As you know, I was once married to a stuffed animal. No wait. Wrong story.
As you know, I'm growing my own vegetables from seed this year. I ordered a bunch from Cubits and Twig & Tree and hoped for the best about a month and a half ago.
Right about Easter as a matter of fact, I got out all of my soil, pots, and seeds, threw the grow lights on and got to work. I planted heirloom tomatoes, basil, Amish Cockscomb and a few other things including sweet potatoes.
So far so good as they say.
In less than 2 months I am now preparing my plants for their big move from a cramped condo with artificial lighting to their spacious new home with lots of natural sunlight and a really great landlord, I might add.
It's now time to harden off. Hardening off is getting your plants acclimatized to their new environment. You can't just take a plant you grew indoors and throw it outside and wish it well. It will up and die on you immediately. And then it might punch you in the nose.
For your plants to grow up into healthy happy, vegetable producing adults, you need to harden them off. I keep saying harden. Heh.
Basically all you have to do is take your plants outside for a few hours, increasing their time spent outside by a few hours, every day for around a week.
Everyone does it a bit differently, but this is a hardening off schedule you can use because you don't have any other friends to help you with hardening. Off.
- Day 1 - Set plants outside in the shade, protected from wind and direct sunlight for 3 hours. Bring inside.
- Day 2 - Do the same for 6 hours. Bring inside.
- Day 3 - Do the same for 9 hours. Bring inside.
- Day 4 - Set the plants where they get a little less shelter for the day. A tiny bit of breeze and sun can hit them now. Not for HOURS and HOURS. 1-2 hours in a partly sheltered area. Bring inside.
- Day 5 - Same as Day 4, but allow 1-2 hours of direct sunlight. Bring inside.
- Day 6 - Allow the plants a bit more sun than they had the day before. (allow them to stay outside all night for the first time unless it's unusually cold.
- Day 7 - Set the plants out so they're in the sun most of the day and leave them outside at night again.
- Day 8 - Plant your plants outside. (do NOT plant outside if frost is still a possibility)
photo via Twig & Tree (where I ordered this seed from)
Also grown from seed, Acorn Squash.
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The bucket acts as a hotcap, which is a little paper dealy you can buy at gardening stores. -OR- you can cut the bottom out of a plastic jug large enough to fit over the plant, leaving off the lid, and it will act like a little green house to keep the nasty frost off your tender little sprouts. Remove at first light to prevent par-boiling.
Sweet potatoes are finicky, persnickety, selfish little organizms. They sprout when and if they are damn well ready. *cough* In my opinion.
Wow! I had no idea people had to go through all this crap to get plants to grow. Here, we just stick them in the ground and we're good-to-go. I say "we" as if I am participating in plant growing. Ha! "not I" said the pig.
This is so exciting! I've long since gotten over the thrill of it all. Just as in bringing human life into the world, baby plants are a miracle. Actually,it's a miracle if you don't kill them but I guess that's true of the human variety now. If you are not home to harden your plants, look into a cold frame with a timer. They are a bit pricey but last the rest of your life. Actually, Karen will know how to build one on a post in the future, I'm sure. Making the little motor might be a stretch but you could buy one and still have a good tutorial. Mine did not actually last my life but died in a hail storm. I've only ever grown a sweet potato to entertain kids since I'm not a fan of eating them. I just figured you cut them up and planted them like Irish potatoes. Live and learn said the old dog.
Thank you for sharing your advice on how to harden my cockscomb. Seems I've been doing it wrong all these years....
I'm here to help. I'm very wise. ~ karen
This is why your sweet potatoes won't sprout:
Hi Jen. Yes, I've seen that video. It's cute! However ... what's funny is contrary to popular belief organic vegetables are sometimes sprayed with sprout inhibitor. That's the thing about organic. It's not "completely" regulated. My organic sweet potato isn't doing nearly as well as my non organic. They're a real crap shoot these sweet potatoes. ~ karen!
We put our tomatoes under a plastic milk jug- gallon size- if the parts you live in have milk in jugs, that is.
Cut the bottom off the jug, snug it down in the soil around the tomato, screw the cap on and let it be. On really warm days or if I need to regulate the temp inside the jug I take the cap off. When the tomato plant fills the jug I remove it and recycle it!
I've been in California for the last 27 years, and have never been much of a fan, but seeing as I start my seeds out of doors, and already have zucchini, crook neck and cucumbers ready to harvest, and beans and tomatoes hanging on their vines, well, I guess I'll be grateful to live here (just for today). Happy hardening!
Thank you. :) I was just at the garden centre yesterday and it was PACKED. The second it's safe to plant outside (around Mother's Day) the garden centres are FULL of excited people picking out plants and planning their gardens. And I actually thought to myself, I guess in places like California, they don't have this BURST of Yay! We can all get outside and plant excitement in the air once a year. ~ karen!
I cheated. With the sweet potato slips. I took one out of the cupboard that was already sprouted. I had stick it in water like you showed and now there is long roots. I hope the slips grow taller. I just hope something happens soon.
Ok, you need to elaborate on the pinching the basil back to make it more bushy statement. Mine always grows really tall and flops over. Oh and if you could write a post about exactly what to do with all the herbs that are taking over (particularly sage, oregano, basil, and thyme) that would be much appreciated. I'll be early awaiting your answers.
Nikki - O.K. I'll do a pinching post. ~ karen
I cheated, and purchased starter plants from Fiesta Gardens. BTW if you lived in Toronto you would love this grocery store (Fiesta Farms) it is a independent grocery store that focuses on local, organic and artisanal products that everyone can afford. Amazeballs. Anyhoo, they have a fab garden center with absolutely everything you could wish for (except edamame beans, damn I should have planted those from seed.) I walked out with two flats of everything I need to plant this weekend. Used your garden creation software link (awesomesauce!) and have it all planned out. Now, my only concern is keeping the darn dog out of the garden. :S
I recently saw a front yard garden... with a chain link fence & a barky boxer.... they had a raised bed garden (with wood fencing board sides) & a wooden lattice laid over (supported by the wooden sides) with the veggies growing in the spaces.... I am assuming the dog didn't like tripping through the lattice?
I am planting my tomatoes this weekend come hell, frost or high water.
I plant only 4 cherry tomato plants in a huge pot that my neighbours graciously allow me to keep in their front yard (right off my driveway) as much back yard does not have enough sun in one spot for the tomatoes to thrive (unless I put them dab smack in the middle of the lawn). It looks like they are starting to get tired of my attempts to acclimatize them so I better get them into the pot or I will lose them.
And speaking of California - I was in the San Francisco area last year in the fall (vacation) and I swear I am moving there as soon as I win 6/49 - although I would probably head to northern Cali, closer to Oregon as the San Fran area does not get rain for my liking.
Hardening. Got it. Going to add that to the list of things I didn't know about starting a veggie garden. Filed under the category of Everything. This is really helpful!
Hah! If you buy your plants from a garden centre you don't need to worry about hardening them off. They'll already be hardened off. It's only if you grow them from seed yourself that you need to harden off. ~ karen!
Hi Karen, also doing tomatoes from seeds (first time gardener) and I used your wonderful guide and so far successful (although some are a little spotty). They just spent their first night outdoors and it's suppose to rain all day, and pretty much all of this upcoming week. Saturday is suppose to be nice so I was planning on planting them then. Any tips or advice on the rain or am I being an overprotective parent and should stop worrying?
Trisha - You probably need to worry about wind and sun more than rain. It depends on how long you hardened them off for. As long as they've become accustomed to being outdoors and the wind and sun on them they should be fine. Just make sure you give them some kind of support and you're good to go. (trellis, tomato cage ... anything to keep them from toppling over in the rain) ~ karen