The warm days that most of us throughout the US have been experiencing, is like a fever for many of us to want to go out and buy plants for our gardens.
Most of us purchase our herb and vegetable plants at a nursery or garden centers, maybe even at places like Walmart, Lowes, HomeDepot. They all have good quality plants that we can usually buy with confidence.
The plants we purchase will be either annuals or perennials. Usually there is a little marker in the plant pot that tells us if the plant is annual or perennial; weather it likes lots of sun or shade or part sun/shade. Even the amount of water that it likes. Don't throw them away, pay attention to this as you decide where you will plant in your garden. Incidentally, the way you tell the difference between annual and perennial is to think annual is once or one season or year and perennial plural years.
When we bring our plants home, the biggest mistake we usually make is to start planting them in our garden right away, especially now (April) . Herb plants and most vegetable plants need to go through what is called a hardening off period.
We really don't know if where we purchased the plant if it has been hardened off or not ( and for that matter, the workers at the store may not either) . Most likely, they haven't. So, here is my suggestion for when you buy plants and bring them home. Now, I'm talking about vegetable and herb plants only. Also, bear in mind that I live in NC and we will get frost into May. If you live north of NC, use this as a guide. However, if you live in a warmer part than NC, you can cut days off my suggestion; ie where I mention 4 to 5 days, you could do in 3 to 4 days; where I mention introducing to your garden, you could do this in 2 to 3 days. The term hardening off is simply introducing your plants to outside temperatures so as not to “shock” them and thus cause your plants to die.
I'm going to cover buying plants now and then buying plants later in the summer or last minute.
A couple of things before we begin:
To start with, get some type of plastic (or other material) container that you can set your plants in and can carry to other parts of your property. I use 22” long by 16 “ wide by 6 “ deep containers that work well for me. You can also use a simple dish pan that you can pick up in a dollar store for $2 to $3.
Keep your plants in their pots, that you purchased them in and don't take them out. Put the pots in the containers (1) and don't take them out.
FOR YOUR PLANTS NOW: ( March, April, early part of May)
If you bring your plants home early in the morning or afternoon, you could put them right in the containers (1) and pour about 1 ½ “ of water in the container. Remember to keep water in the container at all times. Put your plants in a shady location for just 3 to 4 hours. Then bring your plants into the house where they will be warm for the night (2).
The next day, put your plants (following ( 1) and ( 2), back out side in the morning in the sun for just a couple of hours. If it is cold or quite cool (60 degrees or less) wait and don't put your plants out.
For 4 to 5 days, you can leave your plants out in the morning sun and some shade in the afternoon, then back in the late afternoon sun. Bring them in at night.
It is very important not to leave your plants out at night for the first week and half, no matter how nice it is.
After a week of moving from sun to shade and back again, you can start leaving them out and not bother too much with them. Start with putting your plants where they will get the morning sun. They should be fine during the day, as long as the weather is not below 60 and this includes the wind chill factor. Remember to bring them in at night. (These past couple of days here in N.C I've had to take my plants in, and these have been hardening off for over a month. )
After about a month of bringing in your plants at night, you can start leaving them out in a protective area at night if the temperature is 55 or above. Check the temp for the night every day and don't leave your plants out if it will be below 40 degrees; cover your plants or bring them in. Leave your plants out all day and all night for 10 days before you plant them. Leave your plants out on rainy days and nights, but, of course, if a wind storm or hail is in the making, then by all means, bring your plants in.
After you have hardened off your plants as I suggest above, and you are getting close to planting them in the ground, do one more thing: take your new plants and just place them without planting them ( keep them in their pots and containers) and just set them near where they are going to be planted. This is a sort of introduction to where their new home is going to be. Do this for 4 to 5 days. But, bring them back up to where your were hardening them off for the night ( I say “up” b/c my garden is down from the house). After about 5 days, then you can leave them 24 hours near the area where you want to permanently plant them.( I suggest at least three 24 hour days) Then you can plant your herbs and vegetables.
It seems to be the rule of thumb, and a good one at that, don't do your planting of new plants until after Mother's Day, May 13. If we do have a frost after that, you will need to cover your new plants, because if they get hit by frost, they're dead.
FOR LATER IN THE SEASON OR AS I SAY “LAST MINUTE” ( mid May and throughout the summer)
Follow (1) and (2) above.
The first 3 days put your plants in dabbled sunshine. Bring them in at night. Then by the 4th & 5th day early morning sun and afternoon shade. Bring them in at night. For another 3 days, let your plants stay out all day. Then after that, all day and all night for about 2 to 4 days. Then, place your plants near where they will be planted for 2 days, bring them back up to where they were being hardened off, at the end of the day. Then for the next 2 days, leave them near the area all day and all night. By then your plants should be ready to join your garden.
The bottom line here friends, to take the time to harden off your plants before planting them in the ground, and don't plant new plants until all danger of frost has passed.
I know that this may seem like a hassle and maybe a bit prolonging, but, if you're going to spend your money and go through the work of planting, there is no sense is wasting either time nor money.
Posted by Elaynn
@ 11:25 AM EDT