By Victoria Rolfe
Now that we are in the second half of May and the ground temperatures have warmed up, it is time to move those little indoor seedlings we’ve been coddling out to their summer home in the garden.
Because they have been so pampered in the cushy environment of your temperature-controlled home, it would be too much of a shock for your little darlings to go abruptly into the outside world. You must begin to prepare them by gradually getting them used to life in the great outdoors. (If you are a parent, you will be familiar with this process.)
About one week before transplanting, you will need to put the seedlings in a sheltered spot outside for a few hours. Then bring them back in for the night. Continue to increase the length of time they are outside each day, and gradually get them used to direct sunlight, until by the end of the week they are staying outdoors all night. (You don’t have to dread this all-nighter as much as you did with your teens.)
Now they are ready to be planted into their permanent garden home. Remember that seed packet you were cautioned not to throw out? It’s time to consult it once again for proper spacing and other growing condition needs.
The best day to transplant them is actually a cool, cloudy (even rainy) day, late in the afternoon if possible. Many a time I have been that crazy lady in the neighborhood who is out there playing in my garden in the rain, so as not to traumatize my baby seedlings by planting them in the hot baking sun.
You will need a trowel, water, some fertilizer or compost, and your labels. Remember: Your transplants are still babies, so treat them as such. Be very gentle.
Dig your hole, add a spoonful of fertilizer or shovelful of compost and fill it with water. Then very gently squeeze the sides of your container until your seedling slips out without being tugged. Place it in the hole. (If the roots are tightly wound, spread them apart with your fingers.) Now fill it with soil and tuck your plant in.
Most plants can be placed at the same depth that they were growing in the container, but tomatoes will benefit from being buried deeper, and will actually grow more roots along the portion of the stem that is buried in the ground. After you plant it give it another drink of water and move on to the next. Remember to label each group.
When you are done for the day, go back and give all your transplants one more watering, and keep them well watered for the next few days to help them get thoroughly established in their new summer home.
Late May to early June is also the time to get your summer/fall crop seeds into the ground. Those you can sow directly at this time include all plants in the squash family, cucumbers, melons, and beans.
Now is also the time to plant the flower seeds that I suggested you do once the ground has warmed up (such as cleome, cosmos, Heliopsis, marigolds, morning glories, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and zinnias). Again, consult your seed packets for the correct depth, spacing, and growing requirements. Some require some support, such as cucumbers, pole beans, and morning glories. You can eliminate the need to use a trellis for beans by choosing bush varieties if that suits you better.
You can use anything to support your viney plants. Of course you can just go out and buy a trellis, but if you don’t want to spend the money, or if you feel like being whimsical, just try whatever you can find that the plants can grab ahold of and climb up. I once saw someone use an old bed frame. That is part of the fun and charm of gardening. You get to use your imagination!
Once you have everything planted, your main job will be to keep your transplants and seeds frequently watered. You will also have to do some weeding to keep the competition away. As your plants become better established, you can mulch them to suppress the weeds and hold in the moisture. At this point you are in full swing, and your garden is up and running for the summer.
Soon you will begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Victoria Rolfe has had a love of gardening all her life, from the time she was a tiny child coveting the daffodils growing in her neighbor’s yard (and wondering why she couldn’t have them in her own), to her teenage years when she took her pot experimentation in a different direction by growing the seeds she extracted from the bag into a beautiful marijuana plant on her bedroom windowsill. She went on in her adult years to feed her family by growing a huge and bountiful vegetable garden, as well as beautifying her three-acre property with an array of ornamental trees, bushes and flowers in the magnificent Hudson Valley region of New York.
Victoria learned a great deal in the process of all this plant experimentation. She then added to that knowledge by taking courses with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to become a Master Gardener Volunteer. In her volunteer capacity, she helps to educate the public on gardening through classes and information booths, most notably at the Dutchess County N.Y. Fair each August. Throughout the summer months, Victoria is most likely to be found among the weeds, either in her own garden or those of others who actually pay her to play in their dirt and do the thing she loves best, delight in the magical world of gardening.
Victoria is not only a gardening aficionado; she is also passionate about helping people live a better life on less money. Visit her website and blog at brightfuture2budget4.weebly.com, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.