From Seed to Seedling

I seriously cannot express the joy I feel when my vegetable seedlings start poking out of the soil!  The only other time I get as excited is when I see my first signs of actual vegetables on my plants.  Even though it is still supposed to get down to 30 degrees this week in Pittsburgh, the dawn of full-on spring is on the horizon!  And the 70 degree weather we had last weekend kicked my butt into gear to get my vegetable seeds going.

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I started my tomato and pepper seeds indoors last Sunday, April 12th.  As you can see below I used seed germinating mix from Gardeners Supply Company (http://www.gardeners.com/buy/germinating-mix/03-199.html) along with yogurt containers with holes poked in the bottom and old plastic plant pots.  I have never used this germinating mix before, so as per the directions, I moistened the soil in a separate container before filling the individual containers.

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Now, I have tried a lot of different ways to start seeds indoors, but I keep coming back to my old standby… Just sticking them in pots with seed-starting soil in front of a big window and watering from above with a spray bottle at first and then with a little watering can when the seedlings get bigger.  I also use a heat mat under the plants because my 100-year old house is very drafty.

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I have tried a lot of different methods for seed starting…  With the germination domes, I usually have moisture / ventilation issues.  I have had some success with the self-watering / bottom watering systems, but the germination seems to take longer, and I’m impatient.  I have also tried a “grow” light, but I put that in quotations because it was actually just a work light, so that may have been why it didn’t work so well.  I can say that I definitely do not like the peat pellets.  They seem to either be extremely soggy or bone dry and I don’t like having to pot up my seedlings.  Also, despite the claims, the netting does not seem to fully disintegrate into the ground after planting them because I am still picking some out of my garden from previous years.

But back to THIS year.  My tomato and pepper seeds are from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com).  I always like to try new varieties that I have never grown before and this year is no exception!  Iraqi tomatoes and Polish peppers, oh my…

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For tomatoes, I like to plant determinate varieties.  This means they will only grow to a certain compact height.  I do this because I have very limited space in my raised beds.  One year, I grew an indeterminate German heirloom tomato plant and it literally grew to the size of a small tree!  A metal pole could not even keep it standing upright and ultimately it fell over and crushed a bunch of plants!  Although it was quite a sight to see, it was a complete disaster.

This year, I am growing Rutgers Tomatoes, which are a fairly common heirloom, but hey, they are new to me!  I am also growing Al-Kuffa tomatoes which are from Iraq of all places.  It is a compact / dwarf plant that produces tomatoes that are slightly larger than a cherry tomato.

For my peppers, I am growing two varieties that are imported from Poland!  I am 50% Polish and very proud of my Polish heritage.  The one is called Ostra-Cyklon and it is a paprika type of pepper with a little heat to it.  The other is a Marta Polka Pepper which is a yellow bell pepper that is tolerant of poor growing conditions (Western PA weather can be crazy unpredictable!).  Both should be excellent when sauteed with pierogies!  I am also growing Santa Fe Grande Peppers which are spicy and will be perfect in my homemade salsa!

This is also the first year that I am growing Marigold flowers from seed to include in my garden beds.  I read that Marigolds will attract bees to the garden.

I have to admit, I was getting impatient with my peppers and carefully dug a little down in the soil to see if there was any action going on.  I think I may have planted the seeds too deeply because, after reading the seed packets more carefully, it said to barely cover them with soil to encourage quicker germination and I probably had them about ¼ inch deep.

BUT it does appear that all of my seeds have germinated!  I know, I know, I am a very talented individual (and modest too, hehe!).  Unfortunately, I always grow way too many plants, and that’s how I end up with wild jungle-like raised beds.  This year I *promise* not to jam them all in there!

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From seed to seedling to plant to veggies to… fork to belly!  Can’t wait!

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