After a couple of years buying plant starters from the farmers market, I started growing most of my plants from seed. I enjoy the entire process of selecting seeds (it’s like shopping!), planning with anticipation, and then nurturing my plants from seed to sprout to flower and then fruit. Last year, I highlighted my garden in May. This year, I want to share some of the steps I’m taking to get my summer garden ready and show how I start my tomato plants from seed.
I keep track of my garden on an Excel calendar. You can create a file “new from template” and select “multi-page calendar.” I take notes on when I sow seeds, when they sprout, transplanting dates, and harvest dates.
I expect the weather here in San Diego to be warming up to a consistent 60-80 degrees F in March, so I start my tomato seeds (and pepper seeds) about 8 weeks before that. You can start seeds a number of ways, but I use this bio-dome seed starter I asked for Christmas a couple of years ago. You just soak your sponge plugs in water, place them into the cells, place a seed into the pre-dibbled hole or onto the surface of the plug, put water at the bottom of the block, and put on the cover. Then you place the bio-dome by a window or warm spot that gets nice light and wait to see sprouts in a few days to 2 weeks.
Once you see sprouts, you can open the vents on the dome and wait until at least one pair of true leaves (the second pair of leaves) appears. At this point, I’m ready to transplant the entire plug with the seedling into compost. Each time I transplant a tomato plant into a new container, I plant them deeper and deeper because they shoot out more roots from the part of the stem that gets buried.
Now that my tomatoes are transplanted, I’ll keep the soil moist, take them out during the day to soak up the sun, and take them inside at night so they don’t get too cold. Once they look like they’re outgrowing the seedling pots, I’ll transplant into a larger pot and then finally into the 20 gallon Smart Pots. The last time I did this, my Chocolate Pear tomato grew beautifully and produced abundantly. This year, I will be growing those again as well as Green Zebra (excellent flavor and good production last year), Red Zebra (new), and Moneymaker (included as a sample in my order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds).
Here are some pictures of seeds I sowed directly into the planters starting Thanksgiving weekend.
Red and yellow beets
Broccoli rabe in forefront. Also chervil and dill (not pictured) in cinder blocks.
Lettuce in forefront; collards above
Butterfly Garden flower mix along with Crackerjack Marigolds
Carentan Leeks – Will have to space them out when they’re 6-8 inches tall
What are you starting or growing in your garden now?