It’s that time of year again! Time to start the seeds. This is the fourth year I’m set up to start seeds in my oh-so-fancy basement seed starting lair — I have two germination mats — they’re the 2-flat size. Because it’s chilly in my basement, without them, I don’t think I’d get much action. You can’t see it here, because I hiked it up so I could work on the bench, but there’s a cheap shop light with full-spectrum tubes hanging from a ceiling beam. Once the little guys sprout, I’ll lower it — they do best when the light is right on them. I also have a standard set of steel shelves that I’ve rigged with more shop lights using short lengths of chain and s-hooks. Considering that the lighted shelving sets you can buy out there cost several hundred dollars, I can put up with the unloveliness of my homemade setup. (I’d post a picture but right now the shelves are full of the bins in which I store seeds, last year’s pots, etc … when I’ve got seedlings in them I’ll take a photo.)
So this weekend I started tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, and peppers. I have about seven kinds of tomatoes I’m starting this year, which is pretty amusing considering last year I told myself I wasn’t doing so many tomatoes. I think I did cut it down. I think last year I started 12 varieties and planted 2 plants each. I generally plant a 4-cell pack of each variety, then winnow down to the 2 strongest plants. This year I’ve started the following varieties: From Seeds of Italy: Principe Borghese (I’m planning on 4 of these plants, they’re great keepers) and Marglobe, from Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens: Sasha’s Altai, Prairie Fire, and Galina (a very viny, highly-productive yellow cherry tomato). From John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds (I like their varieties but I’m going to have to save seed for next year, they pack very small quantities per packet): Black Cherry, Milano-Plum, and then because I wanted an even number of 4-packs, I pulled out an older packet of Jaune Flammee from Shepherd’s Garden Seeds. I planted it my first year I had a garden, and I think it did pretty well, but I can’t remember. Which brings me to my achilles heel as a gardener. I have very good records (including this blog) for what I plant every year, but I’m not very good at making notes at the other end of the season. I know Galina and Principe Borghese do well every year, and I remember that the Whippersnapper Cherry was a disappointment last year, but other than that, I’m kind of stumped. So, note to self — take some notes this year.
I might have reined in the tomatoes this year, but I seem to have gotten completely carried away with the peppers. I planted a lot of different peppers. I like peppers because they’re so easy to put up, and I can grow varieties that are difficult to find around here. The king of all my peppers, the one I love the most is called Aci Sivri. It’s an old Turkish pepper, a cayenne type but not excessively hot. I got the original seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery although because I dry them in ristras, I’ve been using saved seed for the past couple of years. My other favorite pepper, although I usually have to finish it in pots indoors, is called Grandpa’s Siberian Home Pepper from Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens. It’s a tiny little pepper, with nice heat. I have a few new ones I’ve never grown before that I got from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: Cherezo Cherry Hot, Dulce Rojo Paprika, Pequillo Pimento, and Corno Di Toro-Rosso. From Seeds of Italy I’m growing Topepo Rosso and Cielegia again — they’re both nice round pickling peppers, and I added a couple of new ones, Piccante Calabrese and Piccante di Cayenna.
So, now that time of year when my days start in the basement, checking the seed trays, has come around again. I don’t know why people think seed starting is hard — I’m always astonished at how easy it is. The miracle of seeds. Those tiny little dots, sprout, send up leaves, grow stems … it astonishes me every time. It never gets old.