If you’re wanting to start seeds, for planting at the beginning of April, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m not likely to do so this year, as I’d like to concentrate on my boonie peppers.

It’s not actually Japanese, it’s a Russian cultivar, a member of the purple tomato family . It has a pinched top, and  thus looks like a kind of pear. Don’t let the looks fool you, this thing has incredible flavor.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a coworker that grows these things. He  tells me they don’t refrigerate well, you need to store them at room  temp and eat them quickly. They don’t need much more than a little cracked pepper to deliver delicious flavors.

Notes: Interesting links to the  trifele can be found on the Tomato Gardener, This Garden is Illegal, and Moonglow Gardens. Things from Scratch has a beautiful picture of growing plants. The blog Tomato Lover has more than one article on the trifele, of which this the article, “The Move Into Red”, has the best photograph. Austin Urban Gardens has a short blurb on how the trifeles taste.

Modest I know, but this haul includes the first large tomato of the season – the yellow one.

It’s a blessed mess of green back there. I’ve been moving some of the twistier tomatoes to beside the chain link fence, to see if they’ll grow into it. 11 tomatoes still sit on the deck. Some of them even have fruits.

I had four boonies sprout, of which one died, one was cut off by some worm before it could get anywhere (still alive though), and the other two look pretty healthy. This photo is of the best of the new year’s boonie peppers. I don’t expect any crop until late fall.

I knew I was going to have to do it this Sunday, so I got out all my stuff, my old bags of potting soil and my new ones, and set up to do this job. Somewhere after transplanting a few I thought of pictures. If I have pictures, then I’d have a potential blog post.

You start with a pot and a plant. Turn the plant upside down, holding the plant with a spread hand. Tap the pot sharply and then the plant gets loose and you can pull the pot off.

Note the root bundle? That will hold the clump of soil together as you put it into the pot. One  thing I didn’t do last year is get big enough pots. Big pots (12″ minimum for tomatoes) are expensive, but they’re a one time purchase, with any luck.

You try to position that plant so only the last set of leaves are exposed. Then bury the thing.

To note, Mike Stock’s suggestion that I let the tomatoes acclimate in the shade went so well I didn’t feel any hesitation transplanting these things. Next weekend we can put them out in the direct sun.

Some notes: every plant that went straight from a Jiffy  7 pellet to a 6 inch pot had a  great root system. Some of the plants that went from pellets to the peat pots to 6 inch pots to the big ones had really  undeveloped root systems. I took those and tore off the peat pots when I could, threw the peat away. These plants don’t have much time to grow before the night time temperature is going to hit 55 degrees fahrenheit and that’s when tomatoes will flower.

I have maybe 14 tomato plants under lights, in 6″ pots, and inside. I want them outside, if at all possible, before the weekend is over. Best path? Toss them immediately outside and into 12″ pots? Harden them a couple days? I don’t have all the time in the world to harden those plants; they’re going to have to suffer some regardless.

Back when the tomatoes were a little smaller.

It’s a  great little article in the New York Times, a comparison of heirlooms versus hybrids, and why it’s not that 19th century special that some  little old lady used to grow in the Poconos that’s good for you, but perhaps more the Atkinson tomato that was grown by Auburn professors just a few years ago in a climate very similar to that of Georgia. Heirlooms are best, this article suggests, when adapted to the microclimate in which you garden.

I’m not entirely used to the idea of replanting tomatoes when you grow them from seeds. The technique (here for example, or here) is so different from what I developed for boonies. With boonies, you sprout them, and there is no concern about darkness for a new days. You fertilize with an indoor strength fertilizer from the start, and keep the plants warm and in soda bottle greenhouses.

Tomatoes, by contrast, you must watch like a hawk when they sprout so they don’t  grow too much. You don’t fertilize until they have true leaves, and then only once or twice. Water is otherwise enough. You replant 2-3 times perhaps, every time they outgrow their “container”. You replant most of the plant into the ground in order to  create a deeper stronger root system. The final pot depth should be a minimum of 12 inches deep. (I think my tomato pots last year were at best 6 inches deep. Oops.)

By the end of the weekend, I want all my tomatoes into 6 inch pots.

The new boonie peppers are getting sizable enough that I should consider replanting them at some point, try a more tomato-like technique.

One of the tricks when transplanting tomatoes is to bury part of the stem each time you do it. It keeps the plant from getting spindly and helps insure a solid root system. One of the things I’ve been trying is growing the tomatoes in the pellet (Jiffy 7s) longer than first emergence of the true leaves, so that I could push out the point at which I can bury the stem.

The plants do not seem to have suffered from this treatment.

As I read my planting books, I get the impression that when the night time weather gets to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4 degrees C) it’s safe to plant outside. For some days it’s been looking as if that day might end up being March 6.  But as of this morning, that hope seems to fade. This is what looked this morning for someone in my area code.

An interesting look at planting dates in a nearby region is here. Just note that Texas tends to be warmer than northwest Georgia, which is in the foothills of the Appalachians. Another look at planting dates is provided by the online Mother Earth site.

Next Page »