As planting day approaches – its time to start preparing all of our indoor seedlings for the rigors of the “real world” conditions they will face when they finally go into the garden in late May.
Up until now – our young seedlings have had it easy in the stable confines of the great indoors – beginning their life with a steady diet of controlled light, warmth and water in our seed starting stand. But that is all about to change over the next few weeks as we begin to toughen them up a bit by getting them used to the outdoor conditions they will soon face.
The Hardening Off Process…
It is extremely important when starting seeds indoors to avoid taking young seedlings directly from the indoors and planting them straight into the garden. Young and tender plants need time to adjust to sunlight, wind and temperature – and without that adjustment period – many cannot handle the sudden wild weather swings mother nature will throw at them.
This entire process of getting them ready is known as “hardening off”, and can be easily done on a back porch or deck.
Beginning this week, we will begin to move all of our seedlings and seed trays out from under the indoor lights and onto our covered porch during the warmer daylight hours – bringing them back indoors only on extremely cold nights or windy days. This allows them to ease into the temperature swings. To protect them from initial wind damage – we set up a few old glass windows on either side of the plants on the porch to block some of the wind – eventually taking them away as well as the plants strengthen.
Transplanting The Bigger Plants…
As you move your plants out into the open air – this is also a great time to transplant any of your seedlings that have outgrown smaller growing cells to a larger pot.
For us, that means taking most of our heirloom tomato plants and transplanting them into 2″ cups to give them more room to develop even stronger root systems before going into the garden. Some of our heirloom tomato plants are nearing 4 to 5″ in height – and to help support them we use a wooden skewer in each planting cup as their own personal stake. The stake really helps to keep them growing straight and strong until planting day.
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!