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.
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