Growing Tip

Late May News: Hardening off Seedlings Before Transplanting

Flint prepares flats of onions for their move outdoors.

Flint prepares flats of onions for their move outdoors.

Garden seedlings can be put into two basic categories: seedlings that are tender, and seedlings that are hardy. Tender plants will not tolerate temperatures below 32℉ (i.e. they will die), while hardy seedlings can experience frosts and freezing temperatures and survive. There is a range in each category, some plants being very tender like basil, and some very hardy like onions. For specifics about the hardiness of your seedlings, check out Johnny’s Seeds Grower’s Library. They some wonderful tips on hardening off specific types of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.

At Cate Farm, we start everything from seed here in our greenhouses, in East Montpelier. Once plants have been potted up, some remain in a greenhouse before being sold, while others are grown outdoors on benches to harden them off. The plants that remain in a greenhouse benefit from a gradual transition to the outside growing environment before transplanting to your garden.

Cate Farm greenhouses have roll up side walls, so seedlings experience some wind even though they are not outside. That being said, the greenhouse plastic diffuses and reduces the impact of direct sunlight, provides plants with extra heat during sunny days and protects them from cooler nighttime temperatures. To get your greenhouse plants ready for transplanting, we recommend that you incrementally expose them to direct sunlight for a few hours a day. A little wind is good too, but not too much. Move the plants from direct sun to your porch, or bring inside if below 40℉. After a few days of this treatment, your plants will be ready to put in your garden.

Mid April News

Pansies in Bloom!

Pansies in Bloom!

  Spring is here! Yay! We are in full tilt greenhouse mode. Three greenhouses are filled with seedlings for our upcoming  Seedling Sale Weekends in May (now Saturdays as well as Sundays); lots of veggie starts, culinary & medicinal herbs, plus annual & perennial flowers. You can now find our seedlings at Hunger Mountain Co-op. Another greenhouse has transplanted tomatoes in the ground that are now knee high, and flowering! Three other greenhouses are full of greens like kale, cilantro, dill, arugula, and beet greens. Look for bunches of Cate Farm greens at Hunger Mt. Co-op in Montpelier starting late April.

   The fields outside are drying out and we should be able to start prepping beds and seeding gobo (Japanese burdock root) before May 1st, which is about normal for this area. The longer days and strong sunlight are noticeable, and welcome.

  Cate Farm wants gardeners everywhere to have the best garden ever- so we’re ending each Spring newsletter with a gardening tip!

Spring Gardening Tip

After a long winter, gardeners can't wait to get working on their garden. But how can you tell when the garden is ready for you? And what are the best plants for early Spring?

   Garden soil should be dried out enough before digging or tilling. Amazingly, the soil beneath our feet is about 50% air! The space between soil particles is filled with air, and varying amounts of water. Working wet soils can lead to compaction and loss of soil structure. When is it dry enough?

Here are some clues:

  • After winter, bare garden soil will develop cracks or fissures which is the first indicator the ground is drying out.

  • If soil or mud clings to your shoes when you walk in the garden, the soil is too wet to work.

  • Similarly, if you form a ball of soil in your hand and water drips from it, it is still too wet.

  When the soil is workable, it is time to plant your peas and Fava beans. Both enjoy the cooler temperatures of early Spring. Other early crops include spinach, lettuce, beets, and arugula. Check out Johnny’s Seeds Grower’s Library for more tips on specific plants.

Remember to space plants so that they are not too crowded when they reach mature size.

Happy  gardening!

The Cate Farm Team