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’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.

True leaves, as opposed to cotyledons, mark the point where in tomatoes, you’re supposed to start using – once or twice – a dilute fertilizer.

But how dilute? The “inside” strength of Miracle-Gro? Or half the outside strength of a good liquid fertilizer? What kinds of tricks do you use to get your tomatoes past this stage and prepped to be planted outside?

A bunch of seeds have arrived. They were slowish to ship, but arrived within a day or two. I’m happy to see them.

I purchased heirloom tomato seeds from Tomatofest and then bok choy, chinese broccoli and some petite eggplant varieties from Evergreen Seeds. Tomato varieties were those recommended by Gardenweb planters in a previous post, the Asian greens were varieties recommended by the book McGee and Stuckey’s Bountiful Container:

I’ve added additional lights to the basement, adjusted light times to give a 16 hour light cycle (tomatoes prefer that, according to the tomato seedling FAQ on Gardenweb), added lettuce and Super Sweet 100s to the mix. Planted and down there are:

  • 3 Jubilee seedling groups (2 look bad and probably will be pared out)
  • 3 Cherokee Purple groups (in soda bottles)
  • 4 Sweetie pellets (1 looks bad)
  • 3 Black Krim (looking good)
  • 3 lettuce (Black Seeded Simpson, experimental)
  • 3 Super Sweet 100
  • 1 Boonie pepper (in soda bottle)
  • 1 uncertain (probably Jubilee)

With the additional seeds I need to count what I have, what I can add, what makes sense, what I should save to next year.

I have 16 new plastic 12″ pots for the tomatoes. The Bountiful Container says that tomatoes are deep rooters and that they prefer a minimum of 12 inches within which to root. I had okay tomatoes last year in depths far less than 12 inches, so it can be done, but I’d like better and more tomatoes than last years.

Of the remaining containers, I have 10 6″ – 10″ pots that I used last year. I went through the yard, found 5 clay pots in corners, 5 old clay pots too fragile to move or really use, a longish plastic planter and a really deep drum  that could be used for a large tomato or a small citrus plant. I have 7 unused 2 liter bottles and “enough” common water bottles.

Other notes. In this climate, tomatoes and  peppers probably should not go outside until April, until night time temperatures are closer to 55 degrees F than 35. That explains why I lost so many boonies last year. I put them out early. It also means my call to start plants in mid-January is about 2 weeks too early. 6-8 weeks ( 50-70 days) before April 1 is more like January 20ish to February 15 or so.

Greens, however, can go out sooner (35 degree nights) . So that’s why I want some lettuce to try, and perhaps also bok choy and/or Chinese broccoli.

With the Tomatofest seeds comes a page of good planting advice. Comparing it to the Gardenweb FAQ, one major differences are in the amount of time plant seedlings should be exposed to light. The Tomatofest sheet has very useful advice for starting seeds and seedlings in windowsills that the FAQ doesn’t.

My Black Seeded Simpson seeds and Super Sweet 100 seeds came from the local Home Depot. Seeds and seed starting supplies started arriving in the large home improvement stores last weekend.