Moving Out

This week the time came to move my heirloom brussels sprouts and broccoli out into the garden.   They've come a long way since I started them from seed at the end of February, so needless to say, this is another Grow It Forward Friday post that I have been anticipating for quite some time! As an extra "heirloom" element, I realized that the transplanting procedure I use is something that I learned from hands on experience with my parents and brothers in the garden on the family farm, so I've included a few tips that have passed the test of time in our family.  
I chose from my seedlings the healthiest and strongest looking ones:  seedlings that were tall and straight, standing well, and had healthy looking leaves and stems.  I chose two beautiful looking broccoli seedlings and one mighty healthy brussels spouts seedlings to transplant in my garden (the extra seedlings will not go to waste; my brother is saving some space in the family garden for them).

In the garden, I spaced the seedlings out where I wanted to plant them and dug holes large enough for the entire pot to go in the ground.  In this case they were in newspaper pots, so I could have just popped the whole thing in the ground, only these were the very first newspaper pots I made and the overachiever in me used way to much newspaper (seriously, I double and triple wrapped those babies).  So before transplanting, I peeled off most of the layers first to give the roots an easier time breaking through the newspaper.
They key to getting roots to grow as deep and strong as possible is deep watering.  I watered the empty holes really well before I even put the seedling in to get the ground moist well below where surface watering will have the biggest impact.  This will encourage the roots to grow down towards the deeper moisture and depend less on the surface moisture that dries out more quickly.  In addition, the seedlings should be watered daily until the plant is established.
Even though the seedlings were hardened off by spending increasing amounts of time outside in the sun and wind, they are still a little fragile, especially with the stress of transplanting.  Since I have been nurturing them for so long indoors, the idea of leaving them completely exposed to some of the cooler nights, windy days, and the squirrels made me cringe, so I did just what my family has done for years and put milk jugs over each transplanted seedlings to provide a little extra insulation and protection from the wind and squirrels.
The milk jugs (you could use any large plastic beverage container in a similar way) might not be all that pretty, but they do benefit the seedlings while they are getting used to their new environment.  I'll leave them on while the plants get established in the garden and grow a little larger in size.  By then we should be into some overall warmer weather and the plants will be a little stronger having been eased into their new outdoor garden home.
The seedlings have been outside for a few nights now and are doing well.  This weekend will be the real test, as we could dip down near freezing again.  I was encouraged by this morning's updated forecast that called for mid-30s instead of low-30s.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, knowing that if we make it through this weekend, they will likely make it for the season.

Grow It Forward Heirloom Seed Contest

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