Friday, February 18, 2011

February seeding starts now!

 When the middle of March hits, I enter into a tomato seeding frenzy.

Year after year I have started my thousands of heirloom tomato plants March 15 and I seed everyday up until the beginning of April.

February is a much slower time.  But there still are some things that prefer a bit earlier start.

Here in Southern Ontario we still are a good 13 weeks away from being (we hope) frost free.
But of course there are crops that you can get out while it is still cool, or that are particularly slow to germinate and grow.

I don't feel in any particular rush over getting things started now...I'm just easing into it.
Starting some things too early is just a mistake.  Plants can get leggy and pot bound while waiting for ideal weather and tie up your indoor growing area.

The first things I'm going to be planting are my onions, leeks and chives.

This year the onion selection includes some old favourites.  I absolutely love Red Torpedo onions, a gorgeous Italian heirloom with a long red bulb, Red Wethersfield, and Yellow Borettana which are both cippolini types.  Ailsa Craig is my big onion, Blue Solaise, the leek.

I use a commercial soiless mix with"Myke" added for all my seeding.

Onions and leeks need good root systems to adapt well to transplanting in the field, so I sow them into pre-moistened soil in 3-4" pots that are at least the same depth. Once I have a tray of these pots sown, they go under my lights with a humidity dome over top.

When they are up nicely I remove the dome, and transition them to the hoophouse when the weather permits...certainly in March when the indoor space becomes tight.

I'll also get some herbs, primarily the perennials and biennials going now too. If I need a new sage, rosemary, oregano or thyme, now's the time.  Parsley and parcel too.  These I plant essentially in the same way as the onions, the difference being that once the true leaves are established, I separate the plants out and give them their own pot.

The onions go directly from the pot I seeded them in to the field.

I always plant some of my Stupice tomatoes now too (stoo-peach-ka), my favourite early tomato.  Everybody has their favourites.  I know some people swear by Latah, Siletz or many others.  I've tried 'em all, and like Stupice the best.  It is a potato-leaf type, comes early, 50-55 days from transplant, tastes wonderful and continues to produce well all season. Yummy.

I like to get about 100 or so in my hoophouse by April 15th, and have to use a good layer of reemay to protect them from the cold at night.  But if all works well, we're into the summer taste of tomatoes by June.  That makes me happy.  Because a longer tomato season can only be a good thing!

Some of the hot peppers need to go in this month too.  My Bhut Jolokias, Tepins, habaneros and similar sizzlers that need a longer time to germinate as well as higher heats get planted in the "200" cell trays this month.  Sweet peppers and eggplants are a bit later....usually the beginning of March.

If I plan on doing any perennial flowers, I'll do them now too.  I know I've got a few special gaillardia varieties to pop in.  And more no doubt.

But first I need to pull all the seed out of my seed freezer to see what I've got. And then before the madness of tomato sowing begins, I have to organize my tomato seed, first by colour, then alphabetically in their colour categories.  Ya-hoo!

This is the order I plant them in too and doing this saves me a lot of time later.  This year I'm bring at least 150 new (old) varieties into the fold to try out.  Without some order to the madness it becomes a logistical nightmare!  Might be anyway.

But more, much more on tomato planting and varieties is to come!

In the hoophouse, February is the time to get more arugula in, salad mix and mustards.  They need to grow fast and be harvested before the tomatoes take over in mid April- at times I'll plant the tomatoes in the middle of those crops if they are doing well. is sounding like February could get a bit busy.

But then there is March.  And the craziness truly hits!

What are you seeding now?


Brooke said...

I didn't think of starting herbs and flowers to soon.

I am planning to grow peppers, ground cherries (which I discovered last fall at Dundurn Castle and had bought seeds for even before hearing Steve's lecture) and dill for pickling. Rosemary, basil and parsley I buy as seedlings because I don't have room to grow too many.

I also wintered dahlia tubers and geraniums. They do extremely well over winter in my cold cellar.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the good info! Is it essential to put a dome over top the onions?

Now seeding onion, lavender, and mint. Hoping for success and big gardens! :)

Linda said...

Hi Brooke-Good for you for overwintering your geraniums. My mom used to do that-I always loved the smell of them in her windows, then she took cuttings to plant out in the spring. I need to grow geraniums this year! Have a great garden!

And hi veganactivist!-Yes, pretty much everything will sprout up better for you with a humidity dome of some sort. You can simply put a stick in your seeded pot and put a clear plastic bag over it to act as a dome-the stick holding up the plastic. Just make sure you keep an eye on the humidity level- you don't want it too moist or you will end up with damping off disease.

Thanks for your comments and for reading!

Erin Wilson said...

The start of a new season is so exciting. Everything seems possible.