Sunday, August 23, 2015

READY, STEADY, SOW! - Tomatoes, Capsicums & Egg Plants


Photo by Helen A. Howell

With winter almost over, my thoughts turn to spring and of those summer veg and fruits that I can grow. Now spring is the normal time for sowing tomatoes, capsicums and egg plants, but I like to get ahead so that by the time it's right to plant these babies out, I'll have advanced plants that are strong and healthy and get off to a really good start. Not to mention having early crops over a longer period.

I don't have a heated greenhouse, only a cold one, but I have devised a simple way of heating my seed trays to help provide the warmth those tiny seeds need to germinate.  But hey, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Before I tell you my method of sowing and germinating, I want to share with you which varieties I'm going to plant. Always a difficult decision for me, because I want to grow everything! ^_^


Let's start with the Egg Plants. Last year I grew Red skin, a delightful variety, bright red in colour and very small fruits. The skin was much thinner than the purple varieties and made the most delicious pasta sauce. Also I grew Slim Jim's a cocktail variety, very useful for slicing and grilling or chopping up to add to your favourite sauce etc. This year I decided on just the  Slim Jims. Why? Because they are a small compact plant and produce a heavy crop over the summer. Although I did like the Red Skins, it does grow into a very large plant taking up quite a lot of room.

Capsicums, what would summer be without some of these to throw on the bbq. toss into a salad or stuff with yummy mince and rice? I'm just going to grow two varieties this year: The Italian variety Romano, long and red and also the miniature Yellow. I bought a plant of this miniature variety last year and have saved the seeds, so let's hope they're true to their parent plant.



Photo by Helen A. Howell
Tomatoes, always difficult to choose as there are so many delicious varieties to try out. I do like to grow heritage varieties as these are open pollinated and so the seed remains true to the parent and they taste like good old fashion tomatoes should.

Last year I tried for the first time Black Russian, these had a dark almost black skin and a wonderful smokey flavour and are definitely on my list again this year. Money Maker is another favourite of mine and I have been growing this variety since the 1970's. Good medium sized tomatoes that crop well. For the cherry tomatoes I have chosen Lemon Drop, which have a zing  to them and a new one called Pink Bumble Bee and the last cherry variety I have chosen is Florida Basket. This plant is real miniature. It only reaches a height of 20cm (8") and produces bite sized fruit. My choice as a beefsteak variety is one called Granny's Throwing Tomato or alternative name, Boeuf or Beefheart in France. This produced wonderfully large beefy tomatoes for me last year with an excellent flavour. 


Time to tell you how I go about sowing and germinating these seeds.  First you need to get everything ready. Have a good quality seed raising mixture, nice clean punnets, a small garden sieve and your labels all marked up with each plant variety's name.
Photo by Helen A. Howell



Photo by Helen A. Howell
Photo by Helen A. Howell
Next fill the  punnet almost to the top, leave  maybe a quarter of an inch and place two seeds into each square, this way you cover your bases by planting more seeds than you require. Then if they don't all germinate, (but they usually all do, and I give away the spares) you'll at least have some. Then sieve more seed raising mix over the top to cover. I find sieving is the best way to go as it covers the seeds with a fine layer of soil, much easier for the seedlings to push through.

Photo by Helen A. Howell
Photo by Helen A.Howell
And of course give them a good water and pop them into a small propagator.


Photo by Helen A. Howell
Next I take the propagators indoors, because this is where I will create the heating source for my seedlings. How? I'm going to stand both of them over the heating vents (yes it's still winter and the heating is on). The vent looks like this and I place one propagator each side of it. I close the vents on the propagators when the heating is on to create the humidity I need and through the day when it's off, I  open the vents up to rid them of condensation.

Photo by Helen A. Howell

I actually did these a week and a bit ago and already have one set of seedlings up. As you can see it's easy to get ahead, so come on—Ready, Steady, Sow!

6 comments:

  1. Wow Helen, you make it seem effortless. Since our growing season is ending soon, I can't wait to try this next spring.I have container plants, because I only have a small balcony for my plants. I only planted one beefsteak tomato plant and I have had a good 9 or ten tomatoes from it and there are still some small green ones coming up. The nights are beginning to get a little cooler (50s - 60s), so I don't anticipate much more growth. It was my first time and I really had fun with it.

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    1. That's excellent Cindy and there is nothing like a home grown tomato ^_^

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  2. I only did containers this year. One of the varieties is a smallish fruit, tasty but the plant doesn't bear many. I'll definitely do the cherry tomatoes again next year, they're really starting to get going, and add some yellow pear (cherry size, but yellow and pear-shaped, as the name implies).

    I like the idea of sieving the soil over the seeds. I'm going to try that next year.

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  3. Ah I'm glad you got something out of the post Larry, I grew cherry yellow pear last year , but in the ground it had an abundance of tiny tomatoes but Lemon Drop which I've grown in previous years, has a real zing to it's flavour. ^_^ Sieving is the best way to go, it creates just the right texture for the seedlings.

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  4. I have actually grown Capsicums in the past, though we just call them peppers :-) Or, in my case, mostly hot peppers. They took a lot of work, but I have been able to make my own hot sauce from them, which is pretty cool (Or hot, as the case may be!) I've been meaning to do a blog post of making my Burning Halo Hot Sauce since last year actually. Maybe its time?
    I'm looking forward to seeing how they turn out, especially since our Summer is coming to an end.

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  5. Ooh sounds good, my son would love your hot sauce. I'm afraid since I've got older I can't take the heat any more LOL But would love to see your recipe. ^_^

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