring them in
If you don't mind hauling things in and out for a few hours in the day
time go for it.
Remember you harden off because the plants have not been exposed to UV
from the sun and wind. So put them in dappled shade and out of the
wind and don't let them dry out badly.
Don't trust the weatherman.
I'm in Spokane, and our weather has been unusually gorgeous. I'm waiting
for the other shoe to drop. We HAVE had snow the first week of May before.
There are many seeds that are perfectly safe to plant outdoors now - annuals
like poppies and bachelor buttons, cold hardy vegetables like lettuce,
collards, peas, etc. If you have tomato seedlings and the like, I think this
is too early to harden them off in our climate. (You might be warmer than we
are, but still only a few weeks ahead in terms of last frost date). The
problem is that, even if you are in the tri-cities or the like, tomatoes
really shouldn't go into the garden until maybe the week before Memorial
Day - they can be set back by the sort of cool showery spell we very often
get in spring, where the high temp might be only 45 for a week, and the low
38 or something. They usually won't be killed, but they will suffer and
grow very slowly the entire month of June.
Isn't it pleasant to see tulips, daffodils, magnolias and fruit trees
blooming this early - some years, the crocus are only just finishing up the
first week of April. I hope we don't get any more severe frosts this year -
all the farmers' fruit crops would be severely damaged.
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