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Old October 8, 2020   #1
Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Posts: 9
Default Hardening off issue

I have screwed up a lot of seedlings, not just tomatoes, by having bad hardening off practices, and I'm going to do it better next year.

One problem will be resolved if I retire soon, which is that I'm not home during the day to put the seedlings out for just an hour or so to start.

The bigger problem is that it is difficult for me to get trays of plants on and off of my seedling cart. I have the cart in my dining room and it has three shelves that hold 4 flats each. Each shelf has 3, 4-foot shop lights. I keep the lights low with the tallest plants touching the light bulbs. I made a lip/edge around the outside of each shelf and the 4 flats are crowded up against each other. When I take the flats out, it usually does some damage to the seedlings and it is an unpleasant job. So, I do not want to take 12 flats out for an hour and then put them all back under the lights. It just seems like a process that is too complicated. I usually start with just a few flats of the cole crops and later other seedlings. Many of the plants, especially the sweet potatoes grow outside their area and get tangled up when I move the flats.

What I have been doing is put flats out on a partially shaded porch 24 hours a day, except when the temperature will be below 40 (and then I just put them anywhere inside for the night). That is too much time out all at once and I think I should move that up to 45 for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and okra.

I have to do something different, because I usually end up shocking the heck out of the whole lot of them. I don't have a basement, but i could move them in and out of the garage somewhat easily. However I do not have lights for them in the garage. I assume that if one puts them outside for one to a few hours, that they will need more light that that few hours (plus some indirect light in the garage) in a 24 hour period.

Do I need to bite the bullet and make another seedling cart with lights and more room to use in the garage to provide light when I bring them back inside? I do not relish this because of a lack of indoor space, and I like my car in the garage.

I've made cold frames a couple of times and tried just moving seedlings to the cold frame and not bringing them back inside. It is easy to get the cold frame too hot when I'm not home to open it. I've killed quite a few plants in cold frames.

Sorry for the long post. I'm struggling to find something that will work for me. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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