As last frost dates approach and you are eager to put your seedlings in the ground, I urge you to harden off your plants first.
Most people start seeds inside their house under grow lights, in windowsills, or greenhouses. This means these tiny seed babies have never felt the full force of the sun on their leaves, resulting in a lot of plant death if you put them directly outside in the sun.
Hardening off is the process of slowly letting your seedlings get used to the outdoor elements so they do not succumb to shock and die. You have put way too much effort into your seed babies to let them die in the home stretch.
Hardening off is my least favorite thing to do, I am a very impatient person who has already waited SO LONG to get my seedlings in the ground but if you skip this step you will be very mad at yourself when your plants die, I promise you.
So here's what I do.
Put your seedlings outside for 1 hour. If you can do it in the morning when the sun is less harsh or in the evening that is best. It is also best to keep an eye on them, and if you see any sign of distress put them back inside.
Put your seeds outside for 2 hours. The same thing, start when the light is less harsh so you do not shock or burn your plants.
Put your seeds out for 3 hours, consider leaving them out overnight if weather permits. Every plant requires different nighttime temperatures. Tomatoes and peppers should not be left out all night until it is closer to 50 degrees. Be sure to look up what each plant needs before you do this step. I say CONSIDER because if your plants are struggling from the hardening off process so far you may want to wait on this step another day or so you do not shock your plants any more than necessary.
Add another hour to the daytime hardening off time, and leave them out overnight weather permitting.
Add another hour to the daytime hardening off time, and leave them out overnight.
Keep doing this process until your plants have been left out for a full day and night, it should take a week or two. Once they have successfully hardened off, THEN and ONLY THEN should you plant your seedlings in the ground.
While you are hardening off your seedlings be sure to watch them as much as you can and look for any signs of distress and adjust accordingly. Be patient, and soon enough you will have a lush garden growing.