Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tomatoes...and sewing

The first of the seeds got planted yesterday. I started with tomatoes.

There are lots of options for seedling containers. We save those plastic 6 and 9 pack containers whenever we buy seedlings or flowers at the store, plus make some of our own from newspaper. The newspaper ones work quite well and are convenient because you can pop the whole thing in the ground. The only trouble is if you handle them a lot or keep them indoors too long (and the paper starts to disintegrate). Both problems are easily solved by planning well and keeping your newspaper pots on some sort of tray so they are easy to move. For soil, we buy one bag of "vegetable planting mix" each year that we use to fill the pots. We don't buy the most expensive thing, but we don't skimp either. For us, this has cut down on some issues we had when I tried to use soil from outside (bugs, etc... that stressed young plants beyond their limits).

We keep our seeds in a back room of our house that doesn't have heat or a/c. I suspect this is what contributed to a really easy process of hardening off the plants last year. We will keep the soil moist until the plants germinate (1-2 weeks for tomatoes), then turn on the grow light above them to give them about a 12 hour "day". The light tends to dry out the soil, so it's important to water once or twice a day.

Once the seedlings develop their second set of true leaves (the first set right when they germinate don't count), they are ready to transplant and need to be hardened off for about a week. This means moving them outside during the day, and bringing them back in at night. You want to baby them a little during this phase---shady and protected from wind the first day, progressing to full sun and out in the open (I set them on the bed they'll be transplanted in) by the end of the hardening off period.

Here's a picture of what I've done so far (the light is adjustable--you don't want the light too far away at the beginning, or you get "leggy" plants):

We are aiming for about 100 tomato plants in the ground and producing, so we are planting a few more seedlings than that to accommodate for any trouble we might have. Each container (6 or 9 pack) is labeled with type of seed, where it's from (our own saved seed, or purchased), date planted, seeds per pot. This is important information---you want to know what varieties are where so you can keep track of what does well for you and what doesn't. You need to know the date you planted so if the seeds don't germinate in the time they should, you can re-plant. Knowing how many seeds are in each pot also help you determine if there is a germination problem. With these containers, I just write on the side with a sharpie. With the newspaper pots, I keep them grouped together, then cut up old yogurt containers (especially lids), write on them with sharpie and stick them in one pot per grouping. This works well indoors, but the sharpie fades if you put them out in the garden, so a good diagram in your gardening journal is still a good idea.

Yesterday I planted 141 pots, each with 2-3 seeds per pot (as they grow, I will cut off the weaker looking plants, keeping only the healthiest one in each pot). We have chosen to get all of our seed locally this year, which means we aren't growing a few things that have done well for us in the past. We have also made the choice to focus on varieties that we know will serve us well for canning. For tomatoes, we're doing: Better Boy, Sunmaster, Roma Rio Grande, and Regular Romas. Only 30 pots are the better boy and sunmasters, the rest are romas. The Roma Rio Grande is something that grew really well for us last year and we are using the seed we saved from some of those.

Other homesteading tasks.....Sierra is absolutely dying to know how to sew. Unfortunately, she's 4 and there's no way I'm letting her sit down and feed her finger through a sewing machine. We've developed a nice compromise where she does everything but hold the fabric (which I do for her). I make her tell me each step before she does it and she's gotten really good about learning the parts of the sewing machine and picking up what needs to be done next and why. Last night, she made herself her first article of clothing--a skirt. It's not the most well made thing there ever was, but it's a really good starting point and involved hemming, sewing a seam, and putting in elastic. Then, of course, we had to have a photo-shoot, where she danced and did her typical crazy Sierra moves.


One Acre Homestead said...

I'm still working on making newspaper pots. It's a slow process...or maybe I'm still learning. I hope to begin planting this weekend. My spinach and peas will go straight out into the garden this weekend. I've never put them out this early, but the almanac says it's fine. /Nervously optimistic/

One Acre Homestead said...

P.S. Can Sierra teach me how to sew? I need help.

Your skirt looks great, Sierra! Way to go!

TheBossLady said...

Kimberly I love your blog! It makes me wish I had the ability to keep plants alive!
I think I'll try a lone tomato plant and see how it goes :)

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