By Jan S.
I love to start my garden from seeds. For over 30 years I have harvested a large crop of tomatoes grown from two small packets of tomato seeds ordered each winter from Territorial Seed Company in Oregon.
These seeds are open pollinated, determinate types which ripen their first fruit quickly and grow compact bushes that tend to bear heavily for a month or so and then taper off, great for our short ripening season. They hold their fruit off the ground and do not require a lot of staking.
Inderterminate types are said to yield the highest quality tomatoes but are a little later to mature with expanding vines which require heavy staking. I plant determinate varieties, either Oregon Spring or the Siletz for slicing tomatoes, and Heinz organic, a nice 3-4 inch tomato with a meaty texture and almost no seeds for saucing.
This year I am experimenting with an heirloom variety from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah Iowa. These seeds are an open pollinated variety, which the seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring with the same characteristics. Hybrid, on the other hand, is produced by crossing two different parent varieties of the same species. Hybrids do not remain true in generations and cannot be saved from generation to generation unchanged. But that is the topic for another day.
I always plant the seeds in a special seedling mix which I purchase from the Garden Supply catalog. You could make your own or purchase another variety, but I have success with this– why change something that is working. I plant them in a flat with 24-2inch divisions, cover them and place them in my warm downstairs bathroom until they poke their heads through the soil. Then it is into the garage under the florescent tubes. I have a timer on the light so that the plants get about 6 hours in the dark each day. Even tomatoes need to sleep sometime.
As soon as the first true leaves appear, I transplant them into a 4 inch pot. They go back under the light until they are strong enough to be outdoors in the cold frame and there is enough light. The garage is cool enough that they do not grow leggy. Depending on the weather, the tomatoes stay in the cold frame until it is warm enough to plant them in my garden, usually in May.
I am not a master gardener and I have never taken a class on gardening. But I have devoured Steve Solomon’s book:
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades
. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I grew up on a farm in Iowa where every summer I helped my mother plant and care for a garden that was about 3500 square feet(incidently the size of our p-patch). We grew all our vegetables for the year. My mother canned all summer in the heat and humidity. No freezer because we had no electricity.
I know. It is only the first week in April. But we can dream can’t we? Happy Gardening.