Another Big Planting Day

When I heard the weather forecast yesterday, I decided that the overcast, but warm, daytime temperatures and frost-free nights they were predicting meant it would be an ideal time to transplant some tomato seedlings.  A few months ago, I started over 200 tomato plants, in addition to a few other veggies.  Some of the varieties are colours other than red, many are heirloom types, and ALL of them are GMO free and untreated with any seed treatments.  My two favourite seed catalogue companies are William Dam Seeds  (Ontario) and West Coast Seeds (in BC).  Both offer huge selections of vegetable and flower seeds, including organic seed, and are a pleasure and a breeze to deal with – excellent customer service!

As many of you know, last month I prepared the soil in the greenhouse by adding lots of our mushroom compost.  After tilling it in, the whole greenhouse got a good soaking with the sprinkler.  Although having a roof and walls around the plants helps protect them from the elements, it also means that any moisture has to be applied by us.  Without adequate moisture, the microbial activity in the soil comes to a virtual standstill….and needless to say, the earthworms aren’t even interested in hanging out!  After watering, Ralph seeded some heritage oats in the “tomato” rows.  This was as much a germination test for the seed he had saved and cleaned from last year, as an opportunity to introduce some “green manure” to the soil.  We let the oats get about six inches tall and develop a nice root mass, then tilled them into the soil.  (As the oats were growing, our laying hens were treated to delicious grass that we harvested for them 🙂  Most of the plant matter had dried out by today and I wasn’t worried about any leftover dried plants, since they will decompose soon enough, providing some nitrogen to the soil.

Heritage oats, a couple of weeks after seeding

Heritage oats, a couple of weeks after seeding

(Can you see how much preparation there is before the actual “planting” ?)

With my faithful sidekick, Rocky, by my side, I carried all the flats of seedlings down to the greenhouse.  Rather than having all the varieties grouped, I     decided to plant in groups of 12.  If anything, it will provide an interesting patchwork of colours and plant sizes as the season goes on!  Last year, I had great success with two heirloom varieties, Grightmires Pride and Old German.   Both are low-acid and have beautiful colours, the first being a rosy red, and the second a combination of yellow/orange/red.  I tried out a few new varieties that would extend the growing season (some are short season (Manitoba) , some longer (Amish Paste),  and I love yellow coloured tomatoes ( Taxi and Yellow Brandywine).  There’s nothing like a platter of sliced tomatoes, all different colours,  freshly picked and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar…okay, even I am drooling now.

Planting the tomatoes meant digging a hole at least 6 – 8 inches deep.  The tomato plants will grow roots along any part of the stem that is below ground, so planting them deeply gives them a large root mass to support them throughout the growing season.  I backfilled with mushroom compost, then topped up with the surrounding soil.  When all the seedlings were in the ground, I gave them all a good soaking.  This year, I purchased a 50 foot soaker hose to help with this.  Although I love watering by hand (because it allows me to see what’s going on with all the individual plants), the soaker hose ensures they all get a good, deep watering to start them off right.  I also plan to mulch the tomatoes with straw in a few weeks.  This will help with two things:  weed control and also moisture control.  If you have had tomatoes “crack” or split in your gardens, chances are it happened when the plants were on the dry side, and then you gave them lots of water.  The sudden intake of water causes many varieties to split, especially the old-fashioned heirloom types.  It is the modern plant varieties that have thicker skin (for better transportation to stores, etc), which will be less likely to have this problem.  The straw mulch will help keep the soil damp in between waterings…that’s the plan, anyhow!

By supper time, I had transplanted 118 tomato seedlings, and had them all watered nicely.  I think I deserved my soak in the tub and glass of Cabernet Sauvignon;)   Cheers to a great growing season!


5 responses to this post.

  1. whew, I am tired just looking at the photos. nice work julie and ralph


  2. You have a cool dog 🙂


  3. It’s amazing how much work goes into creating a healthy plant.


    • Yes, but it’s all worth it…I can’t wait for you guys to see the gardens in person this summer, it is such a nice place to be! (you can “graze” all you want, as I do 😉


  4. That would be awesome Julie! Can’t wait. Let us know when you are available and we will schedule it in!!!!


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