It’s that time! The target Plants On Deck dates is approximately April 20. That’s just a little over a week away so it’s time to get the little guys in shape by hardening off the fussy tomatoes, orange cosmos (bees seem to love them), and cucumbers. (It’s also probably past time to plant a few Swiss chard and melon seeds. Someone should get on that.)
Anyway, hardening off is a tedious but important process that POD rarely executes perfectly. Basically, it involves setting your seedlings out in the elements to gradually become acclimated to the cruel, cruel world.
First, take a peek at the 10-day forecast. For tomatoes, we’re hoping for evening lows, from the 20th on, no lower than 50. (Check.) For cucumbers and melons, 60 would be preferable.
Day 1-4 Because every gardener has a right to a shortcut or two, POD chooses to begin the hardening off process by opening the window an inch or two to let the fresh air and breezes in. A gentle breeze will help strengthen your seedlings’ stems.
Day 4-6 Place your seedlings outside in a sheltered, shaded area for an hour or two.
Day 6-8 Gradually increase exposure to sunshine. Don’t let them wilt!
Day 9-10 (or 14, if you’re really good and patient, which POD isn’t) Continue gradually increasing the amount of time your seedling spend outside until you feel confident enough leaving them out overnight.
Then, voila, after performing the seedling shuffle for a week or two, it’s time to transplant.