Seedling Update: 25 April 2009

Week 7 since I sowed the first seeds.  I’ve noticed a lot of searches lately for seed starting and germination, usually for specific varieties (at least those who end up clicking here), like Matt’s Wild Cherry, or “cayenne pepper seedling.”  So, for all those searching for info, I’ve put together a detailed post.  For all those who could give a furry-rodent’s ass about gardening…skip this one and search the archive for a fun recipe.

Last update, on April 13, I decided to build my seedlings a little tinfoil palace; they all looked sort of pale and peaked and were quite leggy, despite getting 20 hours a day of flourescent light, about 3-4 inches away.  So, I cut up a cardboard box, covered one side in tinfoil, et voila! Tinfoil Palace.

Tinfoil Palace, shown with the front "door" removed.

Tinfoil Palace, shown with the front "door" removed.

I have to say, the tinfoil palace made an amazing difference; the plants perked up, started growing like crazy, and started beefing up their stems, growing more leaves, growing out instead of up.  All good things.

Today I took all the seedlings outside to enjoy a little of the fabulous weather; not quite “hardening off” yet, but wanted to expose them to some sun, dry out any mold, get them used to wind, etc.  At the same time, I did a little transplanting of some of the seeds that I sowed 2 weeks ago, and also some inspection of the older seedlings.  Below I’ve included pics and assessment of all the varieties, as well as an assessment of the latest crop of seed starting.

Seeds of Change Earth Plugs, Container Mix & Burpee Seed Starting Kit

As much as I love Seeds of Change, for their mission, their selection, their devotion to organic & heirloom seeds, I have to say the Earth Plugs suck.  No matter what I do I cannot keep them moist – they seem to dry out in an instant.  I mean, it’s nice that they don’t stay water-logged, but they are not moist enough for anything to germinate.  This could be because I no longer have the top on the seed starting tray; but how often are you starting 72 of the same seeds that germinate at exactly the same time?  I’ve got seedlings that need light, hence I had to remove the ‘greenhouse’ top.  I think the real comparison is this: I started more red bell pepper seeds because my first germination was pretty poor.  I did one row (6 cells) in Earth Plugs, and one row in plain old container mix (bought from the nursery).  The container mix row has 4 seeds germinated; the Earth Plugs has 1.  There is no mold, like I saw with the Burpee starting kit, but then again, how could there be?  The plugs are as dry as the desert. 

Seed tray started April 13; Earth Plugs on the left, container mix on the right.

Seed tray started April 13; Earth Plugs on the left, container mix on the right.

Matt’s Wild Cherry Seedlings

2009-04-25

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes

Note to self: Do not start these 3 months before your last frost date!  These puppies are huge (12-13 inches high) already; fat, green and getting root-bound in the biggest ‘pot’ (the bottom of a Poland Spring seltzer bottle) that I have room for indoors and under the lights.  Last year I started seeds on April 1 and, by the time it warmed up enough (probably right around Memorial Day), my seedlings were still only about 3-4 inches high.  So this year, I started them 3 weeks earlier… and clearly, at least for the Cherry, far too early.  I’ve decided to keep them under lights and hope against hope that nighttime temps are consistently 50 degrees sometime soon…

These plants are really easy to grow.  Last year was my first year growing anything, and I had 5 huge and prolific Matt’s Wild Cherry plants.  One was planted in a full bushel basket and it got ginormous; two were planted in old colanders from the antique store, and they stayed pretty small, but still produced fruit.  You get hundreds of tomatoes off of one plant; they are quite small, about the size of marbles, but very, very tasty.  I abused these plants last year; the small ones went too long without water, the big ones were probably water-logged.  I had hornworms, leaf-hoppers and definitely a couple of cases of blight;  these guys just kept on trucking. I even had one in a hanging planter on the deck, and it looked gorgeous.  Add all that to the fact that they are quick-growing (you still have time to start them from seed and harvest tomatoes) and determinate, and you probably have the easiest ever heirloom tomato to grow. 

Other Tomato Seedlings

There’s something going on that my seedlings don’t like (except for the Matt’s, which are growing like gang-busters);  bottom leaves are yellow, sometimes curled under with purple undersides, limp, purple stems, wispy, pale leaves.  All this seems to point to a need for fertilizer, but I’ve been feeding the little guys fish emulsion once a week.  Perhaps I am watering too much (a classic habit of mine) or perhaps not enough; ever notice how the symptomology is often the same?  You do a search for “yellow leaves” and you get either you’re watering too much, OR not enough.. either you’re not fertilizing enough OR too much.  Sigh.  I decided to side dress with my compost (have you ever tried to side-dress a seedling in a yogurt cup?  Really, I am ridiculous) to see if that helps.  Time will tell. Anyway, this is affecting almost every plant except the Matt’s; see pics and notes below.

Roma Tomato Seedlings

Roma seedlings, about 6-8 inches high.

Roma seedlings, about 6-8 inches high.

 

Sad looking Roma leaf.

Sad looking Roma leaf.

Thessaloniki Tomato Seedlings

Thessaloniki seedlings

Thessaloniki seedlings

Stupice Tomato Seedlings

The Stupice seedlings are reasonably healthy, but leggy; they should be bushier and the leaves could be more firm and perky.  They are also afflicted with the yellowing leaves syndrome.

Stupice seedlings.

Stupice seedlings.

Silvery Fir Tomato Seedlings

The Silvery Fir are really unhappy; again, I don’t know why. I grew these last year, and ended up with blossom end rot on a lot of the fruit, but the plants were really healthy; fat, green leaves that look the carrot tops. These sad, spindly leaves are clearly not thriving – I’m just hoping the compost will help.

Silvery Fir tomato seedlings.

Silvery Fir tomato seedlings.

San Marzano Tomato Seedlings

These litte guys are sad; not only did only 50% of them germinate (out of 12 seeds sown), but they are about 2 inches high right now, and while some green has come back in the last two weeks, I’ve already had to throw away two seedlings that were just not going to make it.

San Marzano seedlings.

San Marzano seedlings.

Pepper Seedlings

The cayenne and jalapeno pepper seedlings are looking pretty good, although some of the stems are floppy.  The red bell pepper (King of the North) seedlings are difficult; about 25% germination and at 7 weeks they are maybe 2 inches high (in heels).  I’ve sown more red bell seeds to try to get enough viable plants for a decent harvest, but – we shall see.

Jalapeno pepper seedlings.

Jalapeno pepper seedlings.

Cayenne pepper seedling detail.

Cayenne pepper seedling detail.

King of the North red bell pepper seedlings.

King of the North red bell pepper seedlings.

Other than the veggies, I’ve got some herbs growing or germinating, some more seeds to direct-sow (cucumber, pumpkin, flowers and herbs, carrots and potatoes) and pansies:  because flowers feed your soul.

Pansies at night.

Pansies at night.

 

Want more garden updates? Read about my garden in these posts.

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One comment

  1. theripetomato

    Hi ! your seedlings are looking great !!! (i have tomato plant envy – yours are looking very good) We are trying out your tin foil suggestion since some of our tomatoes are still looking a bit wimpy at this point. I am hoping to get them outside and planted next weekend !!

    Also, thanks for the update on the earth plugs… very disappointing ! I find we are watering every day now, there’s just no other way around it.

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