Hardening Off Young Plants

We’ve spent the past few days setting up planting beds – in between the rain showers that is. So far we’ve got the strawberry area which consists of seven 3’x50′ beds (however, this year these beds  are veggie beds), three 5’x20′ beds that will be planted with cash and compost crops, one 5’x6′ bed (not sure what will go in there yet – probably a butterfly garden), and a 5’x5′ bed with the fig tree smack in the middle of it. Double digging planing beds is slow hard work but yesterday I easily sunk an 18″ long stick as big around as a pencil straight down into one bed. That means the soil is loosened to a depth great enough to allow good root penetration which will produce strong, vigorous plants. So, the hard work is worth it. The plants will be strong and produce abundantly.

Next week we will begin to harden-off tomatoes, sweet peppers, and lima bean plants in order to get them ready for the garden. We’ll do this by putting them in direct sunlight a little each day (one hour the first day, two hours the second, four the third, increasing their time in the sun a little more each day until transplanting) for about one week. By doing this the tender plants have time to adjust to sunlight, blowing wind, and temperature fluctuations before being set out into the garden bed. Hardening-off produces stronger more vigorous plants that are more likely to survive the transplanting process. We’ll be sure to give our young plants plenty of water during this period because the direct sunlight will dry them out very quickly. By next Saturday they will be ready for the garden.

We still have Irish potatoes growing along really well. The plants are beautiful with no bugs but one thing puzzles me about them – they have come up sporadically. The plants are of various heights and most of them pushed through the soil’s surface at different times even though all seed potatoes were set out at the same time and at the same depth. If any one knows why this is please let us know. I’d like to look across the potato row and see an even stand.

We have a healthy stand of sugar snap peas – just enough for munching. The onions are doing well, carrots are doing well, and turnips should be ready to pluck in about two weeks. The weather has gotten really warm really early this year so we only hope that our root crops are worth eating – heat tends to make them bitter. The lettuce and beets have seen better days; however, the slugs sure have enjoyed them.