We’ve been hardening off tomatoes, pulling weeds in the beds where many of the tomatoes will live, and gathering resources for container planting. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will put some plants in the ground, and that is when the true week five progress update will come. That means, for tomatoes at least, that it took 35 days from sowing seeds to planting in the soil.

This is, actually, one of my least favorite times of gardening. I want plants in the ground, but they require a hardening off process that is laborious. Over the course of 10 days, the plants need to be accustomed to outdoor growing conditions – that is, direct (and harsh) sunlight for more than a day, and wind. They need to be toughened up.

That process involves taking the young and tender plants outside, leaving them for an half an hour in the sun, then in the shade, where they will experience wind and the harsh light of the sun. Each day, increase exposure gradually. I usually let the lants tell me if I am pushing them too much. Pay attention to moisture at this time, wind and sun dry up little cups of soil very quickly, so that the plants are stressed by rapid changes in hydration. It is a stressful time in the young plants life.

My usual schedule is 1 hour on day 1, split between sun and shade. I add 30 minutes the next day, then on day 3 another 30 to 45 minutes is added. By day four, they will be outside for 2 to 3 hours. I then add maybe 45 minutes to an hour each day until the plants are able to withstand the full sun all day. Then I move them to my back yard where they spend the nights in their pots for several days to get used to temperature shifts. They are now outdoors permanently, and are hardened off. They are tough little plants now, if the process worked well.

They are, as far as I can tell, ready for the garden plots.

We will plant this weekend and into the week, some in containers, some in the bed, and I will update our progress later. Here’s a video of our plants on the table where they’ve spent the last several nights. In the video I say that it is the end of week 4, that was, clearly, a mistake. These plants are finishing five weeks of life and heading into week 6: