Lessons Learned & Hardening Off

We just came off of the Victoria Day long weekend, here in Canada. This is also known as the May two-four weekend because May 24th usually falls around this time.  This year, however, because of how the days fall, the holiday is particularly early.  Traditionally, this is THE gardening weekend - the time when it is generally considered safe to plant frost tender plants outdoors.  And garden centres are just PACKED with people that are getting a move on with their garden.

I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so I generally avoid going to garden centers and nurseries over the long weekend.  Well, I try to avoid it anyway.  My children’s school is having a garage sale and I am in charge of collecting discarded pots so that we can pot-up plant donations.  Since I was driving right by a large nursery on my way home on the holiday Monday, I figured I would stop by to pick up the pots.  Did I say these places were packed?  I counted no less than 6 (that’s SIX!) employees directing traffic in the parking lot of the nursery.  This isn’t a mall parking lot with other stores, or anything.  This is a nursery out in the country, so you can imagine the number of people.

And why was I driving by the nursery on the holiday, you may ask?  Well, you probably didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway.  My son J & I were on our way back from an auction that day.  I had never been to an auction before but had always wanted to go.  And when J found out I was going, he wanted to go too – he was mega excited.  This auction was held at the house of a couple that were going to go live in a retirement home, so everything they weren’t taking with them was being auctioned off.  J & I registered, got a number, then did a tour of the house.

The auction started outside with all of the garden type d├ęcor.  There really wasn’t much I was interested in but we hung around just to see the auctioneer in action.  At one point, they started auctioning off a bunch of frogs – and J went on and on about how he wanted some frogs.  Next thing you know, as I was talking to J about the frogs, I inadvertently lifted my number – and ended up biding $10 for a bunch of frogs.  Initially, I was like “Ok, those stone frogs on the table in front of the auctioneer would actually look pretty good in the garden beds.”  Ummm, no.  What I actually bid on were the plastic (that’s right PLASTIC!) frogs that the other auction guy was holding up.  Of course, no one upped my $10 bid.  And unlike at a store, if you make a mistake – too bad.

Lesson Learned #1 - NEVER forget that you are holding a Bidding Card in your hand and DON’T get distracted when they are telling you what is up for bid or else YOU may wind up with plastic frogs.

One of Six Plastic Frogs - $10 Please
J does love his frogs, so all was not lost.  And I did end up getting a concrete planter for $5, so I was happy about that – until I had to take it to the car.  Who knew concrete weighted as much as, well, concrete?!  Thankfully, I was, with a bit of Herculean effort, able to carry the planter to the car.

Lesson Learned #2 – Make sure you have some help lined up when it comes to getting stuff to the car BEFORE you buy something large and/or heavy.

I guess I just assumed the auction house would have someone that would help people out with things like that - which brings us to lesson #3.

Lesson Learned #3 – Don’t assume anything.  Good thing I passed on the wrought iron garden bench!

Concrete Planter Beside Our Driveway
No idea where I'm putting it - All I know is that I'm not the one moving it
Ok, now back to the garden.  Last week, I started to harden off my tomatoes along with several other plants.  When I harden off plants, I alternate their location between the shady front porch and the sunny back deck.  I start them off for a couple of hours on the front porch (which also protects them from too much wind), then gradually increase their time outside each day.  On day 3, I start adding some sun exposure on the back deck to their total time outside.  If the weather is very cool or windy, I keep them inside; otherwise, out they go.

This has worked well in the past.  But last week, I ran into a problem – it was overcast and/or raining for most of the week.  But I stuck to my front porch (shade)/back deck (sun) schedule anyway.  My tomatoes, especially, needed to get transplanted as soon as possible as they were getting quite large – a bit too large for my comfort. 

As a side-note, I prefer not to have to re-pot the tomato plants more than once before they go outside, so I’m actually thinking that I will push up the sowing date for next year.  I may decide to start 2 or 3 tomatoes early & repot them twice, just to have a few plants that (hopefully) produce earlier, but the majority would be started later.

Now back to my hardening off story.  So, up until Wednesday of last week, the weather had been dreary and overcast.  But by Thursday, we had sunny skies, so I felt that we were back on track.

Then, on the weekend, I noticed this on 3 of my tomato plants:

Whitish Patches on Tomato Leaves
I had a sneaky suspicion that it may be sunscald – and I was right.  During the cloudy days, I gradually increased the time the plants were on the “sunny” deck, even though it was overcast.  Then, keeping to my schedule, the plants were placed on the deck on Thursday for several hours, when it was actually sunny.  But, technically, this was their first day in the sun and they should only have been placed there for about 1 hour.

I guess in the back of my mind I knew this might be a bad idea, but I just ignored that voice and instead listened to the other one that said “I’m sure there were some UV rays or something coming through on the cloudy days – it’ll be fine.”  So my babies got burned.

Lesson Learned #4:  Don’t rush when you are hardening off – you will probably regret it.

On the positive side, only 4 tomato plants were significantly affected.  There was also a bit of damage to the borage, but all the other plants seem to be fine.  Let’s just hope it stays that way!

I’m planning on transplanting everything tomorrow - it is supposed to rain on & off, which is actually a good thing as transplanting on an overcast day is less stressful for the plants.  And my tomatoes are stressed out enough as it is!

And lastly, a REALLY quick update on the beds.  The 5 new beds in the main area are DONE!!  All that's left is the mulch & fencing.

4 Regular Beds Plus a Small Herb Bed - Done!
The beds in the second area are almost there - Two are done and have the onions in them (I haven't talked about these yet, but it's on my "to do" list) & the other two are almost finished.

4 New Beds at Back of Yard - Almost There....
If all goes according to plan, I will be done this weekend....fingers crossed!
Till next time…


  1. The new garden area looks lovely. And I hear you about crowded nurseries. Here our big weekend is this coming one, Memorial Day which is the last Monday in May. Everyone seems to want to get their garden in on that weekend. I'm always doing it over time, but most seem to like to plant a garden in one big swoop.

    1. Thanks, Daphne! I'm definitely for taking my time and enjoying myself in the process - I can't think of too many things that are more satisfying than puttering around in the garden.

  2. Yowsa on crowds and very nice new garden beds!

  3. I still have close to 2 weeks until it's safe to plant outside. I hate the crowds at nurseries. I tend to shop really early to avoid the crowds....and never on a weekend. Of course, that means hauling plants in and out for a lot longer but it gives me something to fill the time until I can plant.

    1. I much prefer weekday shopping too. I'm a big browser at stores - except if I have to go when they are crowded. Then I'm in and out as quickly as possible.

  4. Hi! I don't like crowds either. Your new beds look so nice and that is so funny about you bunny the plastic frogs and heavy urn! I don't have much experience or patience when hardening things off. Thanks for commenting on my blog. Hope you will visit again. It is always fun to meet other garden bloggers! Nancy

    1. Thanks Nancy! I can get rather impatient when it comes to hardening off too (obviously!) - but then I get a reminder like with my tomato plants & I force myself to slow down. We'll see how long that lasts!

  5. I am so not a fan of crowds either. My schedule is flexible and I usually run my errands during the week to avoid crowds. Your tomatoes look pretty sad, but they will recover. I know this because I too have accidentally sun scalded my plants.

    1. Thank you so much Rachel - I wasn't sure if they were goners. After all this time growing these babies from seed, it was so disheartening to see those leaves. Thankfully, all is not lost!

  6. That was such a fun post from plastic frogs to concrete urns, sunscald (okay, not fun) and beautiful raised beds. I've scalded my transplants before too. It's frustrating and hard sometimes to get that just right.

  7. Thanks Dee! Hardening off is definitely not one of my favourite tasks, especially when the weather is less than co-operative.


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