Tuesday, March 22, 2011

our homestead: breaking some of the rules

I'm fairly ecstatic to announce that despite some severe lack in equipment I've been able to grow 40 tomato plants on my windowsill from seed. A past blog I wrote briefly described a little about what goes into successfully growing tomatoes from seed. You can read about it here:
Usually my family will use really nice LED lights and heated seed mats to get the tomato plants off to a good start. I was pretty used to this system, so when I received two free packets of fancy Pink Brandywine and Evergreen tomatoes in the mail, I initially thought I wouldn't be able to grow them myself unless I went out and found some nice lights and the aforementioned seed heating mats. Granted, grow lights and seed mats aren't that expensive, but I was a bit on a budget this winter (I think everyone was and still is).
Anyway, in early February of this year I was dawdling around down in my basement when I realized that I had a perfectly good seed starting rack which was being used to house boxes of odds and ends. I felt my hibernating green thumb start to come back to life and I quickly began to clear off the white, cast-iron metal rack and then drug it upstairs to my livingroom (which has a southwestern facing window, so it receives a fair amount natural light, as well as there's a heater vent in the next room). Our livingroom is certainly lacking furniture (save for a cool old, banana yellow desk that my mom and I refurbished together), so the plant rack was a welcome addition. I found some leftover empty seed-starting trays in the shed outside and filled them with some organic potting soil, kitchen compost from my worm bin and a scattering of coffee grounds. I planted both varieties of tomato seeds (about a half inch deep and a half inch apart) and gave them a sprinkling of water from a mason jar with a lid I'd punched holes into with a hammer and a nail. I crossed my fingers that something...maybe one or two starts might emerge. After all, I was trying to germinate these seeds without LED lights, heat mats or good spring or summer natural light (again, early, cloudy Western Washington February).
About a week or so later, I couldn't even believe it...there were healthy green starts popping up all around the little seed tray. I even had my mom and stepdad come over and look at them to make sure they were really tomatoes and not volunteer weeds which had somehow appeared or survived in my compost. Hooray! My tomatoes were really growing! Every day I gave them some water from my mason jar and made sure to rotate them as they'd usually bend all the way over depending on wherever any scrap of outdoor light was present...once again, cloudy, Western Washington February.
Now it's mid-March and I've separated and transplanted my tomato starts into their own 4 and 6 inch containers. I have a small hoop house going up in my backyard, so I'll be able to keep my tomatoes fairly warm and they'll be able to flourish in solar energy. My plan is to move them out from my windowsills to the soil in their hoop house in early April or so. I so look forward to being able to enjoy my very own homegrown tomatoes.

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