Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I've just got my tomato seeds in and thought there may be a few of you that would enjoy a little write-up on how to grow vegetables from seed.
See there comes a time in your gardening life when you have seriously caught the gardening bug and you want to take full control of things from the get-go. This means buying or saving your own seeds and growing them from scratch.
A few years back I caught “the bug”. I got online, looked up kings seeds, put in an order and waited with great anticipation for them in the post. That first year, I just kind of bunged them in some trays of seed raising mix and hoped for the best. (It seems to be my style doesn’t it?) I didn’t know about pricking them out and putting them into regular potting mix, so they all ended up leggy and not very healthy. I did some asking around and after talking to my Dad and also Nana next door I soon realised where I had gone wrong. See it seems seed raising mix contains a lot of nitrogen, which is good to give the seeds that initial burst of growth, but left too long in this and they grow too long and leggy. Oops.
So here’s my tried and true way to grow tomatoes from seed. Which by the way not only makes gardening more economical, but it also means you can choose from a much greater variety of tomatoes than those offered at your local garden centre.
Specialty seed companies like Kings seeds and Bristol stock all sorts from tasty heirlooms such as “Red Krim” and “Purple Calabash” both of which I’d love to try growing one day, to hybrids such as “sweet million” the cherry tomato that keeps on growing and growing and growing! Or try saving your own seeds as we do, it’s super easy. They have to be from heirloom tomatoes though. If you save hybrid F1 tomato seeds they will still grow, but they wont come true to type as they have been bred by cross-pollination from two selected parents, so you could end up with either one! All you need to do it choose a fully ripe heirloom tomato, either from your garden or from your local farmers market.
Slice your tomato in half or pull apart, squeeze out the seeds (the rest of the flesh can be eaten) and spread them onto a paper towel. Make sure they are not all clumped together. Leave them to dry in the sun for a few days, fold up the piece of paper, label it and store in a cool, dry place.
Then to sow, get yourself some good quality seed-raising mix. We use Yates “black magic”. It’s worth spending a little bit here to give them the best start.
Fill seed trays with seed-raising mix (we save all our punnets when buying seedlings from the garden centre, or you can use any shallow container, just make sure it's got holes in the bottom for drainage).
Firm down soil with your hands or with an old spoon.
Moisten with a little water.
Rip your seeds off the paper towel (it doesn't matter if a little paper is still attached), sow seeds at least 2cm apart and add a little sprinkle of seed-raising mix to just cover the seeds, pat down gently and water lightly again.
Place a few sheets of newspaper over the top of the trays and pop them into a plastic bag or a little hot-house/ glass house if you have one.
Keep the trays moist, but not water-logged until the seeds sprout. Check them everyday and as soon as the little shoots emerge, remove the newspaper and plastic bag. And leave to grow.
Once you see the first “true” leaves growing (they will look like tomato leaves with rough edges, not smooth), usually the second set of leaves, prick out each seedling by gently inserting a spoon/knife into the soil near the plant and levering it out while holding the leaves of the seedling. It’s better to hold the leaves and avoid disturbing the roots. Transplant seedlings into larger pots containing regular potting mix.
Keep them loved and watered and you should have yourself some lovely looking little tomato seedlings that will be all ready for planting out come Labour weekend in October.
Birthday cake recipe next post, promise.
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