Saturday, March 13, 2010

gardens 2010-starting seeds

The last couple weeks I have been  getting seeds started slowly but surely. The only spring crops I start early are peppers, tomatoes and  tobacco. This year  we do not need any peppers so I am not starting any but we are going for a super crop of tomatoes and a larger harvest of tobacco this year.

We are running out of tobacco  (+/-100 plants) about 4 months early so will need to add  approximately 50  more plants to carry us through another 4 months. We are also going to grow some for a friend   so will need to add about 50 plants for him  and then add another 50 on for good measure because we do not want to run out and have to quit. We all need to have one bad habit don't we?

Today I  got our tobacco seeded.  I used meat trays with holes poked through the bottom for drainage, filled with  soil mix, moistened the soil and then lightly broadcast the tobacco seed. You do not cover tobacco seed  when starting,the seeds need the light in order to germinate.  The top of the soil then  needs to stay damp  until the seedlings emerge. Most varieties will germinate in 1-2 weeks some  will take up to three.

At this stage, the biggest issue with growing your own is not washing the seeds into the soil as you moisten the soil on top. I use  a spray bottle with a fine mist and spray  at about a foot up in the air  across the trays so as not to wash the seed into the soil or blow the seeds out completely.  Tobacco seed is very tiny about the size of a pin head. A little seed goes a long way.  I always over seed, as they sprout any weaklings will be  pulled out and then at about 2 inches in height I  will transplant them to 6 ounce grow cups.

This year we are going to grow two varieties. The Silkleaf is from seed  we saved last season and Kelly Burley  is a new to us  variety that we  will  try. We will  only save seed this season from the Burley rather than the Silkleaf as we got plenty of seed for probably the rest of our lives last year.

I have been planting tomatoes a little bit for the last couple weeks. A couple funky varieties were seeded over the last 10 days or so  and then a couple hybrids  last week and today I planted a few heirloom types. All total  we are up to about 150 plants, some of which I will kill  before they ever make it to transplant stage and then  a few more will be  poor doers, get broken or just die somewhere along the way between seed and harvest.  I will likely  plant  one or two more small plantings of a couple varieties this  week and then take some cuttings off my mother plant to hopefully plant somewhere around 200  tomatoes in all. Hopefully this year we will get a great harvest and replenish all my tomato stocks that we have completed depleted after two years of poor tomato production.

So, not including the funky or hybrid varieties of  maters this season, we have planted Rutger's,Brandywine, yellow pear, Henderson's pink, Homestead and Emerald evergreens. Hopefully one or two or all of these varieties will  produce a bumper crop of tomatoes this season.

When I plant tomatoes I generally use egg cartons  or  meat trays and transplant once they are a couple inches tall. I fill my containers most of the way  with soil , moisten and lay the seeds on the moist soil. I then  take a small handful of  soil and barely cover my seeds. Most tomatoes sprout in 7-10 days. At transplant time bury all the way  up to the lower leaves to help ensure they grow good healthy strong root systems and stems. Tomatoes actually do well  with several transplants if needed. If I notice any of mine getting a bit leggy or spindly I  transplant  and bury the stem as high as I can.

At this stage the biggest issue with  tomato seedlings is lack of adequate light and over loving aka over watering.  Once my seeds sprout and become baby plantlings, I bottom water rather than from the top water. This one little change has saved countless baby plants lives over the last few years.   Most veggies do much better with natural light than what they  do with   artificial light. So far as I have noticed it does not matter how muchfake light or how good of a fake light system they have, they are going to do much better in natural lighting . If you have a place where they can go  during the day and get straight up  natural sun and then bring them in for protection at night by all means do so, your plants will thank you for it.

As of today, all our indoor seed starting has officially been finished. Of course I will add a few of this and that between now and planting time but  for the most part we are done.  In about 3 weeks  we could use a few extra hands to transplant all that tobacco into grow cups though.

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