Hardening Off Perennials

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Yesterday my mom burned up about $20 worth of brand new, just bought little pepper plants and perennials. They were all wilted and deflated.

What happened? It’s really not hard to figure out, if you understand how these little plants were produced and sold.

About 9 weeks ago, in a greenhouse somewhere in North Carolina (for economy of transportation issues, it was probably way in the country but near an interstate), someone filled a zillion little pots up with “soilless media.” That means fluffy, perfectly drained chopped moss with expanded white perlite rock mixed in. They stuck in it, a tiny, rooted gerber daisy that had started life in a lab.

For 8 weeks in the perfectly humid, constantly misted, lightly shaded greenhouse, those little plants grew like they were on the Charles Atlas body building program. They got carted onto a truck, sped to a big box store and sold to my Momma.

Who, like any normal person, thought she could just plant them right out into the garden on a beautiful 85 degree April day.

Hardening Off

Now you know what happened right? They wilted. They didn’t adapt well. They were not, as gardeners say, hardened off.

If you want to avoid the problems, the answer is simple. Go to a real nursery. Ask, “are these plants hardened off?” I think that’s a question that anyone selling plants ought to be able to answer.

The cool thing is that you can buy those tender plants and harden them yourself. Just put the in a lightly shaded spot, water them deeply and with a very light mix of an organic liquid fertilizer and leave them for about 3 days.

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