Tomato planting time

Here is an area I’ve been a little negligent on my blogging.  This year I decided to start some of my seeds indoors.  I’ve not had the best luck with ordering tomato plants online and having them shipped over the years.  Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will remember the crushed box.

This year, I ordered a seed starting kit and planned to at least plant my tomatoes this year from seed.  For the seed tray, I ordered the XL Ultimate Growing System from Burpee.  For light, I just bought the cheapest light from Lowes I could find.

Before I get to the tomato planting of the day, I’ll give a quick rundown on what I liked and didn’t like about the growing system.

Liked:

  • Water from the bottom.  This worked great, I just had to fill up the bottom tray with water and check on it periodically.  It did a great job keeping the soil moist.
  • The clear plastic cover was nice, but almost all seed starting kits comes with one, so nothing special there.
  • Hmm, guess that is about it for positives.

Disliked:

  • The soil pellets were a pain.  “Just add water!” the directions said.  A mere two of the 32 cells actually expanded as they were supposed to.  Most just sat there doing a backstroke in the water and gave me the ol’ middle finger.  I had to use a knife and hack at them while continually adding more water to get them to be something I could plant a seed in.
  • Very mixed growth rate.  Sure, it could be the seeds or something else, but as you will see in later pictures.  I planted six cells with each of the tomato plants and there was wildly different results.

I’m planning on using the same tray and system again next year but just use some different starting soil.

 

Growing system all planted and ready to grow.

Growing system all planted and ready to grow.

After about a week, there were plenty of sprouts.  Trouble was, I wasn’t ready with the light yet.  The early plants started off way too spindly and never really recovered.

The plants have sprouted.

The plants have sprouted.

By now, you should be wondering… where the heck is this guy trying to start seeds?  Not having a lot of options, I hijacked one of the storage shelves in the basement.  The big challenge I had to overcome was what to do about the plant eating pests in the house… the two cats.  So, I needed a way to easily keep the cats out and yet make it easy enough for me to get in as well as provide light to the new plants.  The next two pictures below show my creation.  The front is protected by one of the screens from our old windows.  Some wire to hold it in place and we have a ‘screen door’.  The cardboard on the right side will be cut to allow the light to fit as well as be adjustable in height.

Cat-proof Seed Growing Shelf.

Cat-proof Seed Growing Shelf.

Nothing like growing vegetable seeds below the Thanksgiving turkey roaster and homemade ice cream maker.

Seed Growing Screen Door

Seed Growing Screen Door

For being a little hacked together, it seemed to work okay.  As you can see on the right, Karen took advantage of the light to jump start her African Violet getting it to bloom.

The biggest problem, the two bulb light was wide enough to cover two of the four rows of plants.  So, this year I had to improvise and shift the seeds back and forward, alternating each day to give them each a day of direct light.  Next year, I may have to get a second light and flood both sides at the same time.

Growing plants... albeit a little unevenly.

Growing plants… albeit a little unevenly.

Today, I decided that the cold weather (it was 31.8 degrees this morning and 67 degrees by this afternoon) is finally over and it was time to get the tall tomatoes into the garden.

Time to plant some tomatoes

Time to plant some tomatoes

I planted two Sweet 100, two Brandy Boy hybrids and a Forth of July.  Sadly, the Fourth of July is  the smallest of the bunch so I don’t think it is going to have any fruit by its namesake date.

Five planted tomatoes.  Hope they grow.

Five planted tomatoes. Hope they grow.

The remainder of the plants were returned to their dungeon to either grow up or risk execution. (Sorry, just watched Game of Thrones and it bled over into the blog a bit)

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