Monday, June 6, 2011

Gardening: That Hardening Off Thing

So, I rarely raise seeds. And they even more rarely survive the experience. But this year, with the World's Smallest Greenhouse, I now have about eight flats of seedlings, and still no tilled ground to put them in. (Stop raining! Now!) I've run out of things to use for potting on and so has the hardware store and so has the Grange, so the Tat Soi and about a dozen zinnias and three dozen cosmos and the second round of romaine and some tomatoes and peppers that I cheated and bought in small sixpacks and replanted to bigger pots, are sitting around busily planning to get rootbound. And the kale and seed-planted tomatoes and peppers and onions aren't far behind.

(Tat Soi, you may ask? Kale, you may ask? Why did I plant cool-loving greens as summer looms, you may ask? I'm not always very bright.)

I'm eyeing my few remaining CowPots, but at about fifty cents a pot, the price of a homegrown head of lettuce goes up drastically. On the other hand, paying for two-day shipping for jumbo plug trays from Johnny's is even worse. I'm tentatively planning to solve this problem for the future by buying a soil block maker, thus eliminating the need for pots altogether, but that doesn't help the already-existing seedlings. I rather wish that I were the sort of person to eat a lot of yogurt.

(Speaking of CowPots, you know those advertising pictures of them with the roots just sticking straight out of the pot? It's happening to the tomatoes. It's really almost alarming. Aren't roots supposed to sense air and recoil?)

So the instant that I do have tilled ground, I want to plant. Which made me realize, late last night: I haven't hardened anybody off! Ack! Potential delays!

I've never done the hardening off thing before, due to the aforementioned lack of seedling survival. The advice for doing so seems to mostly assume that you'll be hardening off from a nice warm basement under lights, perhaps using an unheated greenhouse as an interim stop. I'm starting in an unheated greenhouse, so I'm not sure what to do, but I'm tentatively assuming that I can accelerate the usual schedule.

So this morning I hauled five flats from greenhouse to deck, to what looked like nice part shade and a gentle breeze. The breeze stayed gentle, but when I returned three hours later to put the flats away before lunch, I realized that they were in full sun, and the leaf lettuce wasn't a bit happy about it. Oops. I rushed them all back to the greenhouse and opened the vents extra wide and gave everybody a fresh drink, and they seemed to be doing OK a couple of hours later. The lettuce was trying to guilt-trip me with slightly floppy leaves, but everybody else seemed unfazed.

So I'm still thinking that tomorrow I'll leave them until after lunch, and the next day until just before dinner, and the next day after dinner, and then I'll let them sit outside all night and hope that the raccoons haven't been waiting for a salad bar.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


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  2. Someday I will plant things for my salad as well . . . but I do have a tendency to kill off the small plants I am supposedly nurturing, so it will be a bit of a hassle. Best of luck to you and your green thumb!

  3. Hey, Ladaisi! Thanks! So far, it looks like the Red Sails lettuce is going to be edible, though there's at least two weeks of possible disaster before it gets there.

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