For a new gardener it may blow your mind when you put your seedlings outside for the first time and they wilt. During my first experience planting peppers, I just couldn’t understand why a plant would wilt when it’s put in the environment it should thrive in, especially when it’s been by an open window in the sun. Before you put indoor seedlings outside, you need to harden plants off. This is a gradual process of getting your seedlings used to being outside, rather than indoors in a stable environment. This usually involves your plant wilting when put outside, but hardening off plants will decrease the wilting over time. This is how to harden off plants:
I recommend that before you begin to harden plants off, you begin to slowly decrease the water amounts that you are giving them. You still want to be watering them, but you will want to get them more accustomed to being outside and not being babied. Once the weather warms up, I begin to put my plants near an open window. This gives the plants a taste of the air outside, real sunlight, and some feel for any small amount of wind.
For the very first day of putting your plants outside you should put them in shade. If you put them immediately into direct sunlight, you will see wilting occur extremely fast. Make sure you are protecting them from any wind, as they are probably not used to this unless you have kept a fan on them. Let them stay outside for a couple of hours, if they begin to drastically wilt, bring them inside. You don’t want to overdo it, just strengthen them. So, it’s important to keep a good eye on them. Once they are inside, if you place them in a sunny window or under a plant light, you will notice that they will perk right up and look beautiful again.
Continuing to Harden Off
For the next few days, you need to bring your plants outside and increase the amount of time you leave them out there. You will now want to begin introducing your plants very gradually to being exposed to sunlight. Continue to protect them from any strong gusts of wind.
From this point on out, you need to keep upping the amount of time you keep your plants outside and in the sun every day. Make sure that you are only putting them outside when the temperature is right for the plant type. It will probably take anywhere from one to two weeks for them to completely be hardened off and begin to love being outside all the time. This can seem extremely tedious of a process, especially for the first time gardener, but they will begin to enjoy being outside full-time and it will be worth it.