Veggie Moving Days

May 16, 2007

I started the all important hardening off process for my frost sensitive seedlings over a week ago.

But I’ve still been resisting the urge to transplant those tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, and melons out into the open garden.

A Daily Commute for Tender Vegetable Seedlings

Up to now I’ve been shuttling my plants outdoors to spend an increasing amount of time under the sun, only to return them indoors at the end of the day. It is tedious and time consuming to transport flats of seedlings in and out, but I’m more at ease knowing that they are safe from late spring frosts.

A fellow gardener recently commented that he uses a ramp and wagon to move his seedlings indoors and out as they are being hardened off. I do it the hard way by lifting and carrying, but fortunately have avoided any accidents or damage to the flats of vegetable transplants.

If there was ever a year to play it conservatively when gambling against the weather conditions this would be the one. Temperatures have been erratic and unpredictable since last fall. We’ve also experienced unexpected cold spells and a frost warning as recently as this past weekend.

Transplanting; Playing it Safe or Sorry

Many of you did roll the dice and set out tender vegetable plants before the danger of frost had passed. More than a few panicky e-mails have come my way from concerned gardeners who were worried about the fate of their gardens due to sudden cold snaps.

I’ve also driven past gardens with long rows of tomato plants all hastily covered with cut-off plastic milk jugs to protect against overnight frost. Guess I’d prefer to continue with my routine of moving seedling flats rather than experience the concern or headaches associated with covering and uncovering plants on a frequent basis.

I’m also extremely cautious about setting out my tomato and eggplant seedlings too early since the majority of the varieties that I grow are heirlooms that would be impossible to replace with a trip to the local garden center if they were destroyed by frost.

Risk vs. Reward Considerations for Transplants

I could also debate the benefit of setting plants out a week or two early into cooler soil temps where they can be stunted or even killed by unfriendly weather conditions. I’m just not sure that the risk is worth the reward in some cases.

My philosophy has been to allow the ground and air temperatures to warm up consistently before planting any frost sensitive vegetable seedlings, especially those heat loving eggplants, peppers, and melons.

Well last evening the heirloom tomatoes were moved out into the garden and the peppers and eggplants will follow in few days. My transplants may be a little behind schedule, and I won’t harvest the first vine-ripened tomatoes in the area, but I’m betting the plants will benefit from the delay and that it won’t take them long to come up to speed.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Hi, I agree, it´s better to wait until there is no frost and I also think the wind can be brist in the spring. Especially here in Scandinavia when the northerly wind sets in. You have to think of the cold factor with the wind. So, the plants are much happier to come out (like us) when the weather is nice. Love your blog, I read it often but this is the first comment./Tyra a veggiefriend!

  • I found your blog searching for information on transplanting tomatoes. I’ve been conflicted about the timing, wanting to put them in the ground as soon as possible, but worried about cold nights. Thank you for your post; it made me feel better about waiting.


  • I routinely use a plastic row house I built for a few lengths of pipe and some duct tape. I put a description of it on my blog. Easy to build, erect, take down and store. With my “olde backe” I’d rather not carry my seedlings. Plus this warms up the soil nicely.

  • I’m one of those with plastic mulched soil and a polytunnel and a row cover. I normally put out my tenders around May 14th but as you said this year has been unusual. We might even get a frost warning late this week. But they are all out, poor babies. I think I would have been more conservative if they hadn’t ALL budded! I have never had this happen before. All producing flowers? I’m sure a wiser gardener knows why (how about it?). As it is, I became anxious about stunting growth, transplanting to bigger pots etc… The plants are already showing improvement being more than a week in the polytunnel. However, I much prefer to wait and put them out when danger of frost is passed.

    Next year, I am rigging up wheels on my planting shelf.

    Another year, another challenge.

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