Moving broccoli outside - help!

newberrie(5b/6a)April 11, 2012

I am completely new at this whole gardening thing, and I have no earthly idea what I am doing. I've made some mistakes already, but I'm trying to make the most of it anyway!

The first frost date I found was apparently for the nearest large city and not accurate for this area. So, I ended up starting my broccoli late. Our frost date is April 24, and I started them indoors on March 25. They're in the Jiffy Tomato pellets, 1 per pellet, under lights in a 68-degree room. They're starting to get their 3rd and 4th true leaves, and I think it's time to get them outside. Outside temps lately have been mid-60s during the day and low 40s at night.

So, how do I harden them off? I know I'm supposed to move them outside into partial shade for increasing amounts of time each day. But, do I bring them back inside to 68-degrees at night? Do I leave them in my insulated (but not heated) garage at night? Do I need to worry about them not getting enough light during the hardening-off process? We have some milk jugs I can use for cloches, if that helps, but we don't have a cold frame or greenhouse. (This year's garden money has gone to soil improvements, seeds, growing lights, and tools like a wheelbarrow, shovels, hoes, etc.)

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I have been taking my broccoli outside every suitable day since they germinated. I am retired and can manage them that way. I planted mine on March 16th and they are ready to be planted today, but I am holding off a day because of freezing weather.

Your broccoli need to be hardened in moderately. By that I mean getting them out in partial sun for a few hours a day. I can leave mine out on nights that are 40 degrees or better in an enclosed patio that isn't sealed up. I don't want to leave them out during storms until they are planted.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:57PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Are you sure your frost date is correct? April 24 sounds extremely early for zone 5/6. We're zone 6A and our frost date is mid May.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 6:47AM
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ltilton

Frost dates are confusing. There is the average date of the last frost - April 24 would be about right for that zone. Then there is the "frost free" date, which is later.

The first date means there's a 50% chance of no more frost. The second means it's statistically unlikely.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:14AM
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newberrie(5b/6a)

I guess I can't expect Mother Nature to be so understandable and cut and dry, but this stuff really is confusing!

Depending on where I'm looking, I've found my zone listed from 5b to 7a... but it's most commonly listed as 5b and 6a, so that's what I've been telling myself.

But I think I'm correct on the frost date now, though I was shocked by how early it is as well! I had found May 10 at first (which is closer to what you're saying, Lacey) and based all of my starting dates on that. Then, our local newspaper had an article in the gardening section proclaiming their excitement for April 24 being the last frost date! I did a search and found a freeze/frost date table put out by NOAA which confirms that April 24 is the date where there is a 10% chance it will get below 32. The 50% date was April 10! No wonder I got started late...

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 11:43AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Broccoli can take some frosting. I don't like hard freezes on new transplants though mature plants can handle even that.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 4:42PM
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