Monday, February 14, 2011

i jumped the gun on seed starting.

on the afternoon of january 27 i went grocery shopping and bought a tiny little spider plant as a surprise gift for my mom. then i realized i’d need a bit of potting soil to plant it in a larger container. 20 pounds of dirt later i’m in the back yard rummaging through the recycling bin and scrubbing down every plastic container i can find, setting up my macgyvered tea-tray seed starting station with an old heating pad, sorting through my overgrown seed hoard. by nighttime i had six varieties tucked in and simmering in soygurt cups.

the first seedling to germinate, a striped roman tomato, raised its little green head on january 31. the others followed close and not long after it really hit home just how early this is, how much work will be involved in keeping these preemies healthy and alive until mid-may. last year i started a few things in mid-february and even that was too early. margaret lauderbach is tisk-tisking me from her gardening column.

even so, i keep starting more seeds. around 15 more since that first planting. i do them a few at a time, and with the volume i’m growing this year i’ll still be adding more seeds well into april.

i got a couple shower caddies to use as shelves on my south-facing windows, to create a little more usable space. it’s been beautiful and sunny here lately--yesterday it got up to 58 degrees, and on saturday it was 61 with a warm breeze from the south.

i’m trying to grow almost exclusively heirlooms (or at least open-pollinates) this year. i accumulated seeds for a ton of new plants and varieties i haven’t tried before--now i just need to find space. here are a few that i’m extra excited about:

purple tomatillos: this will be my first time growing tomatillos, purple or otherwise. i LOVE purple veggies, especially those that aren’t normally purple. i’m also excited to grow purple bell peppers and maybe some purple kohlrabi.

turkish orange eggplant: these are much smaller than the eggplants i’ve grown before, so i’m hoping *maybe* they’ll also be more productive and possibly earlier to mature. also, they’re orange!

jelly melon cucumber: one of the few out-and-out novelty items i’m trying this year. i have terrible luck with cucumbers, and this one has a ridiculous DTM, is native to some place in africa, and basically i have very little hope growing them. but the fruit with its spiny orange skin and slimy green insides is so cool looking.

moon and stars watermelon: another plant that i have almost no chance with, especially since i can already predict that i won’t give it enough space in the garden. beautiful, though.

cape gooseberries (a.k.a. groundcherries): i grew these last year but with some major complications, like starting them too late and not knowing what they were. none of my cherries ripened by the end of the season so i’m giving it another go.

blue jade corn: a dwarf heirloom variety of sweet corn from SSE that is so shockingly, beautifully blue-purple, even after cooking. i first saw them in this post from "seasonal wisdom," a local garden blog by one of the authors of “grocery gardening.”

striped roman tomato: i didn’t grow any paste tomatoes last year, but with the amount of sauce i ended up making it would’ve been nice to have some. normally i think paste tomatoes look boring but these are stripy and cool, and supposedly they even taste good uncooked.

white snowball tomato: i’ll be honest, these look completely unappetizing, like they’ve been exsanguinated by bunnicula. but, imagine them for sauce! it’ll look like alfredo but taste like marinara.

black moor (or black mauri) tomato: i love “black” tomatoes. these are the only grape-type i’ve seen. chocolate cherry was my favorite variety last year and i’m hoping these taste similar.

to the other gardeners who might be reading this, what new plants and varieties are you most excited about growing this season?


Amy said...

Awesome Macgyvering, especially the shower caddy on the south window! Moon and stars melons have always been on my garden wishlist; I think I might finally have a place to try them this year. Good luck with all your heirloom seedlings.

Emily said...

thanks amy! i hope you do find a place for the melons--they're so beautiful and i bet they taste amazing.

Potted Farm said...

I can completely understand. It's taking every single ounce of self-control I have not to plant every seed in sight.

The shower caddy idea is GENIUS!!! I think I'm going to go buy some for my windows. Thanks for the idea!

Chente said...

Are those all your photos and your vegetables?

Emily said...

potted farm--you're welcome! i hope you have better luck finding a caddy than i did...i thought it would be so simple, but it took me two stores and about half an hour of deliberation to pick one out. the one i settled on isn't as big as i wanted.

chente--no, those are google images of things i haven't grown yet...but hopefully this summer i'll have my own photos of those veggies.

Jessica said...

I am hoping to post on this soon! But I'm going to try to focus on herbs, flowers, tomatoes, and peppers this year, and I've bought all heirloom seeds thus far. I'm praying for a better season for tomatoes and peppers (not such a cold, wet spring).

I really like your set up. Very economical with space and materials. I dug out gear from last year and plan on washing it and starting this long weekend.

Shari said...

I'm so happy I'm not the only one. I planted some seeds a few weeks ago -- but only to see if they would germinate (some of them were old). I doubt any of them will survive until Spring.

I'm going to be doing my final scour of the seed/plant catalogues this weekend (hopefully). New items I'm considering: sweet potato, okra, sweet corn, and more permanent additions to my property like blueberry, raspberry, elderberry, hazelnut, and some other fruit trees. I have lofty ambitions. We'll see what actually materializes.

Emily said...

jessica--that sounds good...i'm hoping for a way warmer and dryer spring too.

shari--those all sound like so much fun! careful with the raspberry canes, they'll take over your whole property if you let them. i'll be really interested to see how the sweet potatoes go if you do decide to grow those.

GoneferalinID said...

Oh, I'm only 2 paragraphs in and I need more time. I don't know what happened, but work may have gotten in the way of catching up with your blog.

I am so glad you started early and I love your shower caddy idea.

GoneferalinID said...

Little bites at an Emily wonderful mega post: Moon and stars watermelon is something I'd love to try. How amazing is that color?

Emily said...

hehe sorry, i need to work on brevity...i know, those watermelons barely look real. they look like giant squash that someone spilled paint on.

Jess in TO said...

I stumbled upon this blog looking for more information on Striped Roman tomatoes. Nice to see that I'm not the only one who couldn't wait to start seeds. As I type this, I have ten peppers, ten onions and five tomatoes started. I happened to have a couple of large fish tanks that I wasn't using for fish, so I've converted those to seedling nurseries, complete with overhead grow lights. I love the shower caddy idea. I live in Toronto, ON so the windows are still very cold, but I think I'll try that idea once the weather warms up a bit.

Looks like we're growing some of the same things (Striped Roman Tomatoes, Purple Tomatillos, Blue Jade Corn). Some of the others I'm particularly excited about are a Limbang Midget Watermelon, a Pretty Purple Pepper, a Black Pearl Pepper and Pest Tomato. I'm using square foot gardening, and I'm hoping I can get away with growing the watermelon up a trellis to save space.

Emily said...

hey jess! that's cool that we're growing so many of the same things. i've never heard of limbang midget watermelon but the name is already my favorite. and black pearl pepper is gorgeous.

the fish tank idea sounds awesome too. i almost trashpicked a fish tank yesterday but my friend stopped me because the glass was cracked, and who knows what used to live in it, could be dirty--but i was thinking it would make a good mini-coldframe. maybe you could use yours for that purpose once the seedlings are out.

thanks so much for stopping by my blog and saying hi. i hope you have a fabulous growing season.

MikeH said...

Hi Jess in TO,

How did you make out with your Limbang Midget Watermelon? Were you able to save seeds?

Jess said...

Hi MikeH,

I think you've already contacted me through Dave's Garden - I'm the girl who lost her two seedlings to slugs, but I'm trying again this year and hoping to do much better.