Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting 'Em Started

One of the most interesting things to me about growing food is how it forces you to stay ahead of the curve. On a chilly morning in early March, no one's thoughts are naturally on garden tomatoes. Yet, if you want tomatoes in July and August, you have to start them in March.

Seed starting (and some of our other seated gardening activities, like repotting) reminds me a bit of a quilting bee. A great chance to relax for a couple of hours and catch up with the folks in your community.

Henderson's Pink Ponderosa and Black Cherry tomato packets. Heirloom varieties have the best names!

Counting Purple Calabash tomato seeds.

We have a small hoophouse to grow our seedlings. It works well once seeds have germinated, but it's difficult to heat the hoophouse so that it's warm enough (consistently 70ish degrees) for seeds to sprout. So, we sprout most of our seeds indoors, in damp paper towels. Once they've germinated, then they get planted in seed trays and placed in the outdoor hoophouse.

The seeds (folded into wet paper towels) then go into open plastic bags. The plastic keeps the paper towels from drying out, but leaving the bag open prevents mold.

We grow thousands of seedlings in our little hoophouse -- got to keep track of what's been planted!

Each bag typically contains 50-70 seeds. With this method, we can use just one heating pad to germinate literally thousands of seeds, rather than investing in lots of grow lights or several space heaters to heat the hoophouse.

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