Toughening Up & Hardening Off

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Over these last couple of weeks I’ve been reminded that surviving an Edmonton winter is nothing compared to surviving an Edmonton spring!  A week of warm weather that prompts the pulling off of sweaters and putting on of shorts is abruptly terminated by a week of temperatures barely hovering above the necessity of a parka, and I, along with my tomato, tomatillo, pepper, basil, cucumber, and zucchini plants, are all struggling to adapt.

Zucchini blossoms

Zucchini blossoms

Tomatillo blossom

Tomatillo blossom

Tomato blossoms

Tomato blossoms

Lemon basil cold damage

Lemon basil cold damage

I admit, the plants are having a tougher time hardening-off than I am.  Because we have yet to create sweaters for basil plants, some have leaves that are slightly blackened in spots (a sign that temperatures have been too cold for them).  Two out of the four lemon cucumbers I started informed me, in no uncertain terms, that they were unhappy by quickly wilting and then, just as quickly, by dying (wimps!).  The peppers won’t let me know for a while whether they’ve been affected – if they have, they’ll delay blossoming until they feel they’ve met their heat quotient and, if I’m lucky, push out a few fruits before the temperatures drop again.  My heart goes out to the tomatoes and the tomatillos though – they’ve been so eagerly growing, pushing out flowers, clearly anticipating their new life out in the garden (in the newly renovated beds we recently constructed).  But they’re weathering the disappointment the best of all of them except maybe the zucchini; they’ve started to open up some exuberant, relentlessly cheerful blossoms, optimistically hoping for, I guess, a winged pollinator to stop by – but it’s too cold for even a house fly. 

So the hardening-off process will have to start all over again – when the nightime temperatures don’t fall below 10 deg. C.  Usually I start hardening-off my plants by putting them outside in a shaded spot for about four hours when the day time temperature is about 15 deg. C.  I gradually extend the time the plants spend outside and, by the second week, when I start leaving them outside overnight, I move them into a sunnier spot during the day.

If only I could toughen myself up in a similar way…please let spring arrive soon!

Share/Save

Too Hot to Handle

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
One of my defenseless raab seedlings being protected by a swathe of cayenne pepper.

One of my defenseless raab seedlings being protected by a swathe of cayenne pepper.

As if the unexpected snow and below freezing temperatures weren’t enough for my fledgling plants, the neighborhood cats have decided that the newly-wood-edged beds make perfect litter boxes.  So far, no seedlings have been disturbed by the digging but, since I think it’s only a matter of time before some kitty puts a paw wrong, I needed to take action.  I can never seem to catch a cat in the act (who knew they were such private creatures?) so spraying them with a hose won’t work.  I don’t use netting because I don’t plant my beds all at once so, along with the fuss of having to pull netting on and off a hundred times whenever I sow new seeds, there’s also the danger of leaves from taller plants getting tangled up and broken whenever I move the net.  So I turned to the kitchen spice rack…

I don’t remember where I heard about it or read it, but cayenne pepper sprinkled on the soil is supposed to deter cats from digging in the garden.  I assume it’s the smell that keeps them away – I, myself, sneezed several times while applying it and, since animals have much more sensitive olfactory senses than humans, I can believe that it would be more distressing to a cat than to me.

IMG_0611IMG_0612It’s been a few days and, while I’ll need to re-apply the cayenne pepper after I water or it rains, it seems to be working – and it makes a rather pretty splash of color in the garden.

Row Covers Are Da Bomb!

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Okay, that’s a dumb title but it expresses how I feel about my row covers – one of the BEST THINGS EVER for gardeners attempting to get through the spring weather surprises!  A couple of days ago we got hit with some below-freezing temperatures and snow, a threat to my emerging red mustard, mesclun, raab, borage, snap peas, spinach, carrot, radish, California poppy, arugula, and beet seedlings.  At ten o’clock on Sunday night, the hubby was recruited to help me cover all the beds and two days later, after removing the row covers and several centimeters of snow, the seedlings seem unfazed by their near-death experience.