Saturday, July 16, 2011

Seeds Have Sprouted

Hello, once again! Thank you for reading. Another week has gone by (and a hectic one it was for our family, I might add), and my starts have progressed rather well. You may recall that at the time of my last entry nothing had yet broken the surface. Well, two days later here is what I found!

This is one of the tomato plants. A couple days after that, the other tomato and both basil plants had broken the surface. I still don't have any spearmint up, but germination is 12-14 days, and today marks day 12 since planting. So we'll see how it goes. As I said before, the spearmint seeds were from a previous year, and I don't think they were stored properly.  They probably aren't viable, but we'll see.
So, as of this morning, here is how the mini-garden looks.
My task today is to finish preparing the new homes for my plants, at least for the tomatoes. They are growing fast, so I don't dare wait much longer. The basils aren't as fast, so I can proabaly wait another week or two, if need be.
Last year we made a couple hanging pots for tomatoes out of some 5-gallon buckets.
As you can see, we found these particular buckets at our local Tractor Supply Company store. On the bottom, there is a circular indentation, about 2½" in diameter. We simply cut out the inside of this ring and, voilá! A great little place to insert the plant start.
I priced them online, just now, and found it for only $3.99, so hopefully not too large for anyone's budget. It may not be as decorative as the hanging basket kits you see in garden centers, but less expensive! Last year, we simply put some Miracle-Gro® potting soil in the bucket and inserted the plant starts into the hole, making sure they were firmly held in place. Then we hung them up on an A-frame that used to be a swing set built off our back porch.
Now, I have to give proper credit, here. My wife was the one who came up with the idea of using the buckets. My concern was that the handle would not be strong enough to hold the weight of the soil plus the full-grown plant. Her response was, "Let's try it and see! What are we out?" I couldn't think of any reasonable argument, so we tried it. Like so many other things she tries, it worked beautifully, and I became a convert. Now that I think about it, though, my concern was rather silly. After all, the handle's purpose is to enable you to carry the bucket. While you are carrying it, what is the bucket doing? Why, hanging from something, of course! In this case it's your hand, but the bucket doesn't know the difference. So naturally, if the handle will support all that weight hanging from your hand, shouldn't it be able to do it while hanging from anything else? I'm slow, but I get there.
These hanging buckets are nice for watering, too. You simply pour the water in at the top and let gravity do the rest. And with the large hole, drainage isn't an issue. This year has been extra rainy for us, so as long as it continues, we won't have to do much watering anyway.
Another advantage of hanging tomatoes is that I don't have to worry about staking them. However, as the plant grows, the branches try to grow upward, but gravity pulls them downward. Since tomatoes stalks are notoriously weak, this can cause problems. We had some branches last year that ended up breaking from their own weight, even with little-to-no fruit on them. I have two things I'm going to try this year to prevent that.
First, I didn't do any pruning last year. That was a mistake, because we ended up with a lot of leaf, and not as much fruit as I would have liked. So, this year, I will make sure I prune from time to time to encourage the plant to devote more resources to fruit. Also, this will help to reduce the weight of the branches. At least until the fruit comes on!
Second, I will devise a way to tie the branches up and provide support. In previous years, I learned that twine and wire (basically, anything really thin) is a bad thing to use for this. These items tend to cut into the plant and harm it. We don't want that, so I need to find something that is gentler.

Well, that's it for now. Time to get this posted and get busy with the happenings of the day. Happy Saturday, everyone!

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