Now that I finally have a yard to call my own, I can fulfill my dream of having a working vegetable garden. We had occasional gardens when I was a kid, elaborate affairs whose yields were mainly limited by the lack of attention to chores by us kids. But my true inspiration comes via my paternal grandfather, who was born in Sicily in the 1890s and worked as a professional fisherman until 1965 when he retired. He lived in Cambridge and his garden, about 30 foot by 20 foot, i.e. the entirety of the backyard, was the most prolific patch of dirt you’d ever seen. Every inch was exploding with tomatoes and cucumbers and squash and eggplant and Lord knows what else. When he died in 1976, my uncle Frank took over and maintained the garden until he couldn’t any longer.
So I would like to continue the tradition, although my plans are somewhat realistic. I’m going to start relatively small and expect to suffer setbacks as I learn my lessons the hard way. I also intend to keep a gardener’s journal here on the blog, recording what we’re doing and how it’s going and what I’ve learned. My successes and failures will be visible for all the world to see.
Among the resources I plan on using is the Learn2Grow site, which is geared to beginners and intermediate gardeners. I’m also going to become familiar with our local gardening center and try to get their advice. We’ve already purchased our seeds from Totally Tomato and I purchased a Burpee Growing System seed starting kit as well as a grow light.
The instruction on the seed packets say to start the tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost and the peppers 8-10 weeks before. And since the “safe date” for our area is May 15, that means that we planted the seeds today. I divided the 72-cell starter into 8 parts for each of the different kinds of seeds we got and we will hopefully have 9 plants per type. Here’s what we planted:
- Arkansas Traveler tomato (heirloom)
- Jetsonic tomato (hybrid)
- Yellow Pear tomato (heirloom)
- Cherry Grande tomato (hybrid)
- Volcano hot pepper
- Jalapa Hybrid hot pepper
- Early Jalapeño hot pepper
I chose a mix of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, recognizing that heirloom tomatoes are reputed to be finicky growers. And like I said, I’m prepared to have to buy seedlings if my seeds don’t make it. Here’s my graph of how I planted the seeds in the starter tray.
Over the next eight weeks, I will begin to use the grow light until the seeds have reached the transplant stage. And then a couple of weeks before I intend to plant them, I will start hardening them, moving them outdoors for a couple of hours per day.
And then when it comes time to plant them outside, I will build a raised bed rather than worry about soil quality and drainage issues and having to till a chunk of my yard. This will be a fun experiment and I look forward to partaking literally of the fruits of my labor this summer if all goes well.
Note 1: I’ve also planted basil and cilantro in kitchen window pots. Those seedlings have sprouted, which is a good sign. I hope to keep them going year-round.
Note 2: I think that “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew will also provide some good information and guidance.
- Seedstarter.jpg: Own photo