Sunday, February 6, 2011
Let the Seeding Begin
When should I start my tomatoes asked my good friend A.S.? This is the same friend I used to start tomatoes with when our kids were young. We would exchange plants so we could maximize the types grown and by late spring our grow lights and windowsills were packed with seedlings. We shared a huge vegetable garden on a farm and brought our kids along to romp and look for bugs. Flash forward a few decades and she is on to soils and tree research and has become quite an expert in both. But meanwhile she has lost her memory of all things vegetable and is trying to get back in the game.
We always started 8-10 weeks before we wanted to plant them outside - I reminded her. And then I think- but can't be sure- she probably laughed at me for telling the same story again and again about how my tomatoes froze one spring in Calgary on June 8th. So what does the average spring frost date really mean when you can have frost weeks later? Well it is only a tool. We use it for planning and in Calgary that means starting tomatoes in mid-March. That gives them ten weeks until the end of May although we might not plant them out that early. We might hedge out bets and save a few for a later planting date. Like July. But then that reminds me of the time I was filming an episode of Bugs & Blooms in late July and it started to snow....
So what crazy thing prompted me to start tomatoes yesterday on Feb 5? Leeks and Easter. I decided to start my tomatoes along with leeks because leeks take so long to germinate and I didn't want them all alone in the seedling flats. So I started my tomatoes alongside my leeks with plans to plant them out by Easter. In the greenhouse of course - I am not that bold that I would consider tossing perfectly good tomato seedlings outdoors in any part of Canada by late April.
If you like Mariko McCrae's little picture of the school bus full of seedlings above check out all her illustrations in my new veggie book No Guff Vegetable Gardening. Like the seedlings, it will be ready and in stores by spring.