How To Get Your Containers Ready for Spring + Hardening Off Seedlings

Hi friends, does it feel like Spring where you are?   It goes from freezing to muttering “It’s too hot out” pretty quickly, doesn’t it?  The past few days here have had temperatures that have caused no jacket, dress wearing and leaving a window open at night.  I already kicked off the comforter in bed (sorry for startling you Bofinkles) during the middle of the night, in disgust of it being a bit too warm.

How’s the weather where you are, is Spring finally coming around for you?  I know some of you guys have been struggling with storms and never ending snow, so I’m hoping things are changing so those gardens can start getting ready for a harvest happy season!

With the Spring season finally upon us, that means getting the containers ready for our Spring seedlings.    If you remember we already refreshed the boxes and some containers, but there plenty of others that were under greenhouses all Winter that needed to be fixed up.  So let’s clean up!

Winter hit some of the plants hard under the greenhouse this hard Winter, so there was quite a bunch to do.
Getting Containers Ready for Spring

We needed to get the plants out to be able to remove the plastic, turn the potting mix and add in new nutrients for the next batch.  This means getting some arm strength and pulling those plants out with all your might.  It might seem easy but the roots are strong so this takes a bit of shoveling, pulling, grunting and more pulling.   Even when pulling out the plants I’m always in awe of how the root structure grows.
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_1

Woo! Plants ripped out.  The ones at the end are staying for Spring so I got to ignore them.
So now that the plants are cleaned up and plastic is taken off the top, then we need to start shoveling the potting mix out of each.  I also want to note the 2 boxes off to the right have seen their last days so they were replaced during this day.  If you remember a post previously I talked about how you should get weather durable “tough” containers and this is another example of how if you use cheap ones they will crack all over.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_2

This is a short refresher on how we make our containers.  For a more involved post check out last years.
The potting mix gets shoveled out of the containers.  Then the 2 pipes corrugated pipes with perforations in them are laid in the bottom to create a water reservoir for the container.  These guys were buried all winter so they needed to be shaken out good.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_3

A hole is dripped in the front of the new containers for water drainage.  Try to do this on the same side of the water feed tube as it will make watering, checking water overflow much easier than having to look at the hole on the opposite of what you’re watering on.  The height of the drainage hole is determined by the height off the pipes making your water reservoir.  You want the drainage hole to be inside of the reservoir pipes.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_4

 How do you get water into the reservoir once it’s filled with potting mix?  You need a feed tube.  Take a pipe (2″ in diameter in this pic), make a cut in the water reservior pipes and insert the feed tube.  The feed tube should be higher than the top of your container otherwise it will be buried.  Let it stick out high and it will be easier to find when all your veggies get big and bushy.   
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_5

Next comes the most important step.  Making the wick.  The wick is a mound of soaking wet potting mix packed tightly together.  You want the wick to be very wet and then you form it into a mountain between your reservoir pipes.  The mound should come up slightly higher than your pipes.  It’s not an exact science.  The idea is that when you water the wick soaks up that water from below and distributes it to the rest of the potting mix in your container.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_6

 In another bin mix 1:10 perlite with potting mix.  Mix and water it well but don’t make it slop.  Then loosely shovel the mixture into your waiting container.  Fill it slightly higher than the brim as the mix will settle and compact.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_7

After filling the containers make a little trench all around the outside edge.  Take some granulated fertilizer and sprinkle it in.  As your plants grow they will tap into this fertilizer and explode.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_9

During this time I also found  a new friend and promised him a spot on Brooklyn Farm Girl.  
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_8

 Once the fertilizer is on, then brush the potting mix over it.  Your boxes are almost done.
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_10

The last step is covering the containers with plastic to lock in the moisture.  And just like that we have a bunch of new containers ready to go!  Once it’s time to transplant our seedlings, we’ll cut holes in the top and plant them.
Getting Containers Ready for Spring_11

Speaking of seedlings…
I’ll be doing a post in a few days on seedling planting as the garden is definitely in full growing mode right now.

Before you plant your seedlings you want to harden them off.  Throwing seedlings from the indoors to outside right away is one sure way to shock them, possibly killing them.  You want to prepare your seedlings for the temperature, sun and wind change a little at a time.  For this, you should introduce the seedlings to the outside over a few days.  On the first day, take them out in the afternoon for 2 hours, then the next day give it another 2 hours, then the next day, add another 2 hours.  Eventually you want to work up to knowing they can handle a whole afternoon of hot sun.  Also a great way to get them ready for wind is the fan tip that I talked about before.  When your seedlings are of decent height, put a fan on them indoors when growing, this will get them strong for gusts of wind.. it’s like body building.. for plants.  You want your broccoli to be strong guys!

This is how we introduce the seedlings, nothing fancy, just a few hours of alone time outside.  If you’re a nervous garden mother like me, you can check on them during this time too, just to make sure they’re behaving and are safe.
Seedling Planting Spring 2014

Even better if one day it’s raining while hardening off your seedlings.  This is one thing they’re going to have to get used to.Seedling Planting Spring 2014_1

Pretty Bok Choy and some onions getting ready..
Seedling Planting Spring 2014_2

Then after they’re done hardening off for a few days, you can plant them in their containers!  Look forward to my post soon for a afternoon of moving these seedlings into their new summer homes!
Seedling Planting Spring 2014_3




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