My seedlings now have two true leaves. This is a sign that they are ready to start hardening off to transplant outside. Hardening off seedlings is one of the garden chore I mess up the most. I have forgot about them and it got too cold, or left them in the bright sun for too long and they were shriveled and burnt when I tried to pull them back inside.... so many things can go wrong! Because of our vacation, my seedlings will either be set out much faster than they need to harden off, or set out when I get back, when they are starting to get root bound and will need extra care.
I have been trying to find a solution to get around at least one of these issues. Perhaps a cloche or cold frame?
A cloche is a glass barrier between the elements and your seedlings. Some types are VERY beautiful like the Bell Cloches pictured below (pictures are clickable to the source):
But they also have a hefty price tag, so I was considering a making a cold frame out of recycled windows:
But that seemed like far too much work to do this weekend along with all the trip prep we have to do (with a side of broken washer as a bonus afternoon. Ugh!). So I decided to stick with something super simple.
Those bells, aside from being very beautiful, are basically a large jar that you put over top of your seedlings to make the environment warmer and easier for your seedlings to deal with. They are not that different from a Mason Jar. So that's what I used.
My sweet little seedlings are now protected from the elements in my free mason jar cloches. I raised the jars a little bit with a piece of wood on the bottom for ventilation, and before we leave, these little peat pots will be put into the ground with their mason jars around them to keep them safe and warm. Until then I will be bringing them in at night, and hoping that 4 days is enough time to harden off. I didn't plant any truly tender annuals yet, so I think I should be safe.
Not near as pretty as the bells, but still, it will do (and it was free!)