For those of you who started your garden plants indoors, are they getting big? Too big? Outgrowing their containers, flopping over, or starting to look hungry? Despite our best efforts to time our indoor plantings just right, sometimes they just grow too fast and we need to figure out what to do with them until it’s time to plant them in the garden. Here are a few options to get your plants to slow their roll.
Pot them up.
A roomier container can give your plants the space and additional nutrients they need to make it another few weeks inside.
Cool them down.
These scrappy little tomatoes are getting too big for their britches. Taking them off the heat mat should slow them down enough to buy me some time.
Plant them… and protect them.
If the soil in your garden is not quite warm enough yet, there are some tricks you can try to raise the temperature around your plants a few degrees, which might be just enough to keep your babies happy until warmer weather arrives.
First, you can use a dark colored mulch, such as leaf humus, which will absorb the heat from the sun during the day and keep your plants a little warmer at night.
Second, you can water them with warm water first thing in the morning to take off some of the evening chill. (These cucumbers are enjoying both their leaf humus mulch and a daily warm water morning drench.)
Third, you can cover your plants with row cover or a cloche (a glass or plastic dome that helps retain moisture and protect your young plants from the elements). Get creative! This pop-bottle cloche is a great example of a cheap and effective way to protect your plants.
As we move into planting season, it’s important to keep in mind that plants like a gradual change of scenery. Plants grown indoors are babied. They aren’t exposed to wind, extreme temperature fluctuations, or intense sunlight. Because of this, they don’t develop much cutin in their leaves. (Cutin is a waxy substance in a plant’s epidermal cell walls that helps waterproof and protect the plant from the elements.). Indoor plants need to be introduced to the great outdoors gradually – or “hardened off” – so they can develop the cutin they need for protection. Start by taking your plants outside for an hour or two on a mild day and placing them in a protected area out of direct light and wind. Gradually increase the time your plants are out over the course of a week or two. By then, they should be ready for their new home in your garden.