Thursday 14 March 2013

When do seedlings become plants?

Following the same process outlined in my post "seedlings - first timer", I started tomato seeds 6 weeks earlier than last year!!  And I’ve continued that trend with jalapeno and onion seeds.  My reasoning is that I plan to grow many of the plants in containers in the greenhouse – so shouldn’t I be able to put them into their final location that much earlier? I’ll let you know how it works out ...

My challenges are space and weather (umm, and my cat).  While doing some transplanting in the basement, he decided to help me dig out the plants - yeah, not so helpful.  So I'm hoping to get the plants out of the house soon so I don't have to rush home from work every day to see what damage he has done (very little so far).  He also likes any water so I need to be careful with jugs of "compost tea" in the summer, because he'll drink out of anything.

In addition to the tomatoes, jalapenos and onions, I’ve also started an assortment of herbs (first time ever from seed), sweet peppers and flowers (geraniums and asters) and I’m seriously running out of space.  I started out with a fluorescent light setup in the basement; once that was set up, I had to limit the use of the wood stove as the heat did not hit the lower floor.  I bought a space heater, but I still need to use central heating more than I would like to (I have to keep the house at a reasonably warm temperature even when I'm at work so more $'s being spent!).  This picture shows the small light setup as well as my little transplanting spot.

Within weeks, the number of plants and pots (I've already transplanted many from the original 4-cell packs into 20-oz silo cups) required the purchase of a second fluorescent light and a new location (I have a “sort of solarium” area) in my not-so-spacious upper floor living space. 

And here it is, March 14th, and the weather is not working in my favour.  It is supposed to be 10 celsius below tonight and more snow to come on the weekend (and as you can see from the photo above, there is still a ridiculous amount).  Sometimes I envy people living in California, but then again ... not so much (I definitely prefer some variation in seasons).

I neglected the required maintenance of the greenhouse and have not been able to get into it since mid-January, and it’s not looking good anytime soon.  So I’m struggling to manage the number of plants I currently have, and the new seeds I want to plant.  I am also running out of pots – as it is, I purchased some cheap peat pots (some smaller than I would have liked).  I found some free pots on kijiji, but I can’t get there for a few days, so I really hope they have some left for me.  I’m sure I can get into the greenhouse with some serious elbow grease, and I’ll give it a shot this weekend, depending on the expected snowfall.

So back to the seedlings …

Onions definitely seem to germinate better with bottom heat.  When I had the space, I put them on a heat mat,which was situated in my solarium.  When I did not have the space, they were left under the fluorescent lights, but I had a much lower germination rate with those.  And note to self for next year:  one particularly warm and sunny day burned some of the onion seedlings in my mini Jiffy greenhouse with the extra heat coming through the windows (I should have lifted the lid a bit), so keep an eye on the overall temperature!  The best results I have so far (and consistent with last years results) are the "candy hybrids" from William Dam Seeds.

The tomatoes have done well, especially being last year’s seeds.  Now that’s an interesting discussion some time.  I have read sites that state seeds can last many years, but I always try to use them within 2 years of purchase.  That, of course, means that I am planting far more plants than I really need - it's nice to have enough to give away to friends, but if I can use them over a 3 or 4 year period instead, then I can plant an amount closer to what I need, and that will also allow me to have more variety.  I’ll need to research that more in the future.  But in 6 weeks, the tomato plants (when do they stop being seedlings and start being plants??) are now up to 4 inches high, and looking pretty sturdy.  Thankfully so, because I have had to move them from under the fluorescent light into just regular sunlight through the windows due to the space issues.  The San Marzano seeds had a higher germination rate than the Amish Paste plums which were pretty average as were the Black Krim tomatoes.

Herbs not so good … first time I’ve grown herbs from seed, and the rosemary is killing me!!  I have read various methods for germination, none of which is particularly successful for me.  Warm area, but not too much light.  Light, but cool.  Dark and cool.  Arrrghhh!  I have one for sure, but I suspect I’ll be buying my rosemary at the local farmer’s market this year – especially since it takes a few years to really grow into something substantial.  Here's my solo rosemary seedling!  I've reseeded this pot just yesterday in the hopes of getting a couple more.

Keeping my fingers crossed for some warm weather soon … it also means getting the cat out of the house and away from the seedlings/plants.  So far he's only ventured out once or twice.  But his wintering in the house apparently didn't affect his instincts with the critters outside.

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