If you planted your vegetable seedlings when I did, several weeks ago, you now have a windowsill or basement full of hearty looking, adolescent plants. And you’re stunned.
Why wouldn’t you be? You stuck a seed in some dirt and now you have the beginnings of tomatoes. You’re taking whole foods to a whole new level! You’re not only going to use fresh tomatoes to make your sauce this fall, you’re going to use tomatoes you grew! And you didn’t even just grow them from a plant you bought at the nursery. YOU GREW THE ENTIRE PLANT FROM SEED YOU CRAZY ASS VEGETABLE SUPERSTAR!
What’s not to be stunned about? It’s a tomato sauce miracle. Amen.
So you now have these teenage plants and you want to run outside and plant them right? Wrong. You cannot do that. They have to be acclimatized. If you throw them outside and leave them to their own devices they’ll croak on you from the shock of it all. Have you ever had food poisoning? It was probably from the bad vegetable karma you got from killing your seedlings.
You know how the very first blindingly hot day of summer makes you feel like your guts are liquifying, but by the second or third really hot day, you can handle it? Same for plants. They need to get used to things gradually.
Hell, I feel like my guts are liquefying when they change the packaging on my bathroom cleaner. Nobody likes change and it all takes getting used to. Allow the plants you spent so much time nurturing over these past few weeks that same courtesy.
So … this is what you do. Take your plants outside for a visit on a nice day.
Bring them to an area where they won’t get scorching, direct sunlight and where they’ll be sheltered from the breeze. The first time you take them out only leave them outside for a 15 minutes or so. It’s their first introduction to the outdoors. 15 minutes is all they need. Any more than that and they could get startled or burned. They need to build up their base coat.
After their first 15 minutes, you have to bring them in. Don’t be tempted to just leave them out there. And don’t forget about them! If you leave them out overnight by mistake there’s a very good chance you will no longer be a crazy ass vegetable superstar, but rather a plant murderer. Which of course, is a whole other thing entirely.
The next day, bring your plants outside again, and leave them for an hour or so. Then bring them in.
On the third day, you can kick them out for a few hours.
On the fourth day, leave them out a little longer.
On the fifth day, leave them out the entire day but bring them in at night.
On the sixth day you can plant your vegetables!
Since you’re bringing plants in and out for several days the easiest thing to do is just keep them on a tray like I have. It makes taking them out and bringing them in wayyyyy easier if you just have to pick up a tray.
From here on in, the plants are on their own. You’ve done all you can do. You’ve provided for them, taught them right from wrong and prepared them to stand on their own two feet. All that’s left now is to water them, make sure they aren’t covered in some type of nasty, plant eating bug and wait for the vegetables of your labour to appear.
Should only be 3 months or so now. Go grab a drink and start lookin’ up sauce recipes.