All of a sudden we have arrived at that critical point in the garden. Weather at this time of year can be tricky with surprise hail storms and even frost. How do we navigate inclement spring weather and what are the best transplanting methods?
This is what we do:
- Harden your plants off outdoors before putting them right in the ground. If your plants were in a greenhouse or under grow lights it is a good idea to bring them outdoors for at least a few days and up to a few weeks before planting. This will give your plants time to adjust to full sunlight and possibly cooler temperatures.
- Prep your beds with compost or your organic fertilizer of choice. We use a lot of Nutri-rich and composted steer manure on our farm. Nutri-Rich is purchased in a bag and is essentially pelletized chicken manure. I use it in a few ways.
- I will mix a handful with a few gallons of water to make a quick ‘tea’ to feed to transplants.
- Mix the pellets directly into the garden beds for sustained fertility during the growing season.
- Add it to my potting soil when sowing seeds or potting up.
- Sometime I will sprinkle a small palmful into individual holes when transplanting into the beds.
- Mulch beds before planting. I do this before planting for two reasons. 1. The mulch protects bare soil and helps keep weeds down if there is time between bed prep and planting. 2. It is much easier to mulch an entire area than place mulch around individual plants after planting.
- Transplant in mild weather. Imagine you have spent all this time growing beautiful seedlings. Don’t stumble at the goal post by transplanting in the blistering heat or before a cold snap. Watch your weather!
- When the weather is hot as late spring/early summer can be I always wait until the evening to transplant so the plants have the cooler evening to settle in. This often means it takes me several weeks to get all my fields planted but it is well worth it.
- If it seems like a cold storm is coming I usually just wait. If the rain will be mild I will plant and cover the beds with row cover cloth.
- Handle transplants with care. Take your time and try not to disturb the roots too much. This is especially important for cucurbits like watermelon and squash. These are crops that often time do better direct seeded. Tomatoes can be buried extra deep and will actually root all the way up their stems if buried deeply.
- Cover fresh transplants with row cover or bird netting. There are few things more frustrating in the garden than to plant and then discover your seedlings eaten to the ground by birds and squirrels. I often leave the row cover on the beds until the plants are pushing at the cover.