Monday, March 12, 2012

Starting Seeds

M0nday, March 12, 2012

Just in from a morning walk trying to get out into the field before the temperatures rose enough to melt the crust and no longer hold my "winter overweight" without snowshoes. My goal was to find a few birds nests left from last year to photograph for a later blog but despite always seeing birds, locating nests is not as easy as it might seem. There are a couple popular places further down Peacham Pond Road and I'll go there a little later when the snows melt more. For this morning I had to be satisfied with the beauty of the day and the freshness of the air.

Spring is not officially here for a while longer but today was a signal I tend to go by. I looked out at the hanging feeders and eight grackles had arrived and were fighting over the suet bags. The grackles always keep their big eyes in watchfulness for intruders and their hearing is better than mine ever was. Clicking on the camera was enough to frighten them away so I didn't get a picture today. I convince myself they are good scavengers but truly they are messy feeders just like blue jays. But they remind me of spring and after any winter, even one as mild as this one, thoughts of spring are nice thoughts.

As I grew up, we lived next door to a centruy old farm and the farm ladies were responsible for starting vegetable seeds for eventual transplants. The official day for planting tomatoes and peppers was Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March. In later years the day made no sense to me as by the time of last frost the first week of June, the seedlings were very leggy and needed extra care to plant.

Now days greenhouses start plants according to computer profiles and they manage the last couple weeks before sale according to daylight and temperature. Those controls are far better than one of the farm ladies putting another log in the kitchen stove or moving small flats from window to window for more or less light. Just the same I have had the opportunity to follow all methods of production and as long as the end result is baskets full of tomatoes, who cares.

Tomatoes are a popular fruit and they always will be. In recent years there has been an insurgence of early and late blight and crops have been devastated. Part of this is getting the right tomato and the other part is good plant care.

The high tunnel greenhouse up top is an example of how growers have taken climate change out of the equation. There are giant greenhouses around the world that grow millions of tons of tomatoes internationally and the products are most often blemish free. The tomatoes that used to be described as "tasting like cardboard" now have very good taste as well as being capable of holding up to transport to distant markets. Hybridization has come a long way and will continue to improve world wide.

The middle picture is a row of Romas grown by a friend down the road from here. The year of this planting he lined out a row alongside his house in an attempt to better deal with temperature and water fluctuations. The theory provided a good crop of toomatoes which he always dehyrdated and then froze for year round use.

The picture of tomato seeds is of a tomato named Amsterdam. They were hybridized by a company interested in growing a grape type tomato that had good flavor and high sugar content. They are plum shaped and grow quite tall when trained vertically. They have a very high brix level which is the food industry's sugar measurement. In adition to their positives for sweetness and high output, then seem to be able to fight off current fungal challenges.

On a day like today you might be tempted to plant some tomatoes or peppers and you can. But I'd suggest waiting a little longer. If you persist and end up with leggy plants, you can always dig a trench of sorts and lay the majoritiy of the "height" into the trench and then upright the last 6 inches of plant. It will produce a major root system and catch on real fast. Do what seems right and report back to me sometime after July. Can you smell and taste the tomatoes yet?

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where morning sun is pushing the thermometer to almost 60° already. Get out and get a little sunshine.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
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Remember please: We'll always help you grow your green thumb!

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