Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

I'm all done putting my tomato seedlings in individual pots. This year's varieties are:
  • Black Cherry
  • Hawkins Plum
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Pink Ponderosa
  • Red Brandywine
  • Yellow Pear
I start my seeds very early, around Christmas. This is to make sure I have time to replant in case anything happens. These seeds were all old ones I had left over from back when I had a garden before, so I wasn't sure how viable they were. I wanted them to have plenty of time to germinate and to have time to plant new seeds in case they don't make it. Since germination was iffy, I put the seeds on damp paper towels in plastic food containers first, and when a root poked out I moved them to seedling flats, which are really those clear plastic clamshells berries come in at the grocery store. Once all (or at least most) of them get their true leaves, they get moved to their own pots.

My growlight is set up in the garage. It stays cool in there, so the tomatoes grow very slowly. This makes up for the artificial light a little bit, so the plants still grow short and stocky instead of tall and weak and leggy, but it's another reason why I have to plant early. As long as they don't freeze, they're ok, and since we had record cold this year and the garage didn't freeze (I have a thermometer in there to make sure), I think it's safe to say the garage never freezes.

As for the other nightshades, the tomatillos are in their individual pots now too, but the eggplants, peppers, and ground cherries are lagging behind. For some reason I'm not getting good germination on them and have just put in some more seeds to germinate. February is the time when the experts say you should start nightshades in this climate, so I've still got time, but you can see why I like to start early. I'm glad I'm not just now starting all of my nightshades, only to find out later my eggplants and peppers are taking their time. Gardeners from the north think I'm lucky to have such a long frost-free season, but our summers are so harsh that actually instead of having a long growing season, we have two short ones. The tomatoes need to be out by March in order for us to get a good crop before it gets too hot for them in July or August.

All the tomato varieties I'm growing this year are new to me, so I'm looking forward to trying them out. I've heard especially good things about Black Cherry, Mortgage Lifter, and Red Brandywine.

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