email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, February 20, 2014

First Seeds Of The New Gardening Season

I am glad to say the new gardening season is underway.  Well, I suppose you could say it started when I ordered new seeds, but it doesn't really count until a seed meets dirt!  I started on Sunday.

Does it seem a bit early?  Yes.  But many annual flowers can be planted indoors 10-12 weeks before the average last frost because they are slow to germinate (7-21 days) and grow slowly at first.  And in fact, Sunday was 9 weeks before average last frost, so I am late.  So I planted impatiens, salvia, dusty miller, butterfly weed, forget-me-not, and wave petunia.  I also planted a dozen leeks, so the veggies are started too.

I love the lighting stand I made from a storage shelf.  It originally had five 2'x4' thin plastic-coated wood shelves on a steel frame.  I added 1/2" plywood under the top 4 shelves and attached 4' fluorescent fixtures under each plywood shelf (4 tubes per shelf).  I can fit four 11"x22" planting trays on each shelf if I want, but I start the trays 2 to a shelf lengthwise to get the maximum light at the start.

It felt SO GOOD to get into the potting soil and fill the cell-packs, read the planting requirements for each seed, and PLANT THEM!  The earliest seeds to plant are usually the trickiest.  Those are the ones that are tiny, need light to germinate, and are fussy about moisture.  

Things will  be more traditional this next weekend.  -8 weeks before last average frost is the time to start the major veggies.  Tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, lettuces, will get planted.  The tomatoes are always my favorites.

I'm trying something new with the tomatoes this year.  In past years, I've grown mostly heirlooms (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and Tennessee Britches) with a couple hybrids like Big Beef for backup if the heirlooms do poorly.  Over the Winter, I read about tomato-grafting.  It's just like grafting grapevines; you put a good fruiting top on a healthier rootstock.

With the tomatoes, you put an heirloom top on a hybrid root.  Tomato Grafting—side technique

The plants are more productive because the hybrid rootstock is larger, and the plants avoid many soilborne diseases because the hybrid rootstocks are resistant to them.  I've seen comparison pictures of heirlooms alone grown along side of grafted heirlooms and the apparent production differences are impressive.  And I mean pictures from agricultural sites, not scammy commercial advertisements.

You can buy the grafted plants from catalogs at high prices, but I am going to try doing the grafting myself.  I bought some small soft clips designed for attaching the heirloom tops to the hybrid roots.  I just hope I'm adept enough for the effort.  I don't have the steadiest of hands (DDT exposure in my youth), so my efforts may not work out.

That's why I will have 2 full sets of tomato seedlings!  One set will be let to develop naturally, as if there was no grafting intended.  The other set will be for the grafting experiment.  I usually plant 2-3 of each type of tomato outside but start 6 seedlings inside of each type anyway, so I don't even have to plant more than usual.

If this works I may be the happiest gardener in the county (just guessing I'm the only person trying to graft tomato seedlings in the county the first time this year). 


Megan said...

Yaaaay. A happy time of the year.

My tomatoes are in their final flush, and the pumpkin vine has taken over one of the raised vegetable beds. I've sitll got time to plant a few things for winter cropping, as we don't get frost in our garden.

Sydney, Australia

Katie Isabella said...

You know back before the raccoons did me in for the last and worst times, my tomato plant was an heirloom...Cherokee Purple. I was totally disappointed with their size ( small) and their lack of real "juice" inside. AND they didn't produce as many as the usual plants did.