Monday, May 11, 2009

Your Seedlings

Have you been nurturing seedlings that you've planted indoors? I have. One word of caution. If it is your first year growing your own seedlings for your garden, before you plant them, don't forget to "harden them off". 

What is "hardening off" you ask? It means taking your tender seedlings outside to experience 'the real world' for a few hours every day for one to two weeks. This toughens them up and when a cooler night or a windy day happens by, they will be able to take it. 

I met a woman at a party last year who had grown an enormous collection of vegetables from seed. Once the middle of May came around, she threw them all in the garden and smiled. The end of May last year was very cool, but we didn't get a frost. This poor gal lost all of her plants. Every last one died. I had planted my seedlings the same week she had, and couldn't figure out why she'd lost everything. Then literally in the middle of the night I realized she must not have hardened her seedlings off. The next morning I called a mutual friend and told her my theory. Sure enough, she hadn't hardened off her seedlings. 

So, let it be a lesson to you. I know you want to plant those cute things you've been growing indoors for weeks now. I know there isn't any frost forecasted. But STOP. Take the time to bring your seedlings outside during the day, back in at night, for about a week. The longer the better, really. I have pushed it to five days before, when it was really getting warm and the forecast looked good. 

My father-in-law has planted his entire garden. It's not even the middle of May quite yet, and he lives north of Boston! He is newly retired so he couldn't hold himself off with all of the extra time he has on his hands. His potatoes and Portuguese pole beans are already sprouting! I am a little envious. (Okay, very envious.)

Even my brother and sister-in-law planted tomatoes and basil in their new raised beds in their city yard! So, yesterday I did plant one flat of basil in my herb garden but I will wait for the rest. I've worked too hard to get to this point. And frankly, I'm not quite ready! 

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