If you’ve been to any of the home improvement stores or Walmart, you may have noticed that they’ve gotten their first supply of vegetable plants and seeds. One tomato plant costs $3.00. You can get a package of seeds for under $2.00.
If you plan to grow more than a couple of plants then seeds are the way to go. Just remember that if you will be growing your plants in pots, it’s best to buy ‘determinate’ varieties. Those are the tomatoes that grow to a compact height and stop growing when the fruit sets. They’ll ripen over a 2 or 3 week period, and then die.
If you have room for “vining” tomatoes, then indeterminate varieties will grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season – usually until the first frost.
Any type of container will do as long as you will be able to easily get the fragile seedling out without damage. Styrofoam cups, peat pots, whatever. Just make sure you use good, fresh potting soil. Follow directions on the package.
Keep warm and moist
Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 70 to 80F. If temperatures drop below 50F or above 95F seeds won’t germinate. Don’t let soil dry out.
Lot’s of light
A south facing window is a good place to start seeds. If that is not possible, use a fluorescent light, or specialized high-intensity grow lamp, or a combination of natural and artificial lighting.
You may have to transplant root-bound plants a couple of times before they are ready to go outside. As soon as fear of frost is over, begin acclimating plants to the outdoors. Avoid full sun and wind when you first move them outside.
Given the proper care, full-sized tomato transplants can be grown in 6 to 8 weeks.
Make Your Own Compost – It’s Easy
Few of us are fortunate enough to live in areas that have rich soil. Plants need a cocktail of nutrients to utilize for maximum growth. If you’ve seen the gardens that some chefs have or a neighbor that seems to have a super green thumb, it’s because they probably use organic fertilizer or compost.
Don’t use animal fertilizers on fruits and vegetables
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, animal waste products can contain salmonella. Second, even though farm animals are vegetarians, many large farms add chopped up animals and antibiotics to their feed. Enough said.
Quality compost can be made from recycled yard and food waste. It will provide valuable organic matter to your soil and increases it’s moisture-holding capacity.
In my previous backyard, I made a compost area next to the vegetable garden. It was a simple raised bed approx. 6′ x 8.’ Basically just an area to throw food scraps, lawn clipping and dried leaves. I made sure it got watered regularly and turned it over every few days. That was it. I had an organic garden.
It usually takes at least 2 or 3 months before the compost begins to smell like a forest floor. You’ll know it’s ready by the clean smell. Continue:
My current backyard backs up to an open space. Last year I tried to have an open compost pile, but rats from the canyon would come into the yard at night and eat all the kitchen scraps! About six months ago a got a large compost tumbler. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s wonderful. Wheels make it easy to move around the yard when necessary and the varmints can’t get into it.
Kitchen Compost Keeper
A temporary container for kitchen waste is essential unless you don’t mind running outside to the composter several times a day. There are some beautiful ceramic keepers available at department stores that can cost more than $60, but it really isn’t necessary to spend any money at all. I use a plastic coffee can. They come in blue or red and if you want to make it more aesthetically pleasing, paint it or put some contact paper on it. Viola!
The new year is a perfect time to get started ‘going organic,’ If you start your compost now, it will be ready for your spring planting.
Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs to Enhance the Garden
Consider vegetables as elements of the landscape when developing the design. Think about color, texture, size and every other aspect of the vegetable just as if it were a typical beautiful landscape plant. With this technique, vegetables and herbs easily become mainstays of a beautiful landscape.
Ideas for your edible landscape
Ideas for your edible landscape
Peppers and greenery work well in a container.
From top, Swiss chard, cardoon with its deeply dissected foliage, ‘Red Giant’ mustard; and pink larkspur and kale.
Some examples of vegetables and herbs that easily fold into home landscapes are dill, parsley, basil, lettuce, chard, kale, carrots, bulb fennel and beets. Each has its own landscape characteristics and value.
Dill with its tall majestic feathery stance, can serve well as a thickly planted background feature that holds the shorter features together.
Parsley and carrots can be mixed in with flowers in a ground cover feature.
Red Nasturtiums and Chard. Nasturtiums, pansies and violas, all edible flowers, can be part of your edible landscape. The flowers of these plants, and even the leaves of nasturtiums can be mixed into salads.
Swiss chard, with its red, yellow, pink and white stems mixed with crinkly 2′ tall leaves makes an outstanding mid level feature, and is often seen in neighborhood median street plantings as the feature plant.
Plant Now for Spring Fruit
Early spring is the best time to plant strawberry plants. Put in the ground in March or early April so the plants can become established and produce runners be
fore the hot, dry weather comes.
Strawberries perform best in a well prepared bed with light, rich, slightly acid soil with lots of moisture-holding organic matter worked in. Strawberry plants have a very shallow root system and get much of their moisture and food from the top few inches of soil. The addition of peat moss, compost or manure will greatly benefit your crop. If you have very heavy soil, plant in raised beds or large pots to provide good drainage.
The berries will ripen about a month after the plant blooms. When they’re ripe, pinch off the berries at the stem. Pick all ripe berries every few days or they’ll rot and could cause disease in the plants. Expect a 2 – 3 week harvest.
Time to Start the Vegetable Garden
If you’ve been thinking about a vegetable garden but don’t have the time or space, try containers. There is a wide variety of vegetables and fruits that do very well in pots. Also, a couple of potted dwarf citrus trees will yield fruit all winter long, here in Southern California.
Even if you only have one pot with a tomato plant, it’s worth the effort. Remember, there are 2 types of tomatoes. Determinate and indeterminate. The most readily available are determinate, which you will find in late winter-early spring at your local nursery. This type of tomato plant grows to a certain size, and produces one large crop. The indeterminate plant will continue growing but will have smaller a crop. The nice thing is you can enjoy having tomatoes for salads in the winter with this type of plant. I like to use a planter that has wheels so I can move the plants during the day to take full advantage of limited winter sunshine. I found the Earthbox to be a real find. Not only does it have wheels, but it also has a self-watering system.