Yep, like many gardeners out there I'm getting excited for Spring! So, with my garden plan done, and seeds arrived, I'm beginning to sow indoors in trays for an early start. First off the list is tomatoes, which need a bit of extra help in my mountain climate to get going early enough to fruit and ripen before autumn ends next year. I'm beginning to salivate just thinking about fat juicy sun kissed tomatoes straight from the garden and into a salad - not those horrible hard things that barley pass for a flavour in the shops. If you haven't ever had a home grown tomato you MUST try them! This may turn you into a tomato snob, but who cares?! They are easy to grow, and at $7.00kg+ for decent truss tomatoes or more for organic, it is insane not to grow them if you have a bit of space or a big pot. I'm having two plots dedicated to the love apple this year, with plans to bottle and preserve excess for winter use....but I'm jumping the gun a bit here.
Volunteer tomato plants pop up everywhere in my garden, as I'm sure happens in lots of gardens. But since different varieties cross pollinate so readily, it is best to grow from seed if you want true to type. I'm dedicated to four varieties this year, Black Krim, Yellow Perfection, Roma, and Green Zebra. The best way to start tomatoes is by sprinkling them in trays of damp seed raising mix (as above) in a warm place, and when they are big enough about a week after germination, prick the best ones out into groups of two or three into bigger pots. It's time consuming to fiddle with tiny seed in small pots - much easier to put in strong seedlings. The only danger is, don't leave too long before pricking out as the seedlings will become too long and straggly as they fight for light, and they will be useless and fail to thrive, and don't over water as they will rot and kill the thin stems. I have a heating unit specifically designed for propagating trays, and this is the quickest way for me to start my seedlings.
The best piece of advice I have ever heard about raising your own tomatoes is from gardening guru Peter Cundall. He recommends "starving" young tomato plants by putting them into smaller containers, where the young plant quickly depletes the nutrients and becomes a bit pot bound. This causes the plants to react as if they will die, which means they put all their energy into producing flowers much earlier, and less foliage. By the time you have planted them out and they have room to spread out in rich soil it is impossible to reverse early flowering! Neat huh?! And it works. I'll put more posts on tomatoes as my plants progress, but in the meantime, happy sowing!