At about 2 weeks old. I’m not sure if they are developing colour due to age or the lighting. They were much greener shortly after germination.
When we moved, I abandoned the cobbled together grow light setup I had been struggling with for years in favour of beginning again with a much improved, bigger and badder system.
In the old place I had to stuff the grow light shelving system into a corner nook of my office. Consequently, it couldn’t be more than 2ft wide. Have you ever tried to buy a shop light that is only 2 feet wide? Good luck. Yes, they are available, but they are built in a boxy shape and are meant to be wired in as under-cabinet lighting. I had to do a bit of precarious electrical wiring in order to attached a plugin cord to my lights. Because they were mounted and stationary, I had to lift my seedlings up to receive the necessary amount of distance between them and the bulbs as they grew. This meant regularly adding and subtracting stacks of books that I had placed underneath flimsy trays that wobbled and spilled liquid whenever they were shifted.
As you can imagine, this method did not always work out well for the books.
And then there was the shape of the shop light boxes themselves. Boxy shapes with sides that come down straight don’t reflect light well. I made due, but the set up was what it was. At the time I was happy to take what I could get.
So when we moved I abandoned that mess of wires and spare parts with the dream of something less ramshackle in mind. And then… work, life, moving, stuff. Finally, it all came to a head during the Holidays when the unheated front porch froze and several plants that should not have been out there but had no where else to go, froze. I needed a lighting system stat.
Here’s what I built.
I’ve had my new lighting setup in place for a while now, and last week I finally got around to sowing the lithops seeds I purchased almost a year ago. Here they are this morning, a few days after they first started to emerge from the soil.
Based on the size of the vermiculite, you can see just how tiny they are. So adorable.
My greenhouse grown plants are coming along and at the rate we’re going weather-wise this spring, a few of these babies could be out the door before the typical May 24 planting weekend in this region. I’ve become more cautious than I used to be as we’ve had some fluke cold snaps and hail storms in the past that have sent me running to cover everything with a blanket or bring a thousand pots into my living room. But things have been so consistently mild this spring, I’m feeling daring.
Now if only the whipping winds would settle down.
The ‘Variegated’ tomatoes (above) are really starting to show their colours now. I’m particularly pleased with this one and pleased that I decided to grow them again. As I mentioned in a previous post, the tomatoes themselves aren’t much to write home about, but what’s fascinating is that they do start out variegated just like the plant, and ripen to red. It’s quite a visual treat. I’m hopeful that the year I grew them previously was just a bad year for this variety and the tomatoes will surprise me this time around.
This tomato plant looks really big already but is a ‘Black Seaman,’ a determinate (bushing) variety that grows nicely-sized slicing tomatoes if you give it a big pot. I’ve gone as small as a foot-deep but a bigger pot, if you’ve got it, will grow a bigger plant. My first experience with this variety was wishy-washy but it has since gone on to become a favourite. I never go a year without growing one and I always recommend it to container gardeners.
Remember when the naranjilla were teeny, tiny little things? They’ve had a slow start, but the seedlings are starting to come along to a decent size. They are very hairy now and you can see the beginnings of little thorns that will eventually turn into nasty rose-like thorns at maturity. Here’s a reminder of what it looks like at full size. Ouch.
The naranjilla’s cousin, Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium) is also beginning to put out thorns. I have allergies to some hairy plants in the garden including beans (just the plants), sunflowers, and globe thistle. If I rub against these plants with wet arms, I break out in hives. Even at this tiny size the Morelle de Balbis is proving to be a hazard. I’ve felt some minor itches when accidentally brushing against it’s teeny little thorns. You can bet I’ll be exercising caution when this thing reaches full size and maximum thorniness.
It should make an excellent, although purely ornamental candidate for the street garden.
p.s. I took all of these photos with my cellphone; hence the weirdness.
What about you? How are your seedlings coming along?
We have been enjoying an unseasonably warm March here in Toronto that has lead into the warmest early April I can recall, ever. Temperatures are supposed to soar this weekend, sending gardeners (including me) into a flurry of activity. I have already sown spinach and mâche into containers on the roof. The chives have been shooting up slowly over the last few weeks, and I am starting to identify lettuce seedlings that have self sown where I let mature plants go to seed last season. I intend to spend this weekend cleaning up, amending the container soil, and getting all of the gardens into shape.
Meanwhile, over at the greenhouse, my little seedlings are go. I started tomatoes and peppers on March 5 and have sown the odd thing here and there since. I’m enjoying the simplicity of this stage of the growing season very much. I’ve been through this stage countless times now and you’d think it would get dull, but it never does. Every year there is something new and even the same old same old haven’t lost their appeal. On a basic level I am amazed by my plants’ progress every time I visit the greenhouse. I am relishing just observing the beauty of new seeds as they come out of the package and discovering the early growth stages of plants I have never grown from seed before. This is a happy time all around.
These are a pansy called ‘Caramel Spice’ from Botanical Interests. It’s a little late to start pansies and violas from seed as they are typically started in January. In fact, I just bought the first pansy cell-packs of the season yesterday. Unfortunately, these seeds came late but I figured I might as well give it a shot anyways. I can always try tucking them into a cooler spot once the summer heat hits and hope they make it to the fall cool-down.
This is cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), one of my fun experiments for the 2010 growing season. Cardoon is a gorgeous, and rather massive plant that looks an awful lot like an artichoke or giant thistle. In fact, they’re related. What’s interesting is that you eat the stems of the plant, not the flower bud as you do with an artichoke. But before you harvest it you’ve got to “blanch” it, much like celery, by covering the stems with a large box or some other cover to keep light out and soften the leaves. Perhaps a bit complicated but my curiosity has got the better of me so here we go. Another fun fact: cardoon is often used as a vegetarian rennet substitute in cheese making.
I like the seedlings at this stage; so perfect.