After months of fuss — making sure water, temperature and light are just right to coax life out of dormant seeds — taking your plants out of their pots and planting their roots in the soil, leaving them to wilt or thrive outdoors, is a big step.
This week, I took that step. I transplanted my tomatoes, hot peppers, peanuts and a last-minute cucumber. I also directly sowed a couple of zucchini seeds and will put some beans in as soon as I can set up poles for them.
I followed relatively close to traditional wisdom, which suggests to put plants out after either May 10 or Mother’s Day. I was a few days early, but according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, our last average frost date is April 15, so I figured it was safe.
Before tossing the plants to the harsh sunlight and colder nights of the great outdoors, I gradually hardened them off.
Too big of a shift between the safe, climate controlled indoor grow space and the wilds of the garden bed can shock young plants, stunting their growth or killing them altogether. It’s best to gradually introduce them to outdoor conditions by leaving them outside for an hour or two a day and work up to a full day and night before planting.
I mixed a little fermented manure into my raised bed soil to prepare it for my plants. I also had to top off the two older beds with bagged soil after two years of settling.
Because my tomatoes were a bit leggy, I buried them deeper than the level of the pot from which I transplanted them. Tomato vines will grow roots from the buried stems, making them stronger and able to pick up more nutrients.
Some of my plants were so tall that I bent the stems and buried them starting almost parallel to the ground. That’s OK, it will help the plant in the long run.
For me, digging through the garden in the morning sun, with the golden light breaking through new leaves and birds singing, is a true sign of spring. Being out in it and preparing the plants I nursed for weeks to be in it is one of the best stress relievers.
Though the plants are now out of the safety and control of the sunroom, my job is far from over. Now, the weeding and watering phase starts. The raised beds make it easier to keep unwanted plants out and the soil in them drains better.
I do still have a half-dozen extra tomato plants and a couple of peppers I’ll have to find a good home for. I don’t want the care I gave them to go to waste.