SLC
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Can you harden off/transplant tiny seedlings - MORE QUESTION

3 questions - veggies and flowers

Long story, but got a late start and some of my seedlings are very small.

1. First the temperature - The weather right now is high 30s/low 40s at night and high 50s during the day, but being in New England, that could change at anytime - hopefully for the warmer.

2. Some of my seedlings have their 2nd or even 3rd set of leaves and are between 2-4 inches tall. (Some broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and marigolds). But some that got the late start still only have their first leaves and are only like 1 inch tall. (More broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and marigolds PLUS celery, cucumbers, pansies and violas.)

My first raised garden is almost built, and I would really like to start hardening off and planting next week into the weekend (should hopefully be in the 60s during the daytime by then). I wouldn't be able to do it until after work or the following weekend (May 5), but I'd really like to start.

3. I want to plant beans, corn, peas, broccoli, lettuce and onions directly outside - can I do that now with these temps or should I wait?

Any help is greatly appreciated!
Last edited by SLC on Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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jal_ut
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Broccoli, lettuce, peas, cilantro and onions are cool weather plants and can be started directly in the garden as early as your ground dries up enough in the spring to get on it.

Corn can be planted (seed directly) about two weeks before your last avg frost date. You need to know that date.

Tender plants such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are not cold hardy, and should not be planted out until danger of frost is past. They will not survive a frost. Peppers and tomatoes are often started indoors, or in a greenhouse, but beans and cucumbers do well seeded directly where they will grow, after danger of frost is past.

You can plant seed, of the warm weather plants, directly on the Date of Last AVG. Frost. Do a Google search to find the date.

Pansies are cold hardy plants too. The other flowers you mention, not so.

Small seedlings are OK to plant.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

Lintu
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I am also in CT but I'm thinking we might be in different areas because we're slightly warmer here (SW coast). I've got lettuce, potatoes, and beans planted outside. I'm a bit nervous about the beans with how it's cooled off here (the warm start fooled me).

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rainbowgardener
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Personally I think it is fine to put the 2-4" ones with more than one pair of true leaves out to start hardening off. The tiny ones are very vulnerable to whatever viscissitudes come along and if it were me I would keep them indoors a bit longer.

As James pointed out, there's a difference between cool weather crops (cold hardy, frost tolerant, often tend to fizzle when it gets hot) and warm weather crops (not cold hardy, die if they get frost bit, like the warm weather). Of the things you mentioned, broccoli, cilantro, celery, marigolds, lettuce, onions, marigolds, pansies, violas are cold hardy. The rest are not.

All the cold hardy stuff can definitely be planted now, could have been planted a month ago. But the broccoli, you can try putting out the biggest plants, but I wouldn't bother planting broccoli seed now. As you have seen, it is slow growing. By the time it is getting big enough to do anything, it will be too hot for it and it likely won't set any heads. Depending on how your season goes, it may well already be too late for peas to do well. Plant your lettuce seed directly in the ground ASAP. But it may not last very long. Once it gets hot, the lettuce tends to bolt, go to seed, and be done very quickly.

The corn can be planted when the soil (not air) temp is 60; the beans when soil temp is 70. Plant them directly in the ground outside. If your night time (air) temps are staying above 40 (or at least real close), you can bring the tomato and pepper plants out to start hardening off. The cucumbers are the warmest of warm season crops and want soil temps at least close to 75.
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digitS'
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SLC, just my 2¢ and what I'm doing (with a climate probably not much different from yours and even weed seedlings are only just now showing up ;) ):

This is the 1st day for the tomatoes to be outdoors. I suppose you can say they are hardening-off but, mostly, they are outside to make it easier to water them. Some are in 4-packs and the others have already been moved from 4-packs to 4" pots. They have spent the last few days out of the heated greenhouse and in a unheated plastic tunnel so they are somewhat used to a range of temperatures.

When it rose above 50°, I moved them into the most protected area of my yard. The sun was shining on them for the 1st couple of hours but they are now in the filtered sunlight of a tree, that is yet to leaf-out. At noon, the temperature was above 65°. There is only a slight breeze. They will have direct sunlight again during late afternoon so I'll move them out of the sun & into shade. Soon, they will be back in the plastic tunnel where they will have to remain during the nights, certainly, for the next few weeks. I doubt if the weather will be good enough to bring them outdoors again until next week.

The only transplants I have in the garden right now are onions and a few of the snapdragons. They can both take a frost and that is what I expect - more frosts. Both of the onions and the snaps were harden-off in that same "Sweet Spot" in my yard. They were also moved out of the direct afternoon sun until the final couple of days and spent their nights, back under plastic.

I would be comfortable moving cabbage and broccoli into the garden but the seedlings aren't quite far enough along so they are being "babied" here at home for another week or so. The same is true with the lettuce and bok choy starts, altho' the bok choy is already in a garden bed, covered with hoops & plastic film. I will have lots to move into other beds soon.

Plant starts are babied around here - as best as I can. Things like peppers and eggplants won't be coming out until the very nicest days. I don't really want anything to be exposed to freezing temperatures even if they can survive the cold. I don't leave them outdoors at night during the hardening-off period except, maybe, the last night or 2. If they are tough enough to stay outdoors 24 hours - they are tough enough to go into the open garden.

Both cold and high temperatures and strong sunlight aren't their friends so they are introduced to those conditions slowly. Strong winds, also - there's just no value to be gained by slamming them around. After a week or 2, they will be out there and on their own.

Oh, you can provide some protection in the garden - like shade from the sun. But, I seldom do that. At some time, you have just done all you can for them - they've got their feet in the soil - and, it is time to stand on their own but it is a slow introduction at 1st.

Steve
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SPierce
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I'm sort of near you in Western MA- my tomatoes and peppers have been living outside night and day for 2 weeks now- i had originally brought them out during the 80 and 90 degree weather we've had, although now I'm getting the 50's-60 degree weather you're getting.

So far, the tomatoes were hardened off when they had their tiny first true leaves showing- they're now on their third set. The peppers are on their first-second, but I'm at the point where I'm going to bring them back inside at night if it gets any colder. As it is, they're surviving the colder weather fairly well, even if i spend most the night worrying about them!

The pumpkin was getting too big to keep in its pot (6 inch) so it's been planted into the ground.

the others are still outdoors, but i won't be planting in the ground until next weekend, just to be on the safe side! Our last frost date was April 10th but it's hovering worrily nearby.

SLC
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A few more questions - in red.

I forgot - I plan to plant potatoes too - when can those be planted?

What is the proper way to harden off the seedlings? I thought it was to put them outside for only an hour or two each day for about a week - or should it be more than that? I don't get home from work until after 5:00, so that is when they would go outside...

Last year, broccoli did grow through the summer and I actually got some, but all of the lettuce bolted. With the lettuce, is it possible that if it reaches a certain size before it gets too hot that it won't bolt? Or could it bolt at any time even when heads are forming? I don't know anything about lettuce. (Only growing Iceburg) Can you start lettuce indoors?

Last year, I didn't get my garden started until the end of June/early July because of rain, rain, rain and more rain, and then I learned that I live on marsh land, so it was a disaster. Anyway, I planted the peas at the end of June and actually got peas! But....just about the time they were almost ready to be picked, we got a hurricane with what else, more rain, and it just ruined them. :cry: So even if I plant this weekend, I think I'll be okay with the peas....I will let you know!

There is some good info to remember in here - I hope you guys don't mind if I save this posting for future reference!

SLC
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Lintu wrote:I am also in CT but I'm thinking we might be in different areas because we're slightly warmer here (SW coast). I've got lettuce, potatoes, and beans planted outside. I'm a bit nervous about the beans with how it's cooled off here (the warm start fooled me).
Lintu - where in CT are you? I am on the Bristol/Burlington/Farmington line - a little west of central CT.

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digitS'
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Potatoes can go in the ground very early. I planted mine over a week ago, right after the onion sets and spinach seed went into the garden. Haven't seen a leaf above ground yet but they'll be along soon.

"What is the proper way to harden off the seedlings? I thought it was to put them outside for only an hour or two each day for about a week - or should it be more than that? I don't get home from work until after 5:00, so that is when they would go outside..." I think that would work but you might want to push the time longer on your days off.

The lettuce will bolt with hot weather. Lettuce seed will germinate in colder soil than just about anything. I suppose that stress may still cause it to bolt early but I've found that it works fairly well to start it in my greenhouse or a good location in containers and set out little clumps of 3 or 4 leaf lettuce together. Later, I harvest them all at the same time. Resowing and setting out quite a ways into summer . . . and then again in the fall. Head lettuce would need more space rather than be grown close together like that but starting elsewhere and transplanting is common.

If things have worked well for you in the past - try them again. Push the envelope a little both ways. A little seed, a little bother - you will increase your gardening skills :) !

Steve
We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

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rainbowgardener
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Plant your potatoes when the forsythia blooms, which for me in SW Ohio was mid-March, well before our last frost date.

There are different ways to harden off. For me, since I also have a job, I do it with placement. The first time they go out, they stay out all day, while I am at work, but I put them in a very protected spot with no direct sun and protection from breezes (under a garden bench with fence behind them). Then if it is still cold at night they come in for the night.

After a day or two under the bench, then they get moved to on top of the bench where they get just a couple hours of morning sun.

So in steps they are gradually moved to more exposure. Once they can be in full sun and stay out at night, they are ready to plant.
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SLC
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So if I am understanding this correctly, I could plant peas, broccoli, lettuce and potatoes this weekend? It is going to be up to 60 during the day and the 20s at night though - can I still plant them?

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rainbowgardener
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Yes, all of those are cold weather crops that are frost tolerant and need to get going before it warms up.
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orgoveg
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rainbowgardener wrote:Plant your potatoes when the forsythia blooms, which for me in SW Ohio was mid-March, well before our last frost date.
That's interesting news to me. I thought potatoes didn't like the cold. I've been planting them in late April every year (which still gives them plenty of time).

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rainbowgardener
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Well, mine went through a bunch of freezes and near freezes and are thriving. I've been hilling them up.

They are such pretty plants! I'd grow them as ornamentals if they didn't make potatoes.
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jal_ut
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I forgot - I plan to plant potatoes too - when can those be planted?
Who said, "When the forsythia blooms"? Good advice. Potatoes can be planted in April in your location. I plant potatoes mid April to May 5.

I plant broccoli seed directly in the garden. It can be planted early. You need to protect it from insects though. Bugs love it. Sprinkle DE on the area the day of planting and weekly thereafter. Yes, it is small seed and the new seedlings are small, but it grows quickly.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

Ohio Tiller
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orgoveg wrote:
rainbowgardener wrote:Plant your potatoes when the forsythia blooms, which for me in SW Ohio was mid-March, well before our last frost date.
That's interesting news to me. I thought potatoes didn't like the cold. I've been planting them in late April every year (which still gives them plenty of time).
You can plant potatoes as soon as you can break ground I planted mine in early march this year and I have plants out of the ground 8 inches tall already and they have been hit with frost 6 or 7 times. What I have found in the past is if they do get burnt down by frost they just come back thicker and I end up with more potatoes in the fall.

orgoveg
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Just changed my planting schedule for next year. Thanks.

SLC
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jal_ut wrote: I plant broccoli seed directly in the garden. It can be planted early. You need to protect it from insects though. Bugs love it. Sprinkle DE on the area the day of planting and weekly thereafter.
What is DE? Last year I noticed the leaves were getting eaten. I had heard to sprinkle some cayenne pepper on it, and it actually seemed to work, but I don't know if it will help a seedling. What is this DE stuff?

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sheeshshe
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DE+ diatomaceous earth. use food grade not pool grade. you can find it at the feed store




WOW! I didn't know that about potatoes. I thought they went in when tomatoes did. no wonder my potatoes were not finished last year! and now it is probably too late since i don't have the starts yet :(
Sheila, gardening on the zone 4b/5a line.

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applestar
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Potatoes come in three types - early, mid, and long season.
Earliest is about 90 days and longest is about 115-120 days. Good seed potato source will have them clearly indicated.

I just planted last of my seed potatoes last Saturday. These were store bought potatoes that started to sprout. I'm experimenting with whole egg-sized seed potatoes, cut to just one or two eyes seed potatoes, and generously peeled sprouting eyes. :wink:



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