Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lights, camera, GROW!

Grow light: high output fluorescent light, insulated base, surrounding blanket
What an absolute difference the PROPER elements make in growing seeds. As I posted in my previous entry, temperature - meaning soil temperature, not room temperature - is the key to growing.

My previous location was an old bookshelf in the kitchen. Aside from the hideous 1964 wallpaper backdrop, I noticed the base cups in which my plants are growing was cool to the touch. One seed distributor actually a warming mat designed for the indoor growers like myself, and I of course scoffed at what a wast of money that must be.

However, last week, with transplants successfully growing but not at the rate I would have imagined, much slower in fact, I realized that I had missed the importance on soil temperature and both my transplants and yet-to-emerge seedlings were paying the price.

I set-up a new location (pictured above). With a few scrap 2x4's to support the cross piece, I mounted a high output fluorescent shop light over my plants, and the results were exactly what I was hoping for. What you see above is after one week in this new home: the cups house a variety of tomatoes and by the sixth day had grown into the light bulbs, one leaf was literally extending and making contact with it. The bulb was initially placed approximately 4" above the highest leaf, so I can conclude that I witnessed approximately 4" of growth, from one plant at least, in just one week.

The tray on the right-hand side of this image shows several seedlings that have emerged as well. There you see a combination of tomatoes that had not yet broken the surface or just barely, as well as my peppers (CA Wonder & Lipstick) that have not only sprouted but are showing a second set of leaves and great color.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

1 week, 2 week, 3 week, transplant!

Several tomatoes of both hybrid and heirloom varieties
Three weeks down and I have already made it to the transplant stage, well at least as it relates to my tomatoes.

This first year of vegetable gardening is quite the experiment in our household. While I have done my absolute best to follow the general consensus of tomato gardeners with a wealth of knowledge and experience, I have still managed to successfully nurture eight mature tomato starts (pictured above) with several more still in an infant stage.

SuperSauce Hybrid, Burpee
But what I have found with this first year of planting has been interesting to say the very least. Immediately I saw these eight seedlings (pictured above) develop their first two leaves within 8-9 days. While others in my tray broke the soil surface a few days later, of the 8 pictured, 3 are marked "Super Sauce" which is the SuperSauce Hybrid from Burpee. Claimed to be the world's largest sauce tomato, this hybrid should produce a 22-32oz tomato that should make for a great addition to salads, hamburgers, and assuming we don't run out of ambition, homemade ketchup and salsa.

While Burpee was the prominent supplier of seeds in some of our local retailers, I was also encouraged to try Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds of Mansfield, MO. Here I found many great heirloom varieties from which to choose such as: Dester, Moneymaker, Black Cherry, A Grappoli D’Inverno, and the Yellow Morning Sun.

Dester (pink) heirloom, Baker Creek
In addition to many great varieties of vegetables, Baker Creek has also provided me with some excellent customer service and one-on-one email support, despite how "green" my green thumb is. For example, I asked why many of my seedlings had begun to sprout but many - even those planted in the exact same conditions - had not? Randel, a customer service representative responded, "Temperature is critical. Tomatoes sprout very quickly at 80-85 degrees, more slowly below 75, and erratically and very slowly below 70 degrees. And we're talking about soil temp here, which is going to approximate the average between the daily minimum and maximum air temperature."

I know, many of you could have told me that, but the fact that it was conveyed to me, a first-time customer and relative "nobody" to the folks at Baker Creek, in such detail and within only 1-2 days of asking really says a lot. To be quite fair, I have posed a question or two to the folks at Burpee and received prompt responses as well, but there was just another level of comfort I felt from Randel and the folks at Baker Creek.

I guess in the end all that matters is that I prep my soil, wait for the last frost date, and actually take care of my garden once the plants are in the ground, and nature should do the rest; unless she decides to stop all of a sudden with me!