Get used to the new normal. It used to be you could be relatively confident that the weather starting on Mother’s Day would be warm enough for your tomatoes to happily grow in comfortable soil and mild night temperatures. Now, if we wait until the soil is actually warm enough for our tomatoes’ little toes, we’ll be planting them in July when it’s way too hot. It reminds me of something my grandmother used to say. She was born around 1900, and she said that weather was predictable until man went and walked on the moon. So it’s all man’s fault!

Harden off your transplants. This means the babies you bring home from the nursery are a little tender and need some TLC to protect them from hot sun, cool night temperatures, and blustery winds. If you can contain your enthusiasm for planting, let the plants sit outside in the shade for a few days and bring them in if the nights get below 55. This will toughen them up a little for when they actually have to go out and live in the cool, cruel world.

One time at Plant Camp… If you’re like me, you still have houseplants waiting indoors for the bus to Plant Camp. While all the other plants are outside alternately shivering or sweltering, these have been totally ignored (except for the ones the cat has been peeing in). Get everybody outside on a day when they can get a serious washing, and take the occasion to give your windowsills, tables and windows a good cleaning. Once all are acclimated, start positioning them around the yard to where they can make maximum impact and also be happy with their surroundings.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and winner of the AHS Great American Gardener Jane L. Taylor award.