For me, this is a wonderful, but also frustrating time of year. It’s too early here in Rhode Island to plant anything other than cold weather crops like snap peas and lettuce. But I have all these seedlings busily outgrowing their starter pots – seedlings that cannot be planted safely before Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is weeks away! And to make matters worse, I bought more vegetables and some ornamental plants at the URI Master Gardener greenhouse sale during the first week of May. So these new arrivals, and the plants I started from seed, must, of course, be hardened off before I plant them outside.
I find this process annoying in the extreme. Do I put them right in the sun, or in the shade? How many hours of sunlight should they get at first, and how quickly should I increase it? Will it be cold tonight? Can I leave them outside on the deck? Oops, a few are now sunburned because their little cuticles aren’t thick enough yet. Oh, and did I mention the wind, which at this very moment, is blowing so hard it threatened to uproot my precious “Chocolate Cherry” tomato plant in its pot? At this time of year, the wind can suddenly spring up in the afternoon, especially here on the coast. So I can’t simply put out my plants and forget about them.
Somehow, I always get through this. But it is a trial, particularly since I have so many flats and pots to move around – and in and out – and into the shade then into the sun – and out of the wind….. And there’s that gap of at least three weeks between purchase and planting. I don’t even dare expose the seedlings I started myself just yet. That wind will finish them off in no time.
For me, hardening off is definitely hard.