I finished transplanting the tomatoes

by CynthiaYockey on May 1, 2010

This is my seed-starting set-up. The plant light that adjusts using two posts at either end is in front. Behind it is the shop light hanging from a chain over two garment racks.

This is my heirloom tomato seed-starting set-up -- the photo is from 2008. The plant light that adjusts using two posts at either end is in front. Behind it is the shop light hanging from a chain over two garment racks.

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!

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Peter May 1, 2010 at 10:11 pm

You make me wish I didn’t have a brown thumb! Unfortunately I used to, as a kid, spend a lot of time in the hot sun, donkey labor in the yard and gardens was the punishment for most juvenile infractions. I’ve hated yard work of any kind since then. Unfortunately that leaves me with storebought vegetables. Sigh.
.-= Peter´s last blog ..A Little Progress On The Fractures =-.

libertarian advocate May 2, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hi Cynthia: Wish I had the space and time to start my own heirloom tomato seedlings. I love the colors and flavors of the specialty tomatoes, which are hands down my favorite savory fruit. Favorite way to eat them is fully sun-ripened, raw, with a light coat of Fleur de Sel. Shhhh, don’t tell my cardiologist or the FDA.

Stinky May 2, 2010 at 10:05 am

Oh, Cynthia, you are a tomato-growing machine!

Family responsibilities got in the way of my grand plans for my garden this year, but I have a few tomato and pepper plants going. I’m also trying to grow some romaine, and different varieties of chard. My oregano plant, which I planted last year, has gone wild and is spreading like wildfire! I’ve transplanted a few of those to some areas of my lawn where grass refuses to grow, in the hope that the oregano will take root.

I love your tomato posts!

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