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Adapting To A Long Winter

I usually start seedlings of any plants that need longer time to mature in the house not long before I can plant them outside: Chili pepper, tomato, Bitter melon, Moonflower and a few more. I put them right in their permanent spots in the garden when they have developed their true leaves (the second set of leaves).   When it gets too chilly I just cover them with plastic cups or soup containers. It’s been my normal practice until this year.

The cold weather has lasted longer this year so I had to adapt my method of planting otherwise the plants will not have enough time to produce anything but leaves.  I started chili peppers, tomatoes and Anise in mid-March.   The 48 cell seed starter tray is a perfect tray to use for this job. I put 3-4 seeds in each cell and put the tray on a heat mat that I set to 80º F.  Most of the tomato plants sprouted in about 4 days, followed by some of the chili peppers.

Chili pepper and tomato seedlings getting some sun outside in a warm day

Chili pepper and tomato seedlings getting some sun outside in a warm day

Then came the part I always skip, putting them in their individual pot when they develop true leaves. I know if I put them in the ground at this time, even with plastic cups over them, they will die.  So, I separated the tomato seedlings and put them in their individual pots in the house.  When it gets a little warmer outside I will put them in the cold frame to harden them before I put them in their permanent spots or give them to friends and colleagues.

Tomato seedlings are in their own space and chili pepper seedlings still under the dome

Tomato seedlings are in their own space and chili pepper seedlings still under the dome

As for large size tomatoes, I grow the usual ones: Mortgage Lifter, Rose and my favorite-Cherokee purple.  The ‘Ribbed’ one, I have no idea what it is but I love the taste so I kept the seeds to grow this year.  I’m still waiting for some self seeded cherry and grapes tomatoes to sprout in the garden.  They are late this year due to weather.

"Gold Nuggets" cherry tomato seedlings

“Gold Nuggets” cherry tomato seedlings