Sometimes, things work out a little better than planned – other times – not so much.  Right now – we are experiencing a little of both!

The Better Than Planned Scenario:

A mass of growing seedlings on our back porch
A mass of growing seedlings on our back porch

On one hand, we have all of our vegetable plants and ornamental peppers that have germinated and grown better than ever – in fact – maybe a little too well.  We now start all of our garden seeds on an inexpensive home-made seed rack – powered by ordinary 4′ cool-white flourescent bulbs.  The system has always worked well – but this year – the plants have simply grown huge.

We keep the rack in a spare bedroom that tends to be one of the warm spots of the house – and with the extended winter – and the use of the furnace a little more than normal – it turned the room into a tropical paradise for the little seedlings – germinating them faster – and growing them larger than ever before.

The Not So Much Side:

We transplanted almost all of our tomato plants to larger containers to give them room to expand.
We transplanted almost all of our tomato plants to larger containers to give them room to expand.

On the other hand, we now have to figure out what to do with them until our May 15th planting date. This would have been a perfect time to transfer all of those high-powered seedlings to the new hoophouse / greenhouse at the farm.  The only problem – there is no new hoophouse built there yet! :).  The plan all along was to build the structure sometime in late January, February or early March.  The weeks of excessive snowfall and not-so-normal below zero temperatures have delayed that.

We built our coop last February and March with little problem from Mother Nature - no so this year!
We built our coop last February and March with little problem from Mother Nature – no so this year!

Although we live in Ohio – we are usually lucky enough to have a week or two at some point during those times where the temperature allows for some winter work. In fact –  it was just last year we built the new chicken coop in February and March – with the temperatures rarely dipping below 30 – and hardly a trace of the white stuff.  Not this year!

And now that we are into Spring – the other chores of the farm are taking precedence – so the hoophouse building will have to wait until mid summer when things slow down for a bit.

Hardening Off Seedlings For The Garden

So the solution for this year is to harden off the plants on our back porch – much like we have done in years past.  For our tomato seedlings, we re-potted them to larger containers to give the roots a chance to expand.

Unlike these onions which can go in the ground even during freezing temps - vegetable plants need to get adjusted to cooler temperatures
Unlike these onions which can go in the ground even during freezing temps – vegetable plants need to get adjusted to cooler temperatures

Hardening off your plants is a must in order to get them used to the swings in outdoor temperatures and the natural intensity of the sun. It is best if they can be taken outside on warmer days and slowly allowed to adjust over a few days to the temp changes.  It makes for an easy transition to the garden when the time comes to plant.  After a few days – if the temps allow – we leave them out around the clock – only bringing them in on nights where the temperature might drop under 40.

Hopefully next year - we will have our hoophouse in place!
Hopefully next year – we will have our hoophouse in place!

During the process – its vital to protect the young seedlings from the wind.  Hard winds can destroy a flat of plants in just a few minutes. We put up a large piece of clear plastic in front of them to provide protection – much like a greenhouse would. (you know, like the one that should have been built by now 🙂 )

So hopefully our plants can hang on for the next few weeks on the porch – and hopefully next year we can experience the joy of taking them to the greenhouse.

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Happy Gardening!

Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms

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