It’s been about six weeks since the seeds were started indoors and after a short period of hardening them outdoors, the growing seedlings are now ready to plant in the garden. Over the past week, they have enjoyed the occasional jaunt to the outdoors for a few hours on hot, sunny days and then were returned to the more comfortable indoor climate each night.
Tender seedlings do not do well in cold weather or a brisk wind, but they do need to be hardened by spending a few hours outdoors each day for about a week, before transferring them to the vegetable or flower garden. Keep small plants moist during the planting, but avoid watering the leaves when the sun is shining; water the soil instead.
When transplanting them to the vegetable or flower beds, avoid disturbing roots as much as possible. That’s where the jiffy or peat pots come in handy; you can plant the small pot along with the seedling. While many home gardeners swear by these plantable pots, I do however find that some peat pots do not seem to disintegrate as quickly as I would like them to and for this reason, I use a lot of regular plastic pots and just take more care with transplanting from these to the garden.
It’s a good idea to water the garden bed beforehand so that the ground is moist and seedlings can settle in quickly. Otherwise, you need to either dip the small plants into warm water as you plant, or water them immediately after you finish planting.
You’ll need to leave a fair amount of space between vegetable plants. I find 14″ – 16″ to be good for tomatoes and a little more is even better. It really depends on how much space you have available, but overcrowding can stunt their growth. It also makes it harder to get in there to remove tomatoes. Zucchini plants need more room and cucumbers will need room to branch out and vine somewhat, so I usually allow more room for them.
The amount of space required between flower seedlings depends entirely on the type of flower and whether you can expect them to bush out or grow tall and clustered. Review your seed catalog or package for recommended spacing between plants.
Right after transplanting tomato plants or bush cucumbers to the garden, install a tomato cage (wire guard) or other form of stake for each plant to grow into or lean on. If you leave this step for a few days, you may have a more difficult time pulling branches in and over the cage, which can cause them to break off. Poles should also be installed right away for each pole bean planting, so vines can be encouraged to climb as they grow.
Since warm leaves can easily be scorched by water, it’s best to water a garden either in the early morning or after the sun has gone down to avoid watering during the hottest time of day.
Remember to give tomatoes and other vegetables some added nutrients in way of tomato food or Miracle Grow occasionally. I don’t tend to over fertilize after planting; the garden already has a rich base, added manure and compost. How much fertilizer your garden requires depends on the condition of the soil and whether you’ve added some compost or manure during the year to replenish the nutrients used by the last season’s planting.
Avoid overwatering; check deep in the soil for moistness and add as required. Remove weeds to discourage their growth – they can rob the soil of nutrients your vegetables or flowers will need.
Monitor for signs of plant pests and treat accordingly. Potatoes are inclined to need a dusting periodically to discourage pests. Ensure that veining and bushing plants are well supported. I like to keep the soil loose close to plants with the use of a garden hoe, taking care not to disturb them.
I expect that within 30 days or so, the garden will show some signs of edibles. Lettuce will be ready much sooner (sometimes immediately) if planted from seedlings, rather than seeds. Seedlings will just need time to settle their roots, before you can start to cut and eat leaf lettuce.
Each year I tend to vary what I plant based on need. This year, I’ve planted more tomatoes in the hopes of canning more jars and less beans, since I still have lots of those from last year’s canning. And I’ve also tried a few more cukes, though processing at harvest time is limited to pickles and relishes.
Why grow your own vegetables? You can save a lot of money during the year growing your own veggies. You also are assured that there are no harmful pesticides or growth chemicals injected into your food supply. Produce fresh from the garden also has the best flavor. Then, there’s the great sense of accomplishment and enjoyment in planting and watching your food grow.
When it comes to flowers, you can often find some unusual perennials that you can start from seed. Just ensure that the type is known to grow in your area – check your area’s hardiness map. Now, sit back, relax (well, only a tad) and watch them grow.