Through the magic of online photo-sharing I have been catching a peak at little seedlings coming up all over the Northern Hemisphere. I’ve also been enjoying the smell of tomato plants sprouting fresh leaves right in my own home grow-op. The promise of spring smells good! And yet one thing disturbs me — ya’ll are too in love with those horrible peat pellets! Because I am so eager to get you off that dope I’ve come up with another seed-starting option that is mega-cheap and easy.
It’s so simple I almost feel like I’m talking down to you by providing directions. Simply get yourself a bag of seed-starting mix or mix up a batch yourself. I purchased a 10L bag for $3.99 CDN at my friendly local hardware store. I have seen seed-starting soil for a lower price however this mix is organic, chemical-free, and features compost and “sustainably harvested peat”. [Note: I am not listing the product because while I like it I am still looking into what "sustainably harvested peat" really means.] Regardless, 10L is more than enough to tackle Phase One of my frighteningly large and ever-growing list of seeds and should take me straight through to upsizing my wee seedlings from the starter and into transplant containers. If you’ve got too much save it for next year or use it to root cuttings. The fact of the matter is that you will need to replant into larger containers at some point in the seed-starting process regardless of whether or not you start in those horrible peat pellets or not so you might as well just save the dough, buy a bag, and forego the pellets altogether.
Next, save yourself some toilet rolls. Start a week or two ahead and you’ll have plenty in time. Ask your neighbours and friends! They will not assume that this gardening thing has driven you mad.
With a pair of scissors, cut 1/4″ wide strips all around one end of the toilet roll tube. This is the same method used to wrap a bottle of wine or a poster.
Fold each strip down. The strips should start to overlap each other creating a bottom that will hold soil.
Fill the tube with pre-moistened soil, tap lightly or push the soil down, and add more until there is about a 1/2″ or so left at the top of the roll.
Sow one seed per roll. Watch the sides of the tube for dryness and keep that soil moist!
You’ll need to transplant your tubes into larger containers about 2-4 weeks after your seeds have germinated. The best part is that you don’t have to remove the toilet roll or touch any delicate seedling roots. Just plop the entire thing into a larger container of soil (think 4″ transplant pot). The toilet roll with breakdown into the soil and be overcome by little plant roots in no time.
And since we’re on the topic of toilet rolls, start saving yours now so you’ll be stocked up when it comes time to plant your tomato seedlings out. I am yet to find anything better than a lowly loo roll to protect seedlings from cut worms.
Sooooooo……….. I’m ready for my intervention.
Approximately $80 worth of seeds (plus duty charged by Canada Post) showed up in the mail over the last few days. That would be in addition to the COUNTLESS seeds I already have. And the ones that are turning into little seedlings under lights. And the seeds I will trade for at tomorrow night’s Exchange Potluck Party. And the seeds I will impulse buy before the garden season is over. And let’s not forget the transplants I will purchase come planting time.
I must have been feeling very optimistic and ambitious when I ordered 5 different pea varieties.
Last night I organized the first batch into my existing collection, but couldn’t resist pulling it all out today to browse through the packages, introduce them to the newest arrivals, open each package to examine the seeds (beans are the most exciting), and generally revel in my wealth. I feel like I’ve won the lottery! Rolling around on the floor in all of the packages did cross my mind for a fleeting moment. Fully clothed of course.
Sure I say it every year but it has got to be said…. my garden/s is/are going to kick so much ass this year!!
As per usual I did not read instructions and jumped headfirst into converting Goldtop’s cute Seed-Starting Chart into little seedling pot tags. Turns out they are great for either purpose.
I printed mine on cardstock, cut them out, and attached to tongue depressors. I did not have anything important to write in the notes section so I wrote a mantra for my tomato in hopes that it will manifest itself into a successful tomato plant. “I am a very delicious tomato. Someday in the future, I will taste great on a sandwich.” I have asked it to repeat these lines 5 times each morning while looking in a mirror. Should do the trick, right?
Since I have begun talking about seeds and showing photos of my little seedlings, people have been writing in to ask me what I’m growing. I have been purposefully avoiding saying too much about my choices this year because a large number of the varieties I am growing are new-to-me. I have a tendency to avoid promoting anything until I am certain I like it.
Because so many of you are looking for some direction in making your seed choices, I thought I’d put together a list of varieties I do love. I set out to give a general overview of vegetables and discovered that a post about tomatoes alone was much too long. So I’m beginning with the plant we are all most eager to get growing and will follow up in the future with other edibles. Note that all varieties are open-pollinated heirloom varieties unless indicated.
Tomatoes for Containers
Most of these tomatoes are determinates (aka the bushing tomatoes). Keep in mind that some determinates can grow to be a few feet tall, requiring containers that are at least a foot and a half deep.
Sunrise III growing in a broken watering can.
- Black Seaman – A fantastic, early, black heirloom that does well in mid-sized containers, producing good-sized tomatoes. Read my full review here.
- ‘Silver Fir Tree’ – Another mid-sized determinate with fist-sized, red fruit. Most tomato plants themselves are a bit boring but this variety is particularly stunning with ferny, delicate foliage that sometimes takes on a slight silver tone. This was my first favourite determinate until ‘Black Seaman’ came along and knocked it back to second. Keep in mind that I am a huge fan of black tomatoes — no red variety can ever compare!
- ‘Golden Delight’ – Another mid-sized determinate with good-sized fruit. I was not in love with this variety and wouldn’t grow it again but I am also biased since I am not a fan of low-acid, yellow tomatoes. I grew mine in a large metal bucket surrounded by ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil.
- ‘Sunrise III’ – Probably the only hybrid I will ever promote, we fell in love with this variety’s cute egg shape and delicious, juicy flavor. This is a true determinate that is prolific, with a low bush habit that cascades a little over the edges of a 12″ pot. I have taken to growing mine in a broken watering can.
- ‘Black Plum’ – With rich plum-shaped fruit that carry an almost roasted flavour straight off the vine, this is my absolute favourite plum variety hands-down. No contest. Regardless of space, I ALWAYS make room for at least one ‘Black Plum’ plant. While this is an indeterminate (vining tomato), I have included it here because I have always had such great success with it in very large garbage bins. Some indeterminate varieties put out a much smaller batch of fruit when grown in even the largest bins, but ‘Black Plum’ has always stepped up to the plate with a good harvest.
- ‘Green Sausage’ – If you love ‘Green Zebra’, you’ll love ‘Green Sausage.’ This variety produces a ton of really pretty, stripey, elongated fruits that are good for sauces and chutneys. I have grown them as an experiment but will never grow them again since I am one of the few who do not like green tomatoes, period.
- ‘Principe Borghese’ – I would consider this a large determinate variety. I grew this in the same garbage bins I use for indeterminate plants and would not suggest something smaller. It was very prolific producing lots of small, red fruit that are supposed to be good for sun drying. We opted for oven drying and were not disappointed.
These are the vining type. They can be grown in containers just be sure to use the biggest container you can find — I use garbage bins — growing one tomato plant per container only! Growing a few basil plants around the edges will use up that extra surface space.
- Black Pear – Last year’s new favourite. Mine were not terribly prolific in containers. I would suggest growing in-ground if you can. See what it looks like inside.
- ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple’ – I can’t tell the difference between these two black varieties and have taken to thinking of them as interchangeable. I am still sitting on the fence as to whether I prefer them to new-comer ‘Black Pear.’
- ‘Purple Prince’ – I don’t want this to become the black tomato show, but I wanted to throw in one more variety that could not be left off the list. Also known as ‘Black Prince’, this variety has been successful in large bins and produces very round, dense fruit that are delicious on sandwiches. The squirrels love it so it must be good!
- ‘Broad Ripple Yellow Currant’ – Proof positive that large tomatoes don’t always grow on large plants and vice-versa. This large, trailing plant produces the cutest, tiniest, translucent tomatoes that are low-acid yet deliciously sweet and juicy — perfect for popping in your mouth while walking around the garden. And because I love a good story, it is very hard to resist a variety that was discovered growing in a sidewalk crack. A true urban heirloom. If it can grow there, it can grow anywhere!
- ‘Black Cherry’ – I really liked this cherry variety but found it did not produce well in even the largest containers. I will likely grow this in-ground at my community plot in the future. The future being this year of course. I was interested to note that what were tiny, round, cherry-sized fruit were much larger on Amy’s plants. She either has super soil, or got the wrong variety. They looked a lot alike with the same translucent skin, it’s just that hers were much larger!
More Tomato Reviews:
I could go on and on for days since there are so many amazing heirlooms around, with access to a growing number of varieties getting easier every year. Deciding on what to start from seed was particularly difficult for me this year.
Jennifer Perkins of the famous Naughty Secretary Club just reposted this interview we did… a whole bunch of years ago. I have to admit that when I saw her message in my inbox my first thought was, “Oh [insert expletive here], what did I say to embarrass myself?” Thankfully there is no blackmail material in there. I do find it odd however that I said I was not a vegetable gardener and then went on to list all of the vegetables I had grown. I think I must have still been carrying a touch of that thing where I felt like I wasn’t completely valid as a gardener because I was growing in containers on a rooftop. It’s hard for me to believe I felt that way at one time since I almost exclusively talk and do workshops on growing edibles and consider edible urban gardening my passion and specialty. Go figure!
In other news You Grow Girl was featured in this month’s Sierra Club Magazine (pg 26 of print version). I did a phone interview with the writer a few months back and was disappointed it didn’t make it into the article — it was one of the best interviews I have ever done! She asked me questions about topics I’ve been itching to talk about from my thoughts on city living to urban agriculture, to ecology and beyond. Interviewers always ask me how to garden, they rarely ask me what I think about it or why I do it! It’s about time I started writing more about these issues here. All in due time.
And because I couldn’t resist….
First look at Gayla’s tomato bump! They live! It really is amazing isn’t it? Go seedlings go!