Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seedlings

Aren't they cute? These are Red Acre cabbages I started two or three weeks ago - it's hard to believe they're going to grow into huge things! I've never tried growing cabbage before, so we'll see how it goes. The green ones on the left are Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, which I just can never get enough of, so I started twelve plants for this year.

Here's what else I've got going so far...

Tomatoes, of course:
Brandywine - Very reliable producer of large, great flavor that has won lots of taste tests. They've done really well for us year after year - we even had one volunteer under a fruit tree once.
Black Krim - This is our absolute favorite tomato, but a little difficult to grow, it always seems to succumb to disease more easily than the others
Aunt Ruby's German Green - These been great producers for us, huge tomatoes with wonderful spicy flavor. They stay green, but you can tell when they are ripe because they change from whitish green to a warm golden green. 
Speckled Roman - A new one we're trying this year, after tasting the incredible flavor of one we got from Amyo Farms (it's a paste tomato, for making sauces).
Jelly Bean, Red and Yellow - Super-sweet little grape tomatoes, new for us this year too.
Sun Baby - Very productive sweet yellow cherry tomato, another new one for us but highly recommended by Master Gardeners.
Arkansas Traveler - One more new one, just for fun.

Tomatoes grow incredibly well for us here - the plants get about as tall as me! I'm going to try planting some of them in keg tubs on the patio, since we still don't have enough room to grow all the tomatoes and everything else we want to try, even after expanding to the front yard.

Chiles and Sweet Peppers:
Jimmy Nardello - Super sweet frying peppers that develop the most perfect creamy texture when fried. We'll see how these turn out because they're from seeds saved from Amyo Farms last year, and I know they grow a lot of different peppers. 
Poblano - I just love the intense flavor of these meaty chiles. They're not generally too hot, but it depends on the temperatures and how much you water. The dried form is called ancho.
Pasilla - Rich, slightly smoky flavor, essential for mole sauce. Now I can finally make some of those recipes from the Diana Kennedy cookbooks! These, as well as the poblanos and some of the tomatoes are from Botanical Interests, a seed company I really like, because they have interesting varieties and great detailed info on the inside of the packets.
Chimayo Red - Hopefully the real deal, a prized New Mexico landrace chile with a sweet hot flavor, from www.sandiaseed.com. They seem to be serious about preserving the integrity of the different landraces of New Mexico chile, so I'm very excited about these!

I don't think I'll be able to save seeds if I grow all these varieties, because capsicums tend to cross-pollinate. They come out fine the first year, but they won't breed true for the next year. Who knows, though - what you get might be good too!

I've also started Desert King watermelons, Charentais melons (heirloom canteloupe), and Picklebush cucumbers (although I haven't had much luck with cukes before). I'm even going to try a Loofah this year - yes, the bath scrubby things - they're a type of squash, and my grandma used to grow them against the side of her garage on the farm in Illinois.

Hopefully my seedlings will do especially well this year with my new seed-starting setup - a $10 shop light that takes two 4-foot fluorescent bulbs ($6 for the pair). I hung it right above the trays, really close so they get as much light as possible (intensity varies inversely with distance squared). This way they don't grow too tall and spindly.

The other key to seed starting is to keep them evenly moist - I like these trays that you water from the bottom. This is good if you're using that fine seed-starting mix, because if you flood it with water it will just drain out the bottom! I think I'll also try fertilizing them with fish emulsion once they all have their first set of true leaves (the first two you see are just the seed leaves, or cotyledons). The peppers are slower to germinate than other things, and not all of them have come up quite yet. I plant two seeds in each little pot, for insurance in case some don't germinate, and then just snip off all but the healthiest-looking one.

In another month, I'll take them out to my little hoop houses and let them grow a bit more, then set them out in their permanent homes about May 1!
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