Friday, April 15, 2011

Doing the Seedling Shuffle

I began hardening off some spring crops last weekend. Onions, Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi, Spinach and Lettuce were allowed to sun themselves outside a little at a time. I like to begin this process while I am home the weekend so I can watch over the seedlings to make sure they are not becoming stressed from the sun or wind. I also make sure they are watered during the time they are out.

After several days, the seedlings are usually ready to be shuffled outside before I head into work and brought inside after dinner. I will skip a day if the weather is expected to be especially rainy or windy. A cold frame would really come in handy right now.

Swiss Chard, Pak Choi and Chinese Cabbage were bursting from their soil blocks, so they were transplanted mid-week to the garden. I am not sure how they will do as some of our nighttime temperatures are still dipping below freezing. For now, they are under protection of a makeshift hoop covered with a lightweight row cover:

Makeshift hoop covered with a lightweight row cover

From top to bottom: Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, and Pak Choi

A simple dome made with two 10 foot PVC conduit has been placed over the 4x4 SFG. On very cold nights like tonight, the bed is covered with plastic for added protection. Tonight temperatures may go as low as 21 degrees F.

The SFG beds have been cleaned up and fresh compost added and worked in. They are ready for planting whenever the weather cooperates. The next few days will also remain quite chilly with nights still dipping below freezing:

Here are some pictures of the spring seedlings and other things that are growing in the garden:

Onions Enjoying the Sun



Some overwintered bunching onions

Garlic peeking up through the leaf mulch


I was planning on transplanting the spinach seedlings under the hoop this weekend. However, fluctuating temperatures must have confused them. Most of the spinach began bolting within a few days of hardening off (sigh). I will harvest the spinach and direct seed some more in the garden.


  1. Everything is looking really good in the garden. It's funny you mentioned a coldframe for hardening off seedlings - because I didn't even use mine...

  2. I've been putting my babies out almost every day when it gets up to 50F or higher, but we've had intermittent sun/clouds which have been good for them. They seem to be getting strong and stocky, if not huge. Your onions and lettuces look fantastic! Too bad about the spinach, but at least it grows quickly from seed.

  3. I haven't started hardening off anything not already in the garden due to cold overnight temps. Yours look worse than ours. Brrr. I bet your hoop cover should handle it though. Mine did, though I've taken it down.

    I can't see hardening off my tomatoes until the cool temps and wind dies down. /sigh, they're huge!

  4. Looks good. Your Pak Choi should do fine. Mine started to bolted when to temps hit just above 65. They seem to like it cool.

  5. Boy your onions and lettuce are beautiful! I'm sure the seedlings you planted will do fine. They like the cold!

  6. We seem to be warmer by about 10F from you. Last night was predicted to be about 28F but I woke up this morning and the low only got to 33F. Yeah! The lettuce didn't have to see freezing temps again.

  7. EG: Carrying out the seedlings every morning before work and carrying them back in is a PIA. I would use a cold frame if I had one. I’ll have to look into building one this summer.

    Granny: The lettuce and onions really would be happy to be planted in the ground right now. Onions will probably be transplanted today once it warms up enough to work outside. Lettuce may go under the hoops where the spinach was planned.

    Sinfonian: Last spring was so much warmer. I think it is better to be cautious especially with tomatoes. I won’t be planting those out for a month or so.

    Liisa: Our temperatures were in the mid-60s earlier in the week. I think one of the Pak Choi is bolting as well. The rest seem ok so far.

    Robin: I hate this time of the year; I struggle with wanting to plant the garden to worrying that it is too cold for the seedlings that I have been caring for. Spring crops have such a small window sometimes. With summer crops, I would just wait until it was warm enough.

    Daphne: I am not sure how cold it was for us last night, but it is 25 right now as I type this (8:20 AM). I haven’t ventured out to see what is happening under the dome yet.

  8. due to our weather I only plant under cover for at least a month or more...seeds and plants both...I planted out a bit earlier this year to see if the cover would protect and help the seed get off to a good start ...we shall see..great ideas I shall incorporate more

  9. I have to start hardening off some of our plants too. However, it's been so stormy the last few days which has slowed our moving of seedlings outdoors. sigh.

  10. I'm new to your blog. I just started gardening outdoors (previously, I've only done container gardening since I never had any land). I have to tell you how much I'm learning from your blog! I love it! We're trying to grow lettuce, and we have some mesclun greens growing, but my four seasons isn't cooperating. I think the temperature in the greenhouse was a bit too warm, and we missed our window. We're going to try again sowing directly into the ground, but have to build some hoop houses first to keep the birds and squirrels away. I'll keep coming here for good advice. :O )

  11. I am in the same hardening off shuffle right now. Night time temps have been really low the last two nights but the unheated greenhouse has been providing enough protection. I wish our normal temps would arrive!

  12. I love your pictures of your veggies, so well done and elegant. I guess it's tough being in Maine with such a short growing season. You have a very nice setup with your square foot beds. I just started square foot gardening this year and love it. I am trying to get my blog going at

    Thanks for the ideas.

  13. Donna: It is really challenging to garden in colder regions. Last year our spring seemed to jump right into summer and most of my cold loving crops immediately responded by bolting. Sometimes, though you can harvest a nice amount of greens in early spring. It is fun to experiment to see what can withstand the cold temperatures.

    Meemsnyc: The weather was pretty crazy last weekend. The last thing we want at this point if for the wind to blow our seedlings away.

    Marty J. Christopher: Thank you for your nice comment. I container gardened when I didn’t have any land either. It definitely has its own challenges. I also continue to use container around the yard and garden. Marvel of Four Seasons seems to be some tough lettuce. It didn’t even flinch when I placed it outside to harden off. I am sure you will have great luck direct seeding it.

    Laura (KitsapFG): Thankfully the seedling shuffle is slowing down for a little while. Over the past week, I have transplanted some of the spring seedlings to the garden and left most of the seedlings out nights.

    Kris (Georgia Gardener): Thanks for you comment and welcome to my blog. Gardening in Maine has some challenges, but I am able to stretch the season out to almost 6 months of growing something in the garden. I could definitely push this further by using hoops and cold frames. Gardening in the heat must also have its own challenges. I visited your blog, you have a lovely garden and I am looking forward to catching up with your blog.