I finished transplanting my heirloom tomato seedlings yesterday — 130 plants, 16 varieties. Tomato plants do better when they are transplanted to bigger cups once or twice before they are finally planted in the garden.
I was surprised I had not paid enough attention to how leggy my tomato seedlings were. “Leggy” means the stalk is very thin and tall with lots of distance between the sets of leave. It happens when the plant is reaching for light because it’s not getting enough. I finally realized that the plants that didn’t do well were under a special plant light I purchased from an online seed company because it had a stand that made it easy to raise and lower the four-foot-long fluorescent fixture. The plants I had under a shop light jury-rigged with chains adjusted by S-hooks over a couple of cheap garment racks did much better. Both fixtures had full-spectrum fluorescent tubes in them. The bottom line is that the 72-cell seed-starting kits I use need four full-spectrum bulbs, which I can get with two shop lights, instead of the two bulbs in the special plant light, which is the same width as the kits.
I’m also growing flowers and herbs. I have Burpee Purple Prince zinnias, which are lovely, and a mix of yellow and red zinnias. With room under the plant lights now the tomato plants are in their new cups — I use tall plastic drinking cups from the grocery store and cut a drainage cross in the bottom — I’ll start some yellow marigolds and bachelor’s buttons, which are blue, next. Let’s just say the front yard will be both eccentric — from the tomato plants and herbs in containers — and colorful — from the flowers — for the next six months.
Oh, yes, and the herbs! The oregano I had in a 15-gallon container came back and is thriving. I planted more this year, but I may give those plants away since the other ones are doing so well. Oregano has lovely little purple flowers and is a pretty plant. I also have more catnip seedlings for the kitties, although the ones I planted last year also are doing very well. And there’s parsley — the curly-leaf type is a showy plant that lasts well into the fall.
I also have several types of basil: mammoth basil, large leaf basil, Siam Queen basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil and lime basil. The bees love the small white basil flowers! And, yes, I know I have to pinch off the flowers to keep the plant from going to seed so I can continue to harvest the delicious leaves. But at a certain point in the summer, I just give the basil over to the bees because they love it so much!