Hardening Off: Seedlings on Wheels

Ready to roll back into the house!

I haven’t written much about seed starting this spring, because I’ve cut back on the number of plants I’m starting. After several years of seed-starting efforts, I’ve figured out that I do best starting tomatoes, Yvonne’s giant salvia and maybe a few brassicas (this year, Chinese cabbage and broccoli Romanesco). The brassicas are in the garden already, but the rest of the plants are still on my seed-starting shelf — which is a cheap metal shelf unit from which hang shop lights with fluorescent bulbs.

The seedlings started in the basement, but I was neglecting them, so I moved the shelf up to my office, which is now on our first floor. During the move, an inspiration struck — put the shelf on wheels! A quick trip to the local hardware store got me the wheels I needed, and today I wheeled the seedling cart from the office out to the deck for a couple of hours of fresh air. So easy! So quick! This might make hardening off, which I normally consider a huge pain, fun.

Hardening off means gradually acclimating seedlings to the outdoors. It is best done over a couple of weeks. (Northern Gardener has a good article by Colleen Vanderlinden on how-to harden off in the March/April issue.) I tend to rush the process because it’s such a pain moving all the plants in and out. With the wheeled cart, I can easily bring the plants out or in, depending on the weather and the sun. Hopefully, this will mean stronger plants when the time to put them in the ground comes.

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