Spring has arrived in earnest: once again trees are shading us with their emerald green canopies, while a robin has chosen the grapevine wreath on our front door in which to build a nest.
Seedlings grown under fluorescent lights indoors are stocky and green, but they would wilt and scald if moved suddenly to full sun. Hardening off is the process of conditioning a plant grown indoors so it is tough enough to withstand direct sun, wind, and rain. Moving plants in and out every day is a lot of work, so a simpler method of hardening off is to set plants in shade and gradually move them to full sun. There is a perfect spot under the dappled shade of a river birch in our yard that receives ideally sheltered conditions for these seedlings to acclimate to the great outdoors. Plants purchased from garden centers usually require no process at all.
These four-week old broccoli seedlings are already acclimated and ready to transplant to permanent growing locations in the garden. I use a shovel to dig holes large enough for each mature root system, back fill some top soil, and mix well with composted manure and a sprinkling of 10-10-10. I top each transplant with a milk jug with the bottom cut out, to protect it from insects and the elements while it is still vulnerable. Greenhouse conditions inside help ensure each plant is off to a good start.
The garden is changing to green as we are harvesting leaf lettuce and spinach. To keep these crops in production longer, we snip just a few outer leaves from each plant and spare the crown to keep producing. This weekend saw the completion of a cucumber fence and some needful weeding; I also re-tilled the future corn patch to better incorporate organic matter from last week's decaying cover crop. Though the summer vegetable patch is still taking shape, the spring garden is ready to harvest!