The tomatoes are off to a great start. As usual I started too many seeds. I have decided this stems from a fear of something going wrong at the seedling stage and when it comes time to planting out I don’t have enough rather than having a heavy hand with the seeds. And I sow them in 6 cell seed trays and in spite of my wee tip for sow one seed for the plant you want, and a backup, for just in case and then a full set of extra because you never know… So that should technically be four of each variety, with heirs and spares, but I can’t leave those other 2 cells bereft of seeds so 6 is it.
This season I have cut back on the number to tomato plants to give them a better chance in the space, so they aren’t competing with each other for space and airflow. Especially as after last season’s success with the insect netting to keep the Tomato Potato psyllid, the tomatoes will be tucked undercover so it will be a good idea to avoid overcrowding. So, there are 11 varieties that will live in the 1x5m garden bed, planted in a staggered pattern up the length. If all a need is 11 plants then the 66 seedlings in the greenhouse are probably a little bit overkill!
As I’ve mentioned before, I have started a little earlier than I normally would, but I am pushing my frost-free boundaries. I may regret it as one of these seasons I may push just a little too far. Hopefully, it isn’t this season though as I have managed to take my generous seed sowing into the seedling stage and beyond. I watched as they all began to emerge in pretty near perfect germination rates, and I breathed a sigh of relief only to swoon at the thought that I now had to look after them all. They grew steadily in their seed raising mix home and eventually put out two sets of true leaves from their sturdy stems. This was the sign it was time to transplant them from the seed raising mix that had supported them so well in their early days of life.
Now was a time for something a little more substantial – a good potting mix that would provide further support and nourishment as they continued to grow. I didn’t want to leave them in the small seed pots as they tend to slow their growth down while they wait for better living conditions. I was pleased I staggered my seed sowing as potting on 66 tomato plants took quite a while, even with a mini production line set up. The last thing I wanted to do once I’d finished that was move on to the leafy greens! Although they will need to be done any day now.
It is still a long way to go before, even in my frost-free environment before I will be planting my tomatoes outside. The overnight lows this week being predicted are in the double figures, but only just. Tomatoes appreciate it a lot warmer, so they will stay in the greenhouse and wait. While they are waiting they will also be growing, and I expect to pot them on to even bigger pots once more before they head outdoors. They seem to be growing in leaps and bounds and so I find myself checking the bottoms of the 5cm pots looking for signs of the roots poking out, to tell me now is the time for the 10cm pots. It is always best to move them up slowly, so they don’t end up with leggy roots, but it is also like shoes. If they are too small it restricts your feet, your toes don’t like it and you get cramp and blisters, but if they are too big then your feet flop about inside and you risk tripping over your own feet. But with the right size shoe, you don’t even notice you are wearing them and just get on with your day.
As much as it is a compulsion to go into the greenhouse several times as day at the seed stage to worry and fuss over if anyone is actually going to pop up, this next stage is a delight as each day the plants get bigger and fill the space, making the greenhouse feel alive and give encouragement that this could actually be a successful season, it you dare to believe the weather will treat us well.
At this point all of the seeds for the season have now been sown, aside from the regular crowd that benefit from succession sowing for a continual supply all season. So, we are now beyond the nursery stage and are more into preschool style gardening where they still need daily attention to help as they learn to manage on their own but are growing so fast the demand for new shoes can become overwhelming. But this stage, while quite intensive at this stage, it is over in a flash. After sowing the last seeds, I did feel a little sad for the passing of time. This is another start of season task ticked off the list for the year.
Come again soon – the weather this week is supposed to be rubbish, but any rain at this time of year has to be good rain to fill the tanks.
Sarah the Gardener : o)