Monday, 30 April 2012

The Trouble with Tomatoes

I have a problem with growing tomatoes from seed.

It's hard to admit it, but I do...

The problem is that I keep starting them too early. 

Today is April 30th and they're already three times the size of what you'll find for sale in a nursery on the May 24th weekend (about when they can/should go out here.)

Last year was my first year of growing my own tomato plants from seed and yes, I was so excited I just couldn't wait. I started them on March 12th, the weekend before Canada Blooms. They were HUGE long before I could put them outside. There were more seedlings than I had space for. Potting in the next size pot up had to happen not once, but twice. When I moved them out to the cold frame they instantly filled it. And then some.

However, I had great tomatoes. The first one was in July and they just kept on coming.

But this year I vowed I would do better. No seed planting until after Canada Blooms. And Canada Blooms was 5 days longer this year than last year! Surely this would be a sufficient delay.

March 25th was bright and warm and clear. Out came the tomato seeds...

6 different varieties (yes, six. I couldn't help myself.) Five from Tatiana's Tomatobase (an absolutely  fantastic source of heirloom tomato seeds and information that I had the good fortune to stumble upon) and then my own saved seeds from last year's "Mortgage Lifter" tomatoes.

Into the trays they went, two seeds in each cell. Watered, covered with a plastic dome, onto a heating mat, and into the toasty boiler room.

Of course, within a few days, for every 10 seeds I planted at least 9 germinated.

But I was ruthless! As soon as they were big enough to shed their seed coats I snipped off one from each pair (I've read this is less disruptive than pulling out the ones you don't want.)

And now...

Now it's April 30th and I have blossoms already! This variety is Mennonite Orange.

All the plants are really robust...

I hope I'll be able to move them into the cold frame this weekend.

In case you're wondering about the orange snow fencing you see above and here in the full reveal of my "grow op"...
It's to keep out the furry members of our household...
Who me?
It's not pretty but it works. 

So far.

And yes, that is a fan blowing on the seedlings. I do this for half an hour or so a day (again, something I read) to strengthen them. If I don't have the time to turn the fan on I tap each of the plant stems with my fingernail a couple times (this is also supposed to strengthen them.) 

I told a gardening friend of mine that I did this and he looked at me like I was really crazy. And maybe I am when it comes to gardening.

But I'll have sturdy tomato plants with beautiful tomatoes on them...

...and next year I'll start my seedlings two weeks later. April 8, 2013 is now circled on the calendar!

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