"Hardening-Off" & Planting Out Hardy Annual Flowers &Vegetables
Welcome to my special gardening page for those of you who like to garden yourselves! During the growing season, I will make suggestions as to what gardening tasks we need to do. It will help keep you on track--as well as myself!
So, come on! Let's get our hands dirty!
How to harden off "Cool" Veg and Flowers
If you started cool weather seeds with me a few weeks ago, it's now time to harden them off and get them planted out.
To “harden off” a plant means to gradually get it accustomed to being outside in the elements. Find a sheltered spot outside with bright light or morning sun. A covered porch is ideal at first. Protection from wind is most important, so they don't dry out. At first, try to pick a stretch of three or four days with temperatures in the 50's during the day, so the baby plants won't go into shock. Start out by having them outside for only an hour, increasing by an hour or two each day for a week. Once they get to the point of being left outside over night, be sure to cover them with a sheet or frost cloth to protect them if it drops below freezing.
It's time to prepare your beds during this hardening off period, if you haven't already done so. I find the "No Dig" method to be the best for soil health, plant health and weed control. (Check out my previous blog post explaining this method in detail.) If you already have a no dig garden established, look for any weeds that may be coming up or sprouting and remove them, then add two inches of fresh compost on top.
Once your plants have at least four true leaves on them, and they have stayed outside over night for a
few nights, they can be planted out in their permanent place in the garden. If the temperatures get below 28 degrees at night, though, cover them for the first week or so to be sure they are going to tolerate the frosts. However, if it snows, you don't have to worry at all, because the snow will insulate the plants from the really cold temperatures.
When your beds are prepared and the plants are hardened off, plant them out, following the plant spacing recommendations on the seed packet. When the plants have been in the ground for at least a week and are starting to show some new growth, start to fertilize them once a week with 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer, mixed in a sprayer or watering can.
Use a low nitrogen fertilizer on flowering and fruiting plants, a higher nitrogen formula on green, leafy plants. All fertilizers have numbers on them, like 5-1-2, or 1-3-4 (they can be any combination of numbers). The first number is the important one. That number indicates the ratio of nitrogen in the formula. Too little nitrogen on your lettuce plants will cause them to bolt and flower - too much nitrogen will turn your flowering plants into huge green leafy monsters with no flowers! So pay close attention to the formula you are using. A tomato fertilizer works great for flowering and fruiting plants.
When the plants are four or five inches tall, place two to three inches of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the roots cool. More compost, wood chips, or grass clippings work great.
These plants thrive in cool weather and because you started these early inside, you will have flowers and vegetables a full month before you would have, if you had planted them from seed outside! Most of these "Cool" plants will grow from April till mid June, then will die off from the heat. That is when we replace them with the warm season, Tender Annuals. I will talk about those in the next Gardeners Grow Together blog!
Now, lets get busy!
If you have any questions, put them in the comments below!
Valmont Valley Farm
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