Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too cold to plant?

It's been unseasonably cold outside, which brings me to this question: is it too cold to plant our peppers?
We bought four plants at Home Depot in Yonkers when we visited Mitch's parents for Passover. The Yonkers store has a big outdoor department that kick's butt over Manhattan's, so we go each spring to stock up on soil, mulch and some herbs or veggies like peppers. (We've tried to grow peppers from seed, but we've had no luck in getting them to sprout.)
So, now we have four bell pepper plants (green, yellow, orange and red) but Mitch won't let me stick 'em in the pots. He says it's too cool. He wants me to wait.
But I'm like, so, are they gonna catch cold?
All of our herbs from last year (mint, oregano, thyme and parsley)have come back and are growing nicely. Our spring flowers (columbine, pansies) are blooming. The roses are coming along.
But he's worried about the peppers? Of course, it won't kill them to hang out in the apartment for another week or so. But I think he's being a bit like an overprotective parent.
I'm thinking that if we plant them a little early this year, before Memorial Day, they'll get a head start and they'll yield their fruit sooner too.
So, if you're a planter, let me know what you think.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time for Tomatoes!

I am so psyched. I got a request to get posting, and I have plenty to write about, so here goes.
Ski season is over and the time for planting has arrived. Of course, Mitch and I have been preparing for planting season since February. That's when we went to our favorite heirloom tomato seed site,
This year we bought some old favorites: Dona, a prolific plant with small, tasty fruit; and Brandywine, big and beefy.
We also tried some new varieties, to keep things interesting:
Charlie's Green,sweet and spicey beefsteaks with yellow hues;
Cherokee Chocolate (we've done Cherokee Purples for the past three seasons - they're meaty and deep red - but chocolate, who can resist?); and
Angora Super Sweet cherries (cherries produce like crazy.)
Tomato Fest always throws in a freebie. This time we got Mortgage Lifter Red, a classic heirloom, slightly ribbed and huge (1 to 2 lbs!) I guess it's an appropriate variety for this year, considering the housing bust!
The whole deal cost about $20. You can go cheaper with tomato seeds from Home Depot or Whole Foods, but you can't find such old-time varieties in a big box store!

Next step: buying the seed starter kit. We picked up a Burpee kit at Home Depot for $7.99 but swapped it when we found a Jiffy Professional Greenhouse kit at K-Mart for just $5.99 with 72 peat pellets. Mitch grows basil from seeds all summer too, so we'll actually use quite a few of those pellets. Sure, we could get basil plants at the green market for $2 a piece, but a package of organic seeds for $1.50 will make dozens of plants.

By the end of March, it's time to plant. Mitch put the peat pellets into the little plastic greenhouse that comes with the kit, poured in some water and they expanded just like sponges. Next day, he dropped five or six seeds into each pellet, for a total of 12 pellets (2 of each variety.) Then we took off for a beach vacation (yeah!). When we got back, half the pods were sprouting tiny green seedlings (yay!) but the Brandywines, Cherokees and Mortgage Lifters (the big Kahuanas) were awol! (whah)

Mitch popped in more seeds and we waited in suspense for another week. And bingo! The big and beefies came up!
(Of course, if we had to, we could always supplement the crop with seedlings from the Union Square Green Market - though one warning - they often come with big green hornworms! Yuk! see Sept. 12, 2007 post)
Next step, we'll transfer the seedlings to 3 inch peat moss pots and keep them indoors for another month or so (too cool for tiny seedlings right now.) Mitch really does baby these little sprouts. He shields them from too much sun, too much wind etc. Even still, some of them don't make it. But we have more seedlings than we need so, we will easily end up with the seven plants we want.

Finally, we'll put the strongest ones in 20 gallon pots - their summer homes on the terrace. Best to always stick with one plant per pot. It's hard to dump any of these little babies, but they grow best when they're one to a pot.

I'm obsessing about the tomatoes, but we've got plenty of other veggies to talk about - stay tuned...