I love growing my own vegetables and have done it for over two decades. In fact I loved it so much I turned it into a business. Partly by design and partly by destiny due to a job downsizing, I opened a greenhouse business in 2002 in my backyard. At the peak I had one 24 x 96 foot greenhouses a large tobacco float house and two 50 foot greenhouses full of thousands of flower and vegetable plants. Six years ago I got the opportunity to re-enter the professional workforce as a software tester. With that transition I morphed back to a very meager 12 x 16 greenhouse we use to jump start our flowers and vegetable plants.
Part of the life experience I took from that was knowledge on how to grow my own vegetables from seed. Of course beans and corn come from seed, but there is no transplanting required as with many other vegetables. I am referring to plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons peppers and the like. I will give you some tips on this process in the coming weeks. Today i will share my knowledge of growing tomatoes from seed.
First of all you need a container for the soil you will use to germinate the seeds. I have left over trays from my days of owning the greenhouse, but really anything will do. It just needs a way for the water to drain so your soil does not remain soggy after you water it. As you can see from the photo above I put several varieties in the same tray. This is fine to do as long as you are careful to label it and plant one variety at a time, then cover so your seeds do not mix.
I normally make a row in the dirt with a stick or pen and tap some seeds into the row. Next i cover the row and moisten it so that the seed has enough water to germinate. Basically these seeds are caught in a dormant state and need three things to “wake up”: light, heat and moisture. Some people will use grow lights in their greenhouse to rush this. This year I put ours in the bay window facing the south to begin with. Eventually i moved the tray to a position over one of our central heat vents to suply the warmth. Again, in the greenhouse I had heat mats, but keeping a greenhouse warm in march is an expensive task.
Using these alternative options I was still able to germinate the seeds within ten days, which is about the average. When i used the tobacco float house I sometimes would see the first sprouts after just a week, but that was due to a sand base covered by black plastic on the floor which retained heat even during the night.
I has numerous seeds sprout, which gave me the hope I could share some plants with friends and customer’s of my wife’s hair salon. Toward the first of April we moved the seed tray out to he greenhouse and unfortunately some of the less hardy seedlings did not survive. The ones that did, though began to really thrive and soon we could see the distinctive tomato leaves you will identify below.
You would think after doing this for so many years I would have more patience, but there is just nothing like a home grown tomato from my garden. With that n mind I try to give my plants every opportunity to jum start the process. When you get a seed packet you will see a section that shaows the average day to harvest. Basically all the plants go through a growth cycle from seed to seedling to small palnt then finally to a mature plant with fruit.
I jumpstart mine by transplanting them out of the seedling tray into individual pots. This allows them room to expand their roots and grow before you plant them. They will grow much faster in your garden, but if you weather has been like mine this year the ground is still not warm enough to make them grow. For specific varieties of which I do not have seeds I will buy a four pack or six pack of small plants and transplant them in a larger container. Usually this will be Early Girl, with the shortest maturity time and Park’s Whopper, which is a gorgeous mid-size red tomato.
All that tis left now is to wait for the ground to warm enough and the threat of frost to pass. I hope within six or seven days to have the right conditions. The only other limiting factor is getting the ground dry enough to take my Kubota and tiller in to work the ground. I have been through twice this spring, but when it rains like it has recently the ground gets compacted and needs to be worked again.
I invite you to check out my other tomato themed blog: