Harden the f@#k up

They’ve been babied in the greenhouse with plenty of lights to help them grow, a heater to keep them warm and a fan to keep the air circulating (in an effort to prevent damping off – a fungal disease that affected some of our onions and leeks; we watched in dismay as they were eaten away at the base before keeling over) but it’s time for the plants to head out into the real world. Starting on the deck at the farmhouse the trays of seedlings begin their journey in fits and starts. The plants are put out in the morning, to gradually get used to life on the outside before being brought into the nice warm house again at night. So begins the daily ritual: inside, outside and inside again as the dining room, study and some of the living room are transformed into an evening sea of green. Once the minimum night time temperatures are over 10’C and the deck is made rabbit-proof the plants will stay out overnight.

Ideally hardening off weather is calm and mild; fairly overcast on day one, mostly sunny with patchy cloud cover on day two and then clear and warm after that. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always oblige and often our seedlings were put out in less than ideal conditions and some of them inevitably succumbed to cold, windy or very hot, sunny weather. It’s a shock for the little plants but once they are in the ground at the farm there will be virtually no protection from the elements so it’s now or never as there’s a planting schedule to follow if we want a harvest.