Friday, February 9, 2018

I Love You From My Head Tomatoes!

This week marked the six week point before Spring, and around here that means dusting off the seed basket because it's tomato time!  My foolproof method includes egg cartons, potting soil, and a large seal-able food container.

I start with a clean egg carton (cutting off the lid to use as a mini-bed to start my poppies in), filling each divot with potting soil, placing about 3-5 seeds per divot, and lightly covering with more potting soil.  After placing the egg carton in the base of the food container, I add 1/4" of water to the food container in order to keep the egg carton damp without disturbing the seeds by watering from the top.  Next I place the lid over top (not tightly) leaving small gaps for fresh air to enter, and place the entire apparatus on my clothes dryer to keep the contents of the container cozy, but not hot.  In 5-6 days vigorous, little green sprouts should be making their presence known!  At this point it's time to move them to a sunny window.

Once seedlings are established (about 2-3" in height), I separate them and move them into larger containers for the hardening off process.  Averaging 2-3 starts per container, I allow them to grow indoors to about 6-8" tall before taking them outside for a few hours a day for bright sunlight, and fresh air.  When Spring storms begin to wane, and it's time to plant the starts in the garden, don't be afraid to plant them pretty deep.  The little hairlike structures along the tomato plant's stem can turn into roots for the plant if covered in soil.  This is great if your starts became a little too leggy to look like they'll withstand even the mildest Summer breeze, just plant them a little deeper than you typically think you should, and give your plant the opportunity to establish a robust root system - after that everything else seems to work itself out.

Happy planting!