This year I started planting my tomato seeds in January. (Our last frost date is May 24.) As you can probably estimate, January is way too early for most folks here. I got excited about all the tomatoes I want to grow. I got carried away looking at my big seed stash and had to plant. I am just too impatient to be a farmer.
I knew it was early and they would get leggy and be too thin to do well in the windowsill in February, so I bought a couple of very cheap flourescent lamps, little ones, old desk lamps at a second-hand store. I put these in the very wide south windowsill where I grow my seedlings. Every morning when I get up, around 5 am, I turn them on and make sure the tomatoes are under them until the sun is up and shining in the window, then I turn the lights off. I turn them back on at dinner time where they shine on the tomatoes until I go to bed at night, when I turn them off again.
This gives the tomatoes the amount of daylight they need. They do ok with 12 hours, 14 is even better. Twelve hours is enough, so this means that I can rotate seedlings under the lights. 12 hours for one set and 12 hours for the next set of seedlings. This way I only need lights for half the growing seedlings at a time.
I started them in little newspaper pots setting in cookie and roast chicken trays and anything else I had saved for planting. You can read about the newspaper pots in a previous post here.
I like these types of trays for this purpose because you get a lid with it.
As soon as they start to pop up, the lids comes off. These tomato seeds sprouted in just a few days! They were so fast!
As the tomato plants grew tall, I transplated them into larger containers, planting them as deeply as possible each time. Tomatoes like to be planted deep with only a couple of leaves showing at the top. They will grow new roots all along the stem, giving them a good supporting root system for later.
This also helps to keep them from getting leggy when planted indoors too early in the winter.
They were soon too tall for the little paper pots.
When they got that tall, I transplanted them deeper in the same containers and took away the paper pots.
These are the tomatoes after transplanting the first time.
They took about three weeks to get too tall for that container.
I took them out and replanted them into the same container. This time I layed the root mass sideways in the bottom of the container with just a couple of top leaves showing. They have been growing like that for a couple of weeks. I had hoped they would take longer to get too big for those containers, but that wasn't to be. This is what they look like this morning.
The time has come to give these babies a very large, more permanent home, at least until they go into the garden.
Today I transplanted them into tall ice cream containers that I had saved. I left a bit of the top showing. The root mass sits solidly on the bottom of the container but I think they will have lots of room to grow much taller.
These tomatoes consist of three types that I have been asked to grow as a 'CSI' project. They are 'Cowlick', 'Spudakee' and 'Indian Spripe'. I think the last ones are also called 'Cherokee Stripe'. I am taking detailed notes on the plants as they grow. I will need notes on soil, dates, temps, weather, taste tests, seed saving info, etc. etc.
(I don't really know what CSI stands for but I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with forensic investigation. )
Some of the tomatoes are for my own use. I planted a large, heirloom beef heart type from Portugal. I don't have a specific variety name for it but it did very well last year and we liked them. I got the seeds years ago in a trade from someone who's ancestor brought them over from Portugal. This is our "Portugal" tomato.
I also planted "Matt's Wild Cherry". (No, I don't know who Matt is but have wondered that myself. I don't know who Pete is either, but catch myself saying "for Pete's sake" often enough that I really should find that out.) Some of these plants are grape tomatoes, grown from seed that I saved from the actual grape tomatoes I bought at the grocery store. These are probably a hybrid so I don't know if I will get grape tomatoes from them or not. Its an experiment. (I love surprise gardening!) I am planning to also plant 'San Marzano' tomatoes. These are Italian and are suppose to be the best paste tomatoes in the world. We grew these last year but didn't make paste from them. This year I am going to. I have a lot of seed saved from last year's tomatoes.
We LOVE tomatoes and put them in just about everything we cook. This year I will start using my waterbath canner and actually can some of these tomatoes. Right now it is being used as our "ash pot" beside the wood stove. It's multi-tasking!
I am thrilled with the results of my tomato growth so far. They are strong and healthy. I have peppers and other things growing now too, in the new greenhouses I found on sale in my previous post! I have two of them set up at the back door that faces south in the kitchen.