Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seedlings: Day 18


First off, I should quit trying to predict what my next entry will be. So far this season, I've been pretty awful about predicting what's coming next.

Second, a camera malfunction (or possibly a child malfunction) caused me to lose all the pictures from the day I thinned the seedlings. So we'll have to do with this picture instead, which shows the pots after I thinned them. Anyway, here's one good thing: the blog is now caught up with the tomatoes. I took these pictures on Wednesday, Sept. 29, showing the seedlings on Day 18.

As you can see, I'm down to 2-3 seedlings in each pot, except for the peppers (those spiky little guys in the foreground). The cucumbers germinated in one day, the tomatoes in 2-4 days, and the peppers took about 10 days. That's pretty normal for peppers, so if you're going to grow peppers from seed, just expect them to take longer to germinate. No big deal.

This season has gotten off to an interesting start. For one thing, this is the first season I've grown Brandywines, and the variety I'm growing are known as potato-leaved tomatoes. this means they don't have the "regular" serrated tomato leaf. Instead, they have a oval leaf with smooth margins. There's no real difference in how you grow potato-leaved tomatoes, but they certainly look different.

Also, my seedlings this year are not as robust as in past years. I suspect one of three things: my lights are older and need to be replaced (fluorescent grow lights lose potency surprisingly fast); the 1/2 & 1/2 worm casting and peat-based soil is too "rich" for the tender seedlings; or I'm growing varieties that are just obnoxious. Whatever the cause, to help them along, I've already started hardening off the seedlings.

Hardening off is the process of transitioning your seedlings from the protected, perfect environment inside your house to the big, bad outdoor world. All indoor seedlings should be hardened off before they are permanently moved outdoors. I started this process a little earlier than I might have, but I think it'll be okay. To harden off seedlings, move them outside for a portion of each day. Pick a sunny, protected spot. At first, the seedlings will only be able to handle two or three hours of direct sun. But they will acclimate fast, and within a few days, you should be keeping them outside in full sun pretty much all day. During the hardening off period, move them inside if it's windy or raining, and don't leave them outside at night. Also remember, they will use up a lot more water outside, especially on sunny days. So check them frequently and keep the potting media moist.

So far, I haven't staked up any seedlings, but I can already tell I'm going to have to. This isn't a big deal—I usually have to stake up seedlings. I use the long bamboo skewers you buy in the grocery store. I'll post pictures when I get that far.

I don't know why exactly, but I feel like this season is a little touch-and-go so far, which is weird this early on. I've been growing seedlings for years, so I was surprised to experience yellowing leaves and stretching. It just goes to show ... there's a delicate balance involved in starting from seed, and even after you're pretty good at it, there is always the possibility of the unknown. Living things sometimes refuse to cooperate.

Up Next: Just kidding!

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