Rainy, Cool, and Cloudy: Veggie Transplanting Time

April 8, 2008

It’s been pretty raw outside for the past week but despite the wet and chilly conditions it’s an ideal time to get out and take care of a few transplanting tasks in the vegetable garden.

Sure, it’s not the most agreeable time for an organic gardener to be outdoors, but it is perfect weather for setting out hardy veggie transplants, relocating over wintered crops, or thinning direct seeded plants to give them additional space to grow and mature.

Reducing Plant Stress When Moving Seedlings

Purple Peacock Broccoli TransplantTransplanting just before wet and cloudy weather rolls in will result in the least amount of stress, transplant shock, or stunting for the vegetable plants that are being uprooted, handled, and replanted. The young seedlings will barely notice the disturbance and will happily continue growing without interruption.

But I only advise roaming around in a wet garden to those who use raised beds and can move about without trampling on the actual growing areas of the garden. As long as you don’t do any serious cultivating or step on the beds you can get away with gently transplanting into a raised bed garden even in the midst of a light rain shower.

Chalk this up as another springtime perk of growing your vegetable garden in raised beds; one that ranks right up there with eliminating the need to till the garden to prepare it for planting each season.

Making Good of Unpleasant Weather in the Garden

During the cloudy and rainy spell this week I relocated some of the over wintered veggies to consolidate them into a smaller area of the garden and fill in the gaps between plants. Next I moved the cress, arugula, and tatsoi plants that were crammed into the cold frame out into the garden beds.

Then there were there were the vegetable transplants that I picked up at a local nursery; broccoli, leeks, globe artichokes, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts that found their way into the raised beds during the cloudy weekend.

Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage TransplantI also planted kale, lettuce, cabbage, kohl rabi, and seedlings of other cool weather crops that were started indoors out into the open garden. Yes, I admit that I was guilty of violating the gardener’s oath of never planting seedlings outside until after they have been properly hardened off, but they are doing just fine.

A Short Cut to Hardening Off Your Vegetable Transplants

Another good reason for transplanting during an extended stretch of cloudy and rainy days is that if you’re careful, lucky, and can gauge the weather forecast accurately, it will enable you to cheat and save time when it comes to hardening off of your delicate vegetable transplants.

A cloud cover usually brings milder temperatures and of course will reduce the amount of direct sun rays bombarding those vulnerable little transplants. Add in the comforting rain showers and your plants will receive plenty of moisture to help ease the transition into their new living quarters.

Caution: This isn’t intended as a substitute for hardening off transplants, which it is ALWAYS best to do before setting out your seedlings. You can easily speed up and reduce the time spent hardening off but there is a risk to your seedlings any time that you totally eliminate the process.

So when the forecast is wet and gloomy, you can brighten it up by using the occasion to welcome your new plants and get Kohl Rabi Transplantthem acclimated to the outdoor garden. If you time your transplanting to coincide with favorable weather conditions you will make life easier on the plants and get them off to a faster start out in the vegetable bed.

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  • Then I should be able to transplant all of the time! I the Pacific Northwest, most of our spring is cloudy…This weekend is going to be sunny, and I am wondering if I can cheat by using a row cover to shade…

  • Kenny Point

    Jean Ann, it’s always best to play it safe and harden your plants off to some extent. Seedlings can be stressed or burned even through a cloud cover and a row cover isn’t going to provide shade, but will increase the temperatures that your transplants will have to contend with. I’ve taken transplants and cheated when setting them out under certain conditions but there is some risk any time you do so!

  • Thanks, Kenny, I know you are right…just trying to cheat mother nature a bit… 🙂

  • Priya

    I am first time gardener is US, I have done this a lot in India never had problems. I am not sure why this happened but when I transplanted the Beans plants, almost all died. Its very windy here is Chicago could this be the reason or something else .

  • Kenny Point

    Wind can affect transplants when they are set out into the garden, especially if they are accustomed to the still environment inside the home. Try tickling the seedlings prior to setting them out into the garden. Also , beans aren’t the easiest seedling to transplant anyway and usually do better when they are direct seeded right into the garden.

  • Jan

    Hello, I have been buying vegetable plugs, or baby plants from a mailorder Nursery /garden center in Ireland Milliways. I wonder though if it’s more economical to buy seeds and sprout them myself. I find I lose less when I use the transplants. I tried seeds before but my cabbage and broccoli bolted. I just don’t know if I’m doing it right or if my soil is wrong. I have the space to grow much more but I think I don’t have such green fingers.

    Any comment would be great many thanx.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Jan, starting your own transplants from seed usually is more economical, especially if you already have all of the necessary seed starting equipment. The problems that you are having with the seeds may have more to do with not getting them planted at the proper time. I’ll be posting a few articles over the next week or so dealing with issues involving growing vegetables from seeds verses transplants.

  • That’s a very helpful post – I did not even know what “hardening off” my transplants was – explains why my seedlings have been struggling so much!

  • Pingback: Hardening off seedlings - squarefootgardenblog.com - Square Foot Gardening in zone 6b.()

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Plant Girl. Hardening off does make a big difference in preparing your seedlings to endure the harsher conditions that they will encounter once they are moved outdoors.

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