Real Men Sow

How Are Your Seedlings? Its Time to Start Hardening Off!


Mid May to the beginning of June is a flappy time for me.

With the exception of the hardy peas and broad beans (which are already out in the open beds), I begin to harden off the rest of my seedlings.

Hardening off is the process of slowly acclimatising indoor grown plants to their eventual allotment or garden spot by leaving them outside during the day and bringing them back in overnight. Generally, I harden off my plants for about a week, before taking the plunge and leaving them outside ready to plant out.

This can involve a lot of toing and froing, especially on a work day. To help get everything outside quickly, I put the pots onto trays so I can minimise the amount of fiddly stuff I have to move. I use trays with holes in the bottom though, so liquid can run off when I water.

I’m a bit of an agoniser when it comes to deciding if a plant is ready to be hardened off. I stand in my greenhouse obsessing if the plant is big enough, am I putting it out too early, or is the plant even growing quickly enough.

what’s Hardening Off at the Moment?
Currently hardening off are French beans (they grow so quickly!), courgettes, parsnips in half loo rolls, kale, outdoor cues and leeks. Over the next couple of days I’ll start putting the runner beans out too.

My squashes are still quite small so I reckon I’ll leave them in the greenhouse for another week or so to hopefully put a growth spurt on in the sunshine. Sadly, my sowings of Uchiki Kuri haven’t come up at all. I can only guess they’re a dodgy packet as I sowed 8, but the butternuts and Turk’s Turban are both doing well so hopefully I’ve still got a chance of a decent harvest.

Tomato Anxiety
Every year I fret about my tomatoes too. I’m a late tom sower – I don’t generally start them off in February on a windowsill, preferring to wait until late April and sowing in my greenhouse. The seedlings are a couple of inches high, so next job is to pinch out and repot the spares.

Now the temperatures are hotting up, I’m hoping that the seedlings will start romping away. I might miss my June 1st planting out deadline, but with some luck they shouldn’t be too far away from that.

Odd Aubergine Germination!
One notable going on has involved the aubergines I sowed in April. Two of the four germinated fairly fast, but the other two pots sat dormant for weeks. Nothing happened for so long in fact, that I had subconsciously consigned them to the compost bin.

But lo and behold, they’ve germinated. They’re a few weeks behind the other seedlings, but the baby aubergines are underway. I’m calling that accidental successional sowing.

Keep Watering!
One thing I’ve had to keep a really close on during the recent hot weather is watering. Its amazing how quickly pots dry up in a greenhouse. I missed one morning watering session, and my courgettes had wilted by lunchtime.

They popped back up rapidly after I’d given the plants a good drink, but it just goes to show how on the ball you have to be this time of the year.

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  1. JamesMay 20, 2014 at 7:06 amReply

    +1 for your watering paragraph. I forgot to open my greenhouse until 11am on Sunday and the thermometer read 40C. The plants were screaming for water!

  2. SparrowgrassMay 21, 2014 at 7:56 pmReply

    I had broad beans over wintered in the greenhouse and planted them out in March….I’ve had two big meals from them already! They will have to come out in June so that I have room for my leeks; I have only a half allotment (135 square meters) so it all has to work quite hard. I have spinach on the go, and pak choi, and some over wintered onions are bulking up nicely. The easy winter ( norwich ) helped a lot. Wherever we are, growing food is a tremendous excitement and reward.

  3. tinyallotmentMay 23, 2014 at 7:34 pmReply

    Opening up the polytunnel in time is a problem for us too as we do not live on site so have to make time to go to the allotment before it gets too hot.
    The rain we had yesterday gave us about 400 litres of water in the butts so watering is no longer a problem.
    I do like this time of year, It is very satisfying taking your plants you have nurtured from seed and putting them out into the wider world.
    Good luck with your growing this year


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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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