My Tomato Cheers and Jeers of 2013

Eating the last garden-fresh tomato is bittersweet. It’s sad because it’s the last tomato. I eat it slowly and savor ever single bite. I use it sparingly and thank the heavens my boyfriend hates tomatoes. Eating the last tomato is also a happy time because I know I’m one moment closer to the new season and will get to do it all over again soon. I fantasize about what seeds I’ll start and reflect on the season’s tomato successes and failures. Here’s a summary of my tomato-related pain and joy of 2013:

Miserable Failures:

  • Moving a five foot Thai Pink Egg plant that was doing fantastically into a place where it would get more sun is a terrible decision. Dragging a perfectly happy plant to a new location is stupid. The plant was miserable, it turned a sickly yellow-brown and then proceeded to die.
  • Hot and cold and hot and cold and so on…. Plants hate this, but it’s out of our control. Things died.
  • Too much rain and humidity leads to mildew and oodles of aphids.

Successes:

Thai Pink Egg tomatoes proliferated…

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Chadwick Cherry tomatoes were super hearty…

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Healani plants, although difficult and fickle, provided me with quite a few delicious tomatoes…

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Overall, I can’t really complain. Gardening is a series of events, both wonderful and tragic, which lead to a greater understanding of our environment and how we can live in harmony with it. Gardening organically is challenging; I won’t say it’s not. But it’s worth it, both for our planet and our health. And, besides, it’s a blast, and I can’t think of any better excuse to play in the dirt.

Happy gardening, my friends.

 

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Starting Pepper Plants Indoors for Florida Fall Gardening

Florida gardening is unique. We don’t winter over, so pests run rampant for most of the year. Starting seeds outdoors for things like peppers and tomatoes have proved unsuccessful (for me, at least). So I’ve really taken to starting plants indoors to make sure I’m planting healthy, hardened off, and well-adjusted plants in my garden. I like to give them a lot of TLC as I give them a head start. Also, I don’t have a lot of space, so I’ve got little room for error.

About three weeks ago, I began the indoor seed-starting project. Using a clean and sterilized a clean egg carton, I put some Miracle Gro seed starting mix in each compartment. I sewed four heirloom non-GMO Jupiter pepper seeds from Southern a Exposure Seed Co., four heirloom non-GMO Doe Hill pepper seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Co., and four California Wonder pepper seeds from Ferry-Morse. I marked the varieties with used wine corks on a bamboo skewer, so I’d know what I had growing. Yay, upcycling!

Humidity is very beneficial for seed germination, so I used a tray with a humidity dome that I got from my local gardening supply store. I placed the egg carton inside, sprayed each compartment with water from a clean spray bottle, put on the humidity dome, and placed the whole shebang in a sunny indoor location. I checked them and watered them lightly each day. This was the first adorable sprout that came up after about a week:

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I removed the dome after mostly all of the seeds germinated and popped up their little green heads. Sunlight would be their ally at this point. This is them two weeks later on my windowsill:

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As you can see, not all of the seeds germinated. All of the California Wonder seeds came up, though. I really wonder why they’re so dependable (maybe I should be afraid to ask?). Here are photos of each seedling variety:

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I’ll be potting up each of the babies this weekend, and when they’re about 6-8 inches above the soil line, I’ll start hardening them off little by little to get them acclimated to the outdoors. I’ll be sure to post on their progress, and, please, wish me luck in the meantime!

Happy gardening, everyone!