Tomato Explosion

Just four days after tucking the seeds into the dirt, the tomatoes are exploding all over the place!

I may be starting to get a little concerned about space… I maybe shouldn’t have tucked 3-4 seeds into most of the cells, as it looks like they ALL want to come out to play.   Time to get the next shelf ready on the grow rack!

Not Quite A Week Later

And my plants are thriving!

Just two pepper plants decided they didn’t like being moved from the starter tray.  I lost a Bulgarian Carrot Pepper and a Serrano, both of which I have more of, so it’s no big loss.

Last Friday I pulled a few last pepper plants out of the starter flat and then started over with the tomato seeds.  I sowed early Friday afternoon, and just after lunch today I was shocked as all get out to look over at the tray and see sprouts!

Several of the varieties that I received over the winter from a friend in France have popped right up! I am sure this week will be full of popping seeds.  The first varieties up are Perle de Lait, Glam Eve and Klujka V Sahare.

I’m really loving having all the plants growing in the same rooms that I live in.  I can see my plants all the time, and all I have to do is give them a glance and they make me smile.

Start Your Engines!

Just over two weeks ago, I tucked my first garden seeds into the dirt.  Specifically, I sowed pepper and eggplant seeds, and then as long as I was sowing, I added some brassicas- some broccoli, cabbage and kale.

For Christmas this past year, I was gifted with a heat mat for starting seeds.  I couldn’t wait to use it!  I put my seeds in my seed starting mix and set it on top of the mat. About four days later I discovered my first sprouts.  The brassicas were popping up all over, but it quickly became clear that just using the heat mat was not going to cut it.  The sprouts were a sickly yellow color, and every single one was reaching towards the window way on the other side of the room.  I needed a light.  Andy quickly dug one out and we added an overhead light to the seed starting set up.  Here it is in action, tucked onto my storage shelves in the laundry room.

This is working perfectly!  The heat from below is encouraging the seeds to pop, and the light above is giving them something to reach towards.  Once the seeds were sprouting, my thoughts quickly turned to panic, as I realized I had no where to put my potted up seedlings.  We’d been talking for months about where the seedlings were going to be pampered, but hadn’t really decided on a spot, nor had we purchased any shelving to utilize any of these spots.

One day, on a whim, I surveyed my tiny house and decided that there was a corner of the kitchen that could be repurposed.  I shuffled stuff around all afternoon, but when all was said and done, I had a rather large spot that could house a set of shelves.  Since my other spot was carpeted, and I’ve dealt with escaping plants before, having my plants growing on a hard floor seemed the better idea.  So I cleared my spot, showed my husband, and then left for a weekend away with the kids.

Upon my return, I found that Andy had purchased a massive set of shelves and found some lights to put on it.  This was definitely a bigger shelving unit than I’d been planning, but honestly, it made me excited to fill it with plants! I quickly assessed my sprouting shelf and discovered that I’d actually waited too long.  Most of the brassicas had keeled over while we were away, but there were some Mammoth Giant Jalapeno sprouts curling under the plastic dome and wanting out.  Here’s my shelf in action.

To give you an idea of scale, there are about 70 plants on that top shelf, and there is still room for more!  I love these shelves!

Over the course of this week, I’ve potted up a good many of my peppers and eggplant.  Yesterday I did the bulk of them, and today I see just how happy my plants are to be out of confinement.  I only have one Bulgarian Carrot pepper this morning that looks like its not going to make it.    Here’s a close up of the top shelf:

A beautiful bonus about putting this shelf where we did is that we do not need to worry about air circulation.  I’ve had years in the past where I’ve lost a good deal of my plants to damping off.  Not this year!  I have a ceiling fan right by the shelves!  I turned it on yesterday and watched my sproutlings move ever-so-gently in the breeze.  Here is the side view of my shelves, you can see the light fixture attached to the fan:

My plants are very happy!

I still have about 20 or so peppers that need to be potted up after they’ve had a bit of growth, and then we move on the tomatoes.  I’ve been playing around this year with following the recommendations for moon planting for my seeds.  After several years of dismal gardening, THIS is the year, and I’ll take any nudge towards excellence that I can get.  The moon calendar says that this coming Friday and Saturday is great for sowing tomato seeds- Friday more than Saturday, so that’s what I plan to do.

I am hoping the remaining pepper sprouts will have grown by then, because I’d like to use my little heat mat/light set up for the tomatoes and a second round of eggplants.

I’m making my list and checking it twice, because I’m very limited in my space and need to make the best possible decisions.  Lists and varieties to come.  And hopefully a lot of details as I work to make this year the best garden yet.


New Beginnings

January.  Synonymous with cold, snow, frigid temperatures, and dark days.

And yet there are the little things that brighten our days and get us through this long month as we wait for seed-starting season.

Take this tomato plant, for example.

A gift from the Minnesota gardeners, this is a dwarf tomato which seems very happy to be in my care.  Rumor is that it will produce tomatoes for me before I can even think about working in the dirt this spring.  I’m very excited to see how it does.  It grew a lot last week, despite the fact that it was grey and gloomy out all week long.  Yesterday and today we’ve had some sunshine, and it’s really looking good.

I also have started just one round of seeds.  I was also gifted with some Ghost Pepper seeds this Christmas.  I gave these super-hot seeds an eight hour soak in warm water and then put them in a pot of seed starting mix.  I have seven seeds in this pot.

They could take a good three weeks before emerging, but I’m hopeful that the soak in water gave them a bit of a jumpstart.  I have the pot in front of the fireplace for now- it’s keeping them toasty without being too toasty.   These can take a full 160 days to harvest, and since the can be so slow to germinate, I wanted to give them a good head start. One of these Ghost Chilies has a date with the salsa pot.  Just one.  The rest?  Gosh, they scare me just thinking about them, but I’ve recently become obsessed with finding out what kind of flavor these super-hots actually have.  One of THE hottest in the world with scoville units off the charts, I may be insane for even thinking about trying them.

I can’t wait.  🙂

Tomatoes Are In!

Exactly two weeks after I started the first round of pepper seeds, I decided it was time to get the tomatoes in.  In addition, I thought I’d try Minnesota’s trick of soaking pepper seeds and then planting them.  When I planted dozens of seeds, and only had four or five up, I was concerned that I wasn’t going to have hot peppers.  They still may come up, but I feel that soaking seeds overnight, and then planting a second round of hot peppers will be insurance.  I can always give the extras away, or find another space of ground to plunk them in.

For the tomatoes, I have several people that I am starting some for, so first I had to determine what varieties I was starting for which people.  My brothers each had specific requests, the two others I am starting for had requests for tomatoes for canning and cooking- good producers.  Then I had to make my list, taking into account the amount of space I am planning for…

All told, I need 41 tomato plants, minimum.  So this year, when I placed the seeds in the soil, I added 2 or 3 to each cell for insurance purposes.  Yes, that means I could have a super abundance of tomato plants, BUT since my seeds are from years past, the germination might be less, so I wanted to be sure.

The hardest part was choosing the tomatoes for myself.  I have six plants coming from Minnesota, and I have 16 spaces designated for heirloom tomatoes.  4 determinate tomatoes will be going in their own spaces, so that meant that out of the 30+ varieties of tomato I have, I needed to narrow it down to just 10 plants.  TEN! Do you have any idea how difficult that is?   It took no time at all to choose the ten most reliable and most abundant- as well as my favorite flavors.  But then I would wistfully look at a packet that didn’t produce last year and wonder how it was.

You do know where this is going, don’t you?

About eight  extra varieties made it into the cell trays.   I had eight  extra little cells when all was said and done with my tomatoes and peppers, it seemed only right.  I’m sure I can find plenty of patches of dirt to put extra plants if I need them.  Plus they are added insurance that I will have a good crop this year, and I am always willing to share extra plants as well.

So, this is what was planted:

  • Black Cherry
  • Green Pineapple
  • Emerald Evergreen
  • German Red Strawberry
  • Woodle Orange
  • Lemon Drop
  • Pantano Romanesco
  • Sub-Arctic Plenty (one of 2 determinates)
  • Cosmonaut Volkov
  • Brave General
  • Arkansas Traveler
  • Amish Paste
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Grace Lahman
  • Golden King of Siberia
  • Siletz (the second determinate)
  • Roman Candle
  • Ananas Noire
  • Gold Medal
  • Reisentraube
  • Green Zebra
  • Malakite
  • Sungold
  • Gypsy
  • Valiant

I swear I can taste some of them already.  My only concern now is that I’ll have enough room in the grow center as they turn into plants and need to be potted up.

I’ve already determined that I’m going to be saving seeds from many varieties this summer.  Some of my seed stock is getting old, so I want to replenish it with fresh seed. Since I grow heirlooms, that’s entirely possible.

Seed Starting Alert

Well, there’s no artichokes for me this year.  I’m not sure what I did wrong in starting the seeds, I’ll need to do more research on them.   I dug them out yesterday, and the seeds look the same as when they went in- nothing going on.  They may need warmer temperatures to germinate, or they need to be scarified, because they have one hard shell!

Anyway, yesterday I started all the pepper seeds.  I’m not starting any pepper seeds for anyone this year,  yet I filled 18 little cells with pepper seeds- 13 of them with hot peppers.  I wasn’t as sparing with them this year either, in most cells I planted 3 or 4 peppers, thinking that then I can cull them to the healthiest seedlings.  But I want to ensure that I have at least one seedling from each pepper.   Here is my list of hot peppers:

  • Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Black Hungarian
  • Chile De Comida
  • Cascabella
  • Aji Cristal
  • Georgia Flame
  • Hinkelhatz
  • Maule’s Red Hot
  • Joe’s Round
  • Bulgarian Carrot
  • Serrano
  • Anaheim

Many of those are small peppers- intended for the pickle pot.  I love pickled peppers, but hate paying for them.  The rest are all different varieties of hot peppers that I cannot wait to use in salsa.   One of them is specifically a great one for drying and using as crushed red pepper- I think that’s the Georgia Flame.   This is my last year for the Chile De Comida, as I’ve had poor germination from it, and most of the rest are new to me this year.  I can’t wait! I’ll also have a few jalapeno plants coming from Minnesota.

For sweet peppers, two of them are varieties Zander wants to grow- those are the first two, the rest are pretty basic, just some bells and some minis.

  • Red Mercury
  • Yellow Belle
  • Sweet Red Stuffing Pepper
  • Sweet Yellow Stuffing Pepper
  • ACE Bell Pepper

The sweet peppers I plan to intersperse in the gardens wherever, while the hot peppers will have their own bed.

I also sowed a few more herb seeds yesterday.   I had intended to do a couple a few weeks ago, but decided to just wait until I got out the pepper seeds.   My parsley is doing well, and I actually potted that up yesterday too.  In addition to the parsley, I have these herbs now sown, and I am hopeful for good results.

  • Lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Summer Savory
  • Sweet Basil
  • Genovese Basil

My lettuces are still growing like gangbusters, and I’ve harvested from the patch once already.  I added some thinnings to a salad we were having for dinner, but from the looks of things, it looks like I’m going to need to do some more harvesting quick, as the patch is bursting at the seems.

I’m just over a week away from starting tomato seeds.  I better get that grow list finished up here!

Quick Note About Growing Under Light


That little seed tray needs frequent watering.  I’ve been watering my lettuce patch, but sparingly.  Yesterday when I went to check on my seedlings, they looked terrible.  Like, I thought I was going to have to start over terrible.  I decided to give them a good soaking- and it was definitely a good soaking, I probably poured a full gallon of water in this little flat.  But look what I have today:

They’re thriving.   Now if we can only get past this sub-zero frigid temperatures outside, I can start to think about setting the lettuce outside in the screen porch.  My plan is to put them in my greenhouse rack with the plastic cover on, in the plastic covered screen porch.  That should put them at around a zone 7, and I expect the lettuces will grow wonderfully, and in no time we’ll be eating salad.

I need more lights too.  Because I want to start another flat of lettuces, only I need my trays and lights to start actual seeds.

Here’s a quick pic of my onion flat.

You can see the alliums all came up nicely- including the 50% germination Tadorna Leek.  They came up with better than 50% germ, so I guess you never know.  Far to the right you can see the parsley seedlings.  Still no artichokes.   If they don’t come up in the next week here, I’m going to dig them up and see if the seeds are doing anything.  Maybe they need to be scarified? The parsley I’m going to have to pull out soon and plant in bigger spaces.  The onions should be doing just fine here for a while, as long as I give them a haircut from time to time.   If I end up pulling the ‘chokes, when I pot up the parsley, that square of starter tray will be filled with thyme, marjoram and lovage.

New Beginnings

This week I started some seeds.

*Insert happy dance*

The first step to seed starting for me this year was a lighting set up.  A serious lack of sunlight in a window at our home made getting seeds growing under lights a necessity.  Having never grown under lights before, I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve, but so far, I am encouraged.

We took an old metal shelving unit and Andy rigged up a series of shop lights on the various shelves.  The lights are adjustable, so I can move them closer to or farther from the seedlings as needed.

The lights are also on a timer.  The plan is that the lights will be on 24/7 until we have seedlings.  At that point, a timer will be used to give the seedlings 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness.

This week I wanted to start my onion, leek, artichoke, and some parsley seeds.  As long as I was going to be sowing seeds, I thought this would be a perfect time to sow a flat of lettuce to eventually put out in the screen porch.  Lucky for me, my local garden center sells Botanical Interests seeds, so I was able to pick up a few packages of assorted mesclun mixes.  I love Botanical Interests.  They are usually the first catalog I get in December, and I love that they are a small family owned company- and how can you not love the artwork that they use on their seed packets?  Their prices are very reasonable, although since I can get them locally, I’ve never actually ordered from them.

I sowed several small rows in one flat, and then towards one end of the flat I sowed two rows of Giant Noble spinach seed.    I sowed my onions in cells, and then both flats got a plastic dome over the top, and then they were sent to the basement grow center.  I did all this sowing Tuesday afternoon.

I have to note that I didn’t expect to see any sprouting for at least 5 days, but expected much longer- the chokes and parsley could take two weeks before I see any sprouts!  So imagine my surprise when I am doing laundry on Thursday and decide to take a peek under my domes and find sprouts!  Quite a few mesclun sprouts, and even one onion and one leek sprout.  Just two days after sowing!

Here is what my lettuces looked like Friday morning:

And here they are today:

They’re growing like gangbusters, and today I took the plastic dome off the mesclun, as I didn’t want to cook the seedlings.  I just want them to grow and reach for the lights.

The hybrid Lexton Leek seeds that I sowed are also doing really well- there’s easily a dozen just starting to poke through the soil.   I have a few Copra onion sprouts as well, and I sure am encouraged that I can be successful at growing under lights.

Germ Test Results

It’s been one week since I tucked my allium seeds into plastic bags to see how they would germinate. The results are not surprising for some.

My Red Of Florence, a red bulbing onion from Johnny’s seed had the poorest test.  Out of ten seeds, I had one sure sprout, one that looked like it was just emerging, and one that apparently emerged and promptly turned into goo.   Too bad, because there are about 250 seeds in this packet.  These will be tossed.

My American Flag Leeks were the second poorest.  These are old seeds- packed for 2007, and were Wal-Mart seed of all things. I had 4 sure sprouts, and if I was short on leek seeds, I would probably keep them and just sow them heavily.  But since I have other leek seeds, these will be tossed as well.

My Ishikura bunching onions from Johnny’s gave me a 50% test.  I will keep and sow these because they are tasty and dependable.  AND when I went to order some new seed, they were out, so I want to get what I can out of them.  I’ve never let a scallion go to seed before, this may be a first time for that.

The Tadorna Leek seed from Johnny’s was packed for 2009, so they are a few years old.  I have a germination rate of 60%, and considering that the packet actually says 75% germination, that’s not a bad rate of deline over a few years.  I will sow these seeds, as it will be nice to have a variety of leeks growing.

And finally, the surprise of the bunch.  My Evergreen Long white bunching onion.  These are a Burpee seed, and packed for 2007.  I got 8 out of 10 seeds to sprout.  It’s funny, because I was just going to throw this packet out, but this goes to show that you just never know.  While these aren’t my favorite green onion, I will still sow them.  That means I’ll have three varieties of scallion in my garden.

I’ll admit, the sprouts got me excited! Sprouting seeds! It’s almost time! Next week I need to get the first phase of my light set-up arranged, and I also need to clean off the fridge.  My plan is to begin with the alliums.  I will sow them in cell-packs with a clear plastic lid, and set them on top of the fridge to germinate. It’s a little warmer up there, which is what you need to get sprouts.  Once they’ve sprouted, they’ll move to the basement grow station, and then I will wait to repeat the process in February with some brassicas.  Ah, gardening.  I love it.