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Hardening off challenge  RSS feed

 
Angela Brown
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Hi all,

First off, I posted this on another forum, then I decided that I wanted to post it here too.

I am so excited I have a community garden plot for the summer!!! I just found this out this week. I live in MN and I am a first time gardener. So I am planning on keeping things really simple. Tomatoes, peppers, bush beans, and carrots. Maybe some flowers or herbs. I have all of those seeds available right now and I plan on starting them this weekend. I am thinking to the near future and I am concerned about when it comes to hardening off. I live in an apartment, I don't have a car, I don't have access to a balcony/patio area in my apt complex or in the neighborhood. I live in a very high traffic area so I can't really sneak the plants out. My windows open out and have no screens. Can't leave them open or I will have birds and squirrels in my apartment. Ask me how I know! LOL

Anyway, I was thinking that I could maybe turn a fan on during the day and turn it off at night. I am also collecting milk cartons from the coffee shop in my building and I plan on using them for cloches to keep the plants warm at night once the day actually comes that I can plant them in the ground.

Well I was looking for some other suggestions and I would totally appreciate any experiences you would be willing to share!
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Carrots don't like to move and would be sown in the ground. Beans too, direct sow. That leaves the solanums, which like to have warm ground.. peppers more than tomatoes. They might like a cloche or one of your milk jugs, and that might be enough to ease them into the cold, since they would be going out later anyway... Maybe there is a wall or hut at your plot with a sunny wall, or with an overhang, where the heat of the day lingers, and they could spend some time there before going out... I think the fan is a good idea for indoor grown plants... and as much extra light as you can muster lest they get leggy.
 
Angela Brown
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Thanks Paul. Fortunately for me, all but one of my apartment windows faces south and there are no obstructions so they will get plenty of sunshine all day long! I have a question about the beans though. I have seen people who started their seeds and then transplanted them outside. However when I search the same beans up online I get the same advice you gave. To start them directly in the ground. Is there a significant detrimental effect to transplanting bush bean plants? Thanks again for the input. I am so excited and I am really trying not to bite off more than I can chew but it is so easy right now to just think "Well I can throw two or three more plants into the plan! Who needs experience!" LOL
 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 307
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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I use a temporary low tunnel made of PVC tubing and plastic sheeting to keep my tomatoes protected while hardening off.
 
Angela Brown
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When you do that Patrick, do you just leave your plants outside for good? It would be really inefficient for my personal situation to bring my plants back and forth to my plot everyday.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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I'd do both: use a fan while they start, just like you planned. 8 weeks ahead of your planting date is plenty. could do 10 for peppers if they are in bigger containers.
Then when I planted them out, a Wall-o'water or a cut off milk jug to protect them for a few days.
Tomatoes get planted with more of their stem below the soil. They will put out more roots and less to blow around when you take the top off.
Plant after your last frost date if using the milk jugs, can go as much as a month earlier with the Wall o'waters. But if you use the WoW you need to make sure they come off before a the first hot day or you could cook your toms and peppers.
When I use milk jugs I drive a stick through the spout into the ground to keep them from blowing away.
It's easiest to set up the trellis, stages or cages or whatever you'll use to support your toms when you transplant. And mulch.

Everything you picked to start with is great, but they are all going to take more than 2 months to harvest. You will have room between plants in the first month to add a few quick growing greens, like baby lettuce, baby chard and arugula. Radishes take a lot of regular water, but nothing's faster to the table. Feed the enthusiasm with a fast harvest. If you don't put something in the ground you want, the weeds will fill that niche, so you might as well use it. You can also treat yourself to a 6-pack of zinnias or cosmos for fresh flowers. Or start seeds, they are really easy. Calendula is a fast flower too. Dill and basil are easy, do double duty in the vase and the table.

If you can, find a beater folding chair or a stump or something to set in your plot so you can observe and enjoy your time there. Re-read Square Foot Gardening, which was motivated by Mel Bartholomew's observations of people burning out in their community plots, while you are sitting on your own patch of dirt. Talk to the old-timers and count bees. The more pleasant your time there is, the more time you will spend there learning. You have a good plan for a great start.
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 406
Location: Georgia
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I use something along the lines of what Patrick is suggesting, I use welded wire covered
with plastic sheeting. I am down South but the danger is more from overheating than freezing
inside this mini-hoop house. I leave the ends open except at night. The sun can really get it hot
inside there if there is no ventilation.
 
Angela Brown
Posts: 41
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Awesome advice! Thanks so much. I am glad to know I am on the right page as far as the milk jugs go. I am also glad to realize I won't need as many of them as I thought. I was thinking about some lettuces and flowers as well. I want to go shopping locally for those though because I order a LOT from the interwebs. I am also have a ton of herbs on order, but they won't be here for some weeks yet so I am not sure how that is going to pan out.

I just found out that there is a seed exchange in my community tomorrow so I will def run over there and meet some of my neighbors and see what local advice I can glean from them as well. I have been studying up on starting a garden for so long now I truly feel prepared but at the same time, I am so totally not prepared as well. If that even makes any sense. I may have to dig my old digital camera out and photograph my progress!

The snow is still pretty deep on the ground here and like a lot of people, we got a little more yesterday so I don't know when I will be able to get my hands dirty. It seems like a perfect time to bring out my SFG book along with several others I have accumulated over the years.
 
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