Oh glory, March 20th marks the first official day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the season of awakening, for opening the windows and peeling off clothing, for feeling the sun on my skin, smelling that fresh musk of wet petrachor and new growth, and finally stepping outside into dirt and getting down to gardening!
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, there were snow flurries in Portland just a few short weeks ago. But still, Spring is right around the corner and my baby plants are growing up so fast! Remember my first seeds of the year, my Zinnias? In just 2 weeks they’ve gone from fragile wee sprouts to sturdy little seedlings, and they’re now about ready for the big move outside.
^Very early March ^ ^Mid-late March ^
Allowing your babies to leave the nest is both scary and exciting, and like any parent you’re going to want to make the transition a smooth one. These little guys are used to stable temperature, reliable light, and constant attention. When I transfer them into their permanent pots this weekend, they’ll suddenly be facing icy nights, windy mornings, and unpredictable cloud cover. If they didn’t get an adjustment period to cushion the blow, such harsh conditions could prove fatal.
In order to prevent your babies from perishing in shock, you’ll need to slowly acclimate them to the outdoors, in a process called hardening off. This is best done over a period of 3-6 days, with daily increase in duration and sun exposure. The first trip outside should be in a shady area sheltered from wind. If conditions are mild you can leave them out all day, but if it’s especially cold or especially warm, make it a shorter excursion. Each day, increase the time spent outside, and allow for more direct sunlight. Make sure to provide plenty of water throughout this process, and always be in before night. Pay close attention to what your seedlings saying – they will tell you if they are upset! Browning, wilting, and dropped leaves are all clear signs that your little one isn’t quit ready to take the plunge.
Right now I’m hardening off my Zinnias, Beets, and Arugula. *tear* I’m so proud!
What have you planted this year?