Starting Seeds...

I love this time of the year, my first moments running my hands through thick composted soil, dirt under my fingernails, and the smell of hummus in the Earth puts my mind at ease; Spring is just around the corner.  I can feel it.  I can smell it.  All of my senses go crazy with the first awakenings of the Earth after a cold, dark Winter.

As I opened up my potting mix for my seeds, I sank into a comfort of knowing that the sun is coming back to me.  Three more weeks of official Winter.  Three more weeks of muttering nasty things about the groundhog and his insanely accurate predictions.  (When he makes me mad I really enjoy calling him names like "gopher" and "fat little ground rat".  I'm not saying name calling is okay...only when it involves a nasty, little, long-Winter-inviting, overweight squirrel.  Okay...I am you Phil...sometimes...)

Sunday I planted tomatoes.  Lots and lots of tomatoes!  The list is very long, but as I go through it, I get more and more excited.  There are oodles of types that I have been dying to sink my teeth into, of to reduce down to sauce, or slice for the perfect BLT.  Fascinating colors, shapes, textures, and flavors beyond my wildest dreams!  I also started some fennel, eggplants and cabbages.

This is my first real go at planting nearly everything from seed.  I admit I have felt a bit intimidated by the process, but some hours spent at a university greenhouse have helped to boost my confidence.

A few tips to help you get started:
  • Remember to plant your seeds only 2-3 times deeper than the lateral width of your seed.  Most of the time this involves simply making a tiny indentation in the soil by barely moving it with the tip of your finger.  You can see by the photos, my well for the seeds are very shallow.  I think that I have been planting everything too deep for years!  Even experienced gardeners make mistakes and still have much to learn!
  • Use a soilless potting mix to start your seeds.  I used a very fine mix that didn't have a lot of clumps in it.  When you fill the cells that you will be seeding in, make sure that you don't press the soil into the cells.  Pressing it down makes it that much harder for the roots to develop and spread.  Lightly scoop the soil into the cells and then sweep your hand across the top of the cell to remove the excess soil.  
  • A heat mat is a great asset when starting seeds.  Seeds need a soil temperature ranging from 50-65ยบ F to be able to germinate.  Use a soil thermometer to make sure that you achieve the correct temperature.  Humidomes help with this too, they trap the heat and moisture to help the seeds germinate.  Be sure to remove the humidomes after your seeds have sprouted or you may end up with rot.  
  • A grow light is another asset that you will want if you can get your hands on one.  There are ways of building your own or you can buy one.  Make sure you have a florescent light to give your plants full spectrum light.  When positioning the light, you will want it directly over your seedlings, with an inch or so of clearance.  Leave it on during the day, and you can turn it off at night to give your seedlings a chance to respire.  
  • Grab your kids to help.  This is a great learning experience.  If you have kids, I suggest that you do this all together and use it as a family activity where everyone can learn and teach something.  There are all kinds of lessons we can learn from starting seeds: the cycle of life, how a seed grows, what plants need to grow, what chlorophyll is and how it works, where our food comes from - this is a great science lesson for the whole family.
  • HAVE FUN!!!  There are few things more exciting than watching something come to life right before your eyes!  Enjoy it!

Here is my list of tomatoes that I am planting for the farm this year.  There are a few others that I will be picking up starts of.  For some crazy reason I was distracted by the awesomeness of the varieties of tomatoes out there and I forgot a few of the basics (I completely forgot reds...duh...)!  What can I say...I get excited by crazy tomatoes...I need counseling!!!

CHERRY/CURRANT: A Grappoli D'Inverno, Violet Jasper, Tess' Land Race Currant, Reisentraube, Tonadose Des Conores

YELLOW:  Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Giant Yellow Oxheart

ORANGE AND STRIPED: Kellogg's Breakfast, Copia, Tigerella

PURPLE: Gyspy, Carbon, Black From Tula, Black Oxheart, Ananas Noir

PINK: Pink German Tree, Depp's Pink Firefly, Tlacolula Pink

GREEN:  Green Moldovan, Green Zebra

ROMA/PASTE: Jersey Giant, Goldman's Italian-American
"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." - Henry David Thoreau


  1. I too am seed starting this weekend. I've decided on a different approach then last year. All my tomatoes are heritage sauce making types. I wasted too many gorgeous yellow, orange and red juicy tomatoes last year since my husband and sons don't eat them unless they're sauce. I'm also using a hoop type house for the first time to extend my season. It's very exciting!!!

    1. Oh, I am so jealous! Hoop house is in our future, but I need a little more funding, and I have to get a greenhouse up and running first! There are some really fun heritage sauce tomatoes with awesome shapes. Sounds fun!!! Good luck!!!


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