Category Archives: Growing tomatoes from seed

Look At My Babies Grow!

So far so good…

SeedlingsJustSproutingThe peppers are just sprouting, at last.

SeedlingsFirstPairOfLeavesMost of the tomatoes are already growing their first pair of true leaves. (The “leaves” that you see when they begin to grow are really part of the seed.)

Weekly photo challenge, today

(Normally I don’t post more than once a day – but who am I to defy the Weekly Photo Challenge? This time, they’re asking for photos of “today” – Friday, June 1, 2012 – and I just went out and took some.)

Today in my back yard –

The vegetable garden. Does it look a bit empty in the middle? That’s where the second row of beans and the cilantro will be.

A closer look – tomatoes, basil, and peppers at the far edge. I doubt that there’s a backyard garden anywhere in South Jersey that doesn’t include these.

 

 

 

And the opposite corner – oregano, purple (!) tomatillos, and beans stretching off into the distance.

 

 

And a nod to the Photo Challenge I skipped two weeks ago: Let me give you a hand.

I’m mixing purchased topsoil with the – stuff – that came with the yard to make another garden bed. This area has never been tilled since we moved into the house, and maybe never since the house was built. Years ago, I struggled to make other sections cultivable, but I had forgotten that the basic mixture is clay and lots and lots of stones.

You know you’re dealing with hard soil when you stick a garden shovel into it, stand on the shovel (so you’re applying your full weight), and can only get it to penetrate about the length of a finger. It turned out that a hand trowel was a more effective tool to loosen the clay enough so I could crumble it and mix it with topsoil.

Basically, it’s a quiet day in the neighborhood – my town had its big extravaganza last Saturday, closing the main street for Mayfair and holding boat races on Cooper River.

A month in spring

Just about a month ago, my tomato seedlings were tiny, with only their first pair of false leaves showing.

They’re not tiny any more.

And this is what happens when you don’t know if year-old seeds will sprout. (They will. Believe me, they will.) I’ll be giving most of them away over the next week or so.

Learning from experience, with a little help from my friends

A tangle of tomato seedlings with long fragile stems

Little tomato plants searching everywhere for light - 2011

Last year, I tried growing tomatoes from seed. I had never tackled a project like that before, and it worked better than I had any right to expect – but I made some pretty basic mistakes.

Mostly, I didn’t realize how MUCH light seedlings need. I starved the poor things, really. They grew long and skinny reaching desperately toward what light they could find. The room seemed nice and bright to me, but I don’t live by photosynthesis. Luckily, I showed off some pictures to my friend Sue The Gardener, and she was horrified.

Ugly but functional

I’m trying again this year (with some of the same seeds – it turns out you can use seed from last year’s packets, if you seal up the packages and store them someplace dry). This time, though, my husband rigged up an adjustable plant light for me. It’s not at all pretty, but it seems to be doing the job.

If all goes well, in a few months I’ll be able to walk about fifteen feet from where I’m sitting at the moment, climb through a window, and pick a ripe tomato. Maybe some peppers – I added pepper seedlings this year – and green beans and cilantro to go with it, too.

(If I insist on using the doors, it will be a slightly longer trip. Oh well.)

This year's seedlings are a lot shorter than last year's,
and apparently that's good.

 

Sometimes, you just have to go with weird

I’m getting antsy for spring – the truth is, I’ve been antsy for spring ever since November. But Outdoors isn’t cooperating yet, so I keep wondering if it’s too early to try starting tomato seeds. (Yes. Definitely too early.)

Well, if I can’t coo over how cute they are as they sprout, I can at least look at seed packages, right? Of course I can. And that’s how I got trapped.

The label says they’re tomatillo seeds, some sort of second cousin to tomatoes, just what you need for a little homemade salsa verde. And ‘verde’ is the word for it – every tomatillo I’ve ever met was bright grass green, greener than grass really is unless there’s been a LOT of rain.

But not these guys. If you can believe the package, they’re going to be purple. Yes. Purpler than a plum or a blueberry.  Salsa – purpura? What would that taste like?

Maybe I’ll find out.