The tomatoes I grew last summer were eaten long ago. So I turned to the grocery store for more red globes.
The picture here of the tomato is one of the tomatoes I bought. That blemish wasnt there when I chose it at the store. It appeared days later and I watched it grow as it sat on the countertop.
Do you know whats causing the blemish?
Since the tomato sat in the warm kitchen near a south facing window, filled with its own juice, the seeds had the perfect medium to sprout. And one of them did just that! Its been fun watching it grow under its parents skin. You can see the root at the top and the two green leaves.
The seeds we buy dont have that advantage. Theyve been extracted from their perfect growing medium, dried and kept in cool conditions until we humans decide when to let them grow.
Why do we start seeds indoors anyway? The number one reason is length of growing season. Most of the vegetables we grow are native to warmer parts of the world with much longer growing seasons. The Treasure Valley has the warmth in the summer to grow these plants, but not in the spring. Even the flowering non-vegetable plants we grow can get a head start by germinating indoors.
Starting seeds indoors also gives seedlings protection from things like hungry slugs, snails, bunnies, etc. Indoor germination also keeps seedlings safe from spring floods, late season frosts, hail and more.
To start plants indoors, youll need a starting medium (sterile potting soil, but never garden soil), enough light, warmth and moisture. Youll also need pots.
A lot of things can be used for pots, but some things shouldnt be used. Good pots are any plastic containers that are deeper than they are wide like yogurt cups or some sour cream tubs. A wider container is harder to keep warm in the center where the seed is. A shallow container doesnt allow roots to grow deep.
Some people like to use old egg cartons, containers labeled as peat pots or newspaper formed into cups. The problem with these types of containers is that the roots tend to grow into the sides, then you either have to tear off tender root tips when removing the plants from those containers or plant the container with it.
If you do plant the container with the plant and the top rim of the paper-based pot sticks out of the ground, it acts as a wick and causes the soil to dry out faster.
Thats not good for newly transplanted seedlings. Tearing off the root tips isnt such a good idea, either. While roots tend to grow into the sides of the pot, its difficult for them to completely penetrate those types of pots and grow out the other side.
In two weeks, Ill present Part II of seed-starting techniques.
If you have particular questions about gardening youd like to see addressed in this column, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.