How Does Our Garden Grow 2012, Part I: Seeds and Seedlings
March 24, 2012Posted by andrew |
A few weeks ago, we visited the Petaluma Seed Bank to pick out our seeds for this year's vegetable garden. After last year's experience with really slow-growing seedlings, we decided to be a little smarter about how we did things this season.
Last year's garden was hit-and-miss, mainly due to the cooler-than-usual weather we experienced here in Northern California. The hits were our tomatoes—we had tons of them, and the vines kept producing well into December! Sadly, our squash plants never really got going, and only produced a few fruits. What we had was good, but there wasn't very much. The peppers that didn't get destroyed by cutworms early on didn't produce that well, either. Hopefully this season will be a little warmer and we'll have better results.
Our first task was to start the tomato and pepper seeds indoors. Last year we used egg cartons. They worked OK, but our seedlings took a long time to grow, and apparently the egg carton cups aren't deep enough to allow for proper root development. This time we picked up a reusable and recyclable plastic seed-starting container from the Seed Bank. It has 72 cups, so we have room for plenty of seedlings, and the whole thing fits into a neat drip tray to keep things neat.
The kids and I took the tray out to the back yard, filled it with a light organic potting soil (Sloat's Bay Area Mix), and started planting seeds. So we could actually remember what it was we planted, we put row markers in the tray to show what was what.
Rather than put the seed tray on the kitchen window sill this time, we took an old folding tray table we found in the garage and set it up near a sunny south-facing window that also happens to be near a heater vent. In no time at all our seedlings were up, and they're much bigger and healthier than they were last year at this time. It's been about four weeks since we first planted the seeds, and so far just about everything has germinated and started to grow.
Our target date for transplanting in the garden beds is late April to early May, so we're right on schedule, and maybe even a little early. If you haven't started your seeds yet, don't worry—you've still got some time, so if you start now you should probably have some viable seedlings to plant in the garden in May.
This year's tomato varieties are Costoluto Genovese, an Italian beefsteak-style tomato, the famous San Marzano plum tomatoes, and, because they were so good and productive last season, yellow Riesentraube cherry tomatoes. The pepper contingent is represented by both yellow and red varieties of Corno di Toro Italian sweet peppers.