Gardeners getting ready to plant

posted May 7, 2018 7:58 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Bev Carney | Gardening Columnist

I would like to know the details of how you pre-sprout your peas indoors. I usually plant at least one 35-foot row of peas each year but no way have 100-percent germination. The pre-sprout sounds like a good idea to get better growing results. Could I please have your “recipe” to do this?

Here’s my pea-sprouting recipe, which always seems to work. Place seeds in damp paper towels and wrap loosely in a plastic bag and place it on your kitchen counter so you won’t forget about it. Check after a couple of days and when you have sprouts, plant away. Occasionally the pea sprouts get tangled in the paper towel but they are fairly easy to get loose. I found this piece, which has some quite helpful photos to enhance the description, https://​​2013/​03/​08/​presprouting-peas.

Any good tips for hardening off seedlings grown indoors? This is where I usually fail.

Adjusting to life outdoors can be hard on tender seedlings which have been cosseted indoors. You could take the easy road and make a hoop frame and put your seedlings under that for a week or so. That’s what I often do, but with the odd weather this year, I am running out of hoops. Luckily there are plenty of options to help your plants adjust.

1. Use a cart or a wagon (preferably with sides to block wind). Put your plants into the cart/​wagon and expose them to an hour or two of sunshine in the morning. Then cover with Agribon or some form of netting or something that allows some light but blocks the harshest rays. Or move the cart to the shade. Even in the shade, plants get far more light than they do inside under artificial lights. Each day, give the plants more strong sun exposure and by the end of the week, they should be ready for the garden.

2. Make a three-sided cold frame with scrap wood or hay/​straw bales to protect seedlings from excess wind. Set flats of seedlings inside and cover the front with something transparent if possible. Or drape Agribon or plastic over the whole thing. If using plastic, watch that it doesn’t get too hot in there — you can even cut holes in the plastic for ventilation.

3. Set out individual plants (like tomatoes, broccoli, etc.) in cages or individual frames and wrap the cage with plastic or agribon. You don’t have to wrap all the way to the top, but at least enough so the plant is sheltered from the wind. But be cautious — winds can blow these cages over so secure them well or cut slits in the covering to allow some air flow or stake the cage/​frame.

4. If you have a pickup truck, use the bed for a hardening off mini-greenhouse — it’s an instant cold frame which can easily be moved.

5. If you just have to plant now, plant late in the day to give the plants an adjustment period in the cooler darkness of night. Or plant on a cloudy day. Once in the ground, mulch the plants well so they are nestled in a bed of hay or straw. This helps keep temperatures consistent and protects them from the harsh spring winds.

The good news is that your plants want to live — the hardest part is holding off on planting them too early. We had an unexpected hard freeze not long ago and we may have one again. Be prepared to protect those precious plants.

Beverly Carney can be reached at

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