It’s garden time of year again! Well, we’re a little ways into garden time, but in true “me” fashion, I’m a little late to the party. But! my tomatoes have been indoors for a little while now and are growing nicely. We’ve entered the Hardening phase. I was unfamiliar with this concept, so decided to do a little experiment.
I have a TON of tomato seedlings, so I’m planting some directly in the garden, and I’m “hardening off” some. We’re going to find out what works best!
So, to harden off the plants means to prepare them for the great outdoors. Tomatoes are surprisingly sensitive! The process takes about ten days.
On day one, put the plants outside in a filtered sunlight area with no wind for a few hours.
1. For day two, leave them outside in the same place for a little longer.
2. Continue with this pattern for the next five or six days while giving the seedlings more and more sunlight.
3. Next, leave the seedlings outside for another four or five days. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather! If it gets below 50 degrees F or gets too windy, bring them inside.
Now your baby plants should be ready to go in the garden! Which brings us to transplanting. The farmer’s almanac will give you the optimal time to plant. I tend to go the lazy route of when I have the time!
1. When the seedlings are 3-4 inches they can be transplanted. Dig a whole in your bed that is a few inches deeper than the pot the seedlings are in. Be sure to leave enough space between plants! (the seed package will tell you how much space they need)
2. Plant the seedlings with only the topmost leaves above ground. I know this sounds silly, and you shouldn’t do it for most plants, but it helps tomatoes establish roots, improve drought tolerance, and build wind resistance!
3. Place soil firmly around the seedlings with your hand and water!
– Water whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out
– Place hay/straw by the base of the plants to trap moisture and prevent weeds
– Tomatoes LOVE compost! Adding some at planting time can be a game changer