This has certainly been a spring of unusual weather. A week ago, some areas in Barron County had frost in the morning, and this week has days that feel like mid-summer. Plants that have been overwintered, or purchased from a greenhouse, need a little time to adapt to these changes. Much like humans after being cooped up all winter, plants require acclimation to the outdoors prior to being transplanted outside.
Hardening off is the process of slowly introducing plants to outdoor conditions after being started indoors. Growing conditions inside your home or a greenhouse are quite different than that outdoors. Transplants require time to adjust to this change, so they aren’t damaged or killed. When transferred outdoors, plants experience wind, colder temperatures, more direct sunlight, and fluctuations of precipitation. Plant stems can snap due to strong winds, or leaves can become sunburned from being exposed to direct sunlight.
The goal of hardening off is to slowly expose the plants to the outdoors. For best results, start a week to ten days ahead by placing plants outside during the warmer part of the day for about 2-3 hours, gradually increasing the amount of time each day. After working the plants up to being outside for 10-12 hours a day for a few days, most can be left out. But keep an eye on them during days with heavy wind and unseasonably hot sun, as you may need to move them to a protected place.
With the quick rise in temperatures, many of our spring bulbs and perennials will bloom and fade quickly, so take the time to enjoy them. Trilliums can come and go in just a few days when the weather is hot. As you are seeing some blooms disappear from wildlife munching, remember that daffodils are one of the more reliable spring flowers because they are poisonous to most animals.
When you are planting containers and annuals, think about using some edibles throughout your landscape. Many herbs can be used in various ways and add to your yard’s interest. Parsley makes a great filler, and also feeds not only you, but the caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly. Lettuces, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens can be used as an ornamental planting, or set on your patio or deck to nibble on when you walk by.