Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Tomatoes' Journey: The Beginning (Part 1)

Gardening is something I've always enjoyed, even as a young girl. My crops are not always successful, but there is just something about getting your hands dirty, seeing something come from practically nothing. I find this incredibly rewarding -- even through my failed attempts. My gardens don't look the same each year. I tend to plant different varieties of fruits or vegetables from one year to the next. However, there is one plant that has always makes an appearance: the tomato.

Recently, I have not had success with my tomatoes. It's very frustrating to plant, wait, weed, anticipate, water, nurture these plants only to end up with tomato rot, blight, aphids, etc., etc. I just want enough to make a batch of salsa for pete's sake! Here are a few examples of my duds in the past few years:

So, this year I am determined to have tomato success! Part of this process includes documenting the journey of my tomatoes. My hope is that by doing this I will be more motivated to research and properly care for these precious plants. I also hope this creates a forum for people to share their successes (and failures), so we can learn from one another. I'm starting my plants from seed and will write about and show you the progress. Over the next 6 months (from now until harvest time), you will journey with me through the life of my tomatoes. I will provide instructions on how to start, transplant, care for, and harvest tomatoes. I plan to write on topics such as common pests and diseases, fertilizers, and plant varieties, to name a few. 

If you are interested in starting from seed, the seeds should be planted indoors six to eight weeks prior to the last frost of the spring. This will be different depending on where you live. Where I grew up in Michigan, I wouldn't dream of planting my garden before Memorial Day Weekend. But in North Carolina, the average last frost date is around mid-April, so I will plant my seeds indoor in mid-February (six to eight weeks before mid-April). You can easily find the last frost information online for your area. 

So, stay tuned in the next week or so, and I'll show you how to start your seeds. In the meantime, here are a few supplies you can get around in preparation:

  • Seeds: Use a variety that you like and will eat. I'm using seeds I kept from my tomatoes last season, but you can certainly buy some from the store. I'll write more later on how I got my seeds. 
  • Seed Starting Mix: NOT plain old soil. You need this loose mixture that holds moisture and drains well.
  • Plant Containers: I will use egg cartons and a plastic container some tomatoes came in from the store. I will probably need to transfer the plants from the egg cartons to a larger container before planting them outdoors, but I'll wait and see how it goes. I'm simply using this because this is what I have on hand. Ideally, I would use the plastic six-pack trays that plants normally come in. The plastic material won't get soggy when watering; they are the correct depth; and there are drainage holes on the bottom. Since I don't have those, I'm improvising. Use what you have on hand. If you use plastic yogurt cups or something similar, be sure to puncture a hole in the bottom. 
  • Tray for Plant Containers: You will need something for the plant containers to sit on since you will be watering the plants from the bottom. A cookie sheet or aluminum tray should suffice. 
Perhaps you have never gardened a day in your life, or maybe you, too, struggle with growing tomatoes year after year. If nothing else, I hope you are encouraged through this gardening endeavor. Come along and share in my tomatoes' journey!

Check out my other posts on My Tomatoes' Journey.

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