Who's hungry for fresh veggies?!

on Friday, March 16, 2012

Ok, I admit it - that offer might be a bit premature!  This crazy warm weather has all us gardeners chomping at the bit - should I already have stuff growing out in the garden, can I put warm-weather crops out much earlier than usual!?  What to do!?

Here's two pictures of seedlings in the basement - all started less than a week ago.  The first is a mix of broccoli varieties, and they're not something I've normally started from seed before, especially not in the spring.  I'd been turned off growing broccoli years ago due to numerous problems with temperature sensitivity, pests, etc.  But the last two years have been great broccoli years for me, so I'm planning to dedicate a bit more garden space to them this year.  I'm a bit disappointed that I got a bit of a late start in seeding them for a "normal" year, and now that it's so warm out, there's risk of them not doing well this spring if we don't go back to cooler temps.  Broccoli is a cool weather crop that does best in spring and fall.  We'll just have to see how these guys do - fingers crossed!

And check out that one big sprout in the foreground - I'm not sure yet if that guy is a really eager broccoli, or if I got some other seed in the packet or in the soil.

Next are the tomato seedlings - they don't look like much yet, eh?  And if anything, the sprouts look a bit sparse, with some of the Jiffy-7s (those little "peat pots" holding the seedlings) are loaded with several sprouts, while others have none.  I'm not too worried about that - some seeds were purchased new this year, while others are up to a few years old.  Tomato seeds are pretty hardy and are usually good for at least a few years.  It could be any number of factors including age of the seeds or quirks of the variety causing some of these seeds to sprout so much faster than others.

You can also see that some of the sprouts are really crowded.  Assuming I have plenty of seeds to work with, I'll usually sprinkle 2-4 seeds in each Jiffy pot.  That way, if you have some dud seeds, you have a better likelihood of having at least SOME sprout.  Then later, as they mature, you snip off all but the strongest, healthiest looking sprout.  In the case of tomatoes, that'll be in a month or two, and then I'll stick the little Jiffy pots into a slightly larger pot (I've actually started using the red party cups with holes poked in the bottom for drainage).  And, if it looks like it's going to be much longer before the tomato plants are actually planted in the garden, they might get potted up once more, sometimes into a pot as large as a gallon.  Each time they're potted into a bigger container, most of the plant is buried, with just the top few inches sticking above the new soil line.  This is because tomatoes will actually grow roots along the side of their main stalk once it's buried, which results in more nutrient intake and better stability on windy days.

Mmmmm...I can just taste the broccoli and tomatoes now!  Unfortunately there's still quite a bit of time before harvest.
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