Much planting and transplatning over the past few days.
First, on mothers day, armed with my gardening class knowledge, we went to Mahoney’s and purchased 4 tomato tranplants (I bought bigger ones only so I could have many varieties–the 6 packs were only one type of tomato). I picked Mr. Stripey for the uniqueness, Celebrity since that was what I had been trying before as seeds and supposedly it’s very easy (despite what I did to it!), Viva Italia (for a “paste” tomato for sauces) and Early Girl (since it’s “early” maturing!). We also got a butternut squash six-pack. My guide from Botanical Interests suggests a 5-gallon container for each of these. I have seen bigger containers suggested, but at my class Robin said she grows her heirlooms in 5 gallon containers so I figure I can try that. As for the squash, it does seem perhaps a little small, but I can always replant them if I have any success! They are already big: I just realized what I though was a mature transplant actually only has seed leaves and a few true leaves. Those seed leaves are huge! It does make sense as butternuts are pretty large themselves, but I am a bit afraid to think of how big this plant must be! We love butternut so we went for that over eggplant (which I love but my husband not so much. Next year, perhaps…)
The majority of the cash was spent on containers. I know it’s cheaper to use garbage buckets, but it just was more convenient to buy it all at one place. I got a big bag of dirt (which is already running out) and some cages for the tomatoes. I also got some cheap measuring cups and spoons and a utility bucket at the grocery store for measuring out fertilizer and bleach (to disinfect all those pots where things died!)
On Sunday afternoon I transplanted the Early Girl Tomato and the Mr. Stripey. I wasn’t sure I had enough dirt for another tomato so I held off on the Celebrity and the Viva Italia, as well as the squash. I’ll have to hit the store again this week for more dirt. In the meantime, I’ve been hardening off the tomatoes and squash, watching carefully as we still get below 50F at night. I learned at my gardening class that sun is really bad for unacclimated seedlings so I’ve been putting them in the shade as well. I need to read up on exactly how much to increase and when they can go in the sun–I’ve just sort of been sticking them out when I get home from work until I remember to bring them back in (when it starts to get dark).
I also fertilized everyone (including the transplants, though maybe I shouldn’t have?) I definitely was not using enough fertilizer before, as this time when I measured it out, I saw that the water has a brownish tinge. It’s fish and seaweed, and it really smells the part. I don’t think not using enough fertilizer was the problem with my other plants, though–they only need fertilizer after the grow true leaves and that didn’t really happen–one of the problems, in fact, was that it never happened!
I am also braving the world of seed starting again:
Last night I planted the radishes and chard seeds I bought earlier on in some 2 gallon boxes. Hopefully I will have more luck this time, these are both supposed to be extremely easy. I used the potting mix (not the seed starting mix) as these are not meant to be transplanted.
I also started my “experimental” peat pot mini-garden. Andrea has had a lot of success with these and suggested them. I planted two peat pots of thyme, one each of mint and parsley (my mint has not died but has not grown–apparently it should be “mature” by now!). Also, I figured “what the heck” and tried my marglobe and celebrity bush seeds again. I’m also going to leave them in the windowsill (covered until they sprout) rather than the sunroom to see if that helps. My grandmother had massive tomato starts from the purple russians I sent her, and it was all done in the window. Of course, noone is surprised that her tomatoes took off! My tomatoes, if they survive this time, may not be mature enough to bear much fruit before the growing season dies down, but at least I’ll know I got it to work. And what am I going to do with those seeds anyway? With my luck, I’m not going to try old seeds next year.
Here’s my latest thoughts on the seed-starting problems I’ve had:
–Not removing the seeds from the heat pad after germination. I read in Burpee’s Complete Vegetable and Herb Gardener you should remove them once they sprout. High heat can contribute to damping off and spindly growth. (Note this does not explain the full problem as many of my failed seedlings were not on a heat mat, but it’s a good thing to know).
–Light in the sunroom. My herb transplants seem very happy there, but nothing I started from seed. This does not make sense to me, except that perhaps seedlings need a broader spectrum of light than mature-er plants–hence the UV treatment bothers the seedlings but not the mature plants? Besides damping off, my problem was total lack of growth after great germination. I can only imagine this is light related because it’s only once the new leaves appear that you start fertilizing. I never really had the new leaves appear so I don’t think it was attributable to lack of “food” in the soil. Is this right?
–Direct sun for seedlings, before adequate hardening off, is a killer. Yeah, I know that too now from experience!