Hardening Off is Hard to Do

It’s been a couple weeks since my last garden update, and I am sad to report that we’ve run across our first real complication. My cucumber plants, poor little babies, first ones to sprout from the soil, have taken a terminal turn for the worse.



When you start seeds indoors, with the intent of eventually moving them into the outside world, you must go through a transition period called “hardening off”. Your tender little seedlings have been living in the warmth, comfort, and protection of the inside and are completely unfamiliar with things like temperature variation, weather, and wind. Wind is especially a concern if you live in a high rise on a riverfront.


So, I gradually started putting my seedlings out for a couple hours each day. I watched from inside as the slightest movement of air sent the plants dizzying about. I felt bad, wanted to pull them back inside, but I knew that they needed this time of tough love. I lost a few leaves in those first few days. They were just too weak, easily bruised and broken by the gusts. But I also watched as the plants grew stronger. The stems started to hold firm in the wind, the newer leaves barely moving when the air rushed through them.

And then I left them out. For good. The zucchini plants remained strong and continued to grow. After about the second day, however, the cucumbers were clearly not enjoying their new environment. Their leaves began to dry and yellow and they wound up losing more than they kept. The stems never grew quite strong enough and one afternoon I walked out to see that one of the plants had been broken in the wind. The new leaves were shriveling up before they even had a chance to fully form. I knew it, they were done.



So I did some searching of the forums on You Grow Girl and saw a lot of other people discussing a similar cucumber-related “slow march of death”. Apparently cucumbers are finicky and don’t much like to be moved. Many people reported having better luck directly sowing them outside. So this is what I’ve decided to do. I’ve pulled up my poor dead cuke plants and have sown half a dozen new seeds directly in the pot, outside. This way I figure they’ll grow up adapting to outdoor life from the beginning and will hopefully become big and strong. I’m sort of glad that this happened now. I’ll have a slightly later harvest due to the minor setback, but it shouldn’t be too bad. And the cucumbers were the first of all my seeds to sprout, so that gives me hope as well.

On the positive front: The zucchini are doing well and the radishes are going strong,



the dill is beginning to sprout little fronds,



and my kale (who I realize you’ve yet to meet) is starting to look like kale!



Teeny tiny kale, but kale nonetheless.

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