Everyone from our Renee's Garden office staff went back to the trial garden last week to learn the next stage in growing the tomato and pepper seeds that we sowed last month.
In just over a month’s time, the seeds germinated and grew to several inches, kept sheltered, warm and well watered in the greenhouse by trial garden managers Lindsay and Mila.
Now it was time for us to learn the next step in the growing process –"pricking out" the seedlings, which we learned simply means moving the rapidly developing seedlings into larger size pots so they have room to grow and thrive.
Although the daytime temperatures have warmed up here in Northern California into the 60°F range, night temperatures are still not consistently high enough (in the 50°F range) to move our baby seedlings outside right away and they need to grow bigger in order ensure survival in the garden when it warms up enough.
The seed flats that we started the plants in have now become tight quarters for the vigorous seedlings and they need more room so they can grow into big healthy plants that will transplant easily into the garden when the weather permits.
So the next step is to transplant them into bigger individual 4” pots to continue growing strong roots, and then to gradually adjust them to the variable garden temperatures outside of the greenhouse.
Armed with our sophisticated tools (chopsticks from the take-out Chinese restaurant near our office), Lindsay showed us how to gently loosen the seedling from the flat by lifting the soil with the chopstick – never tugging or pulling on the plant itself.
We used the chopstick to lift and move the soil in the 4” inch pot, creating a hole with enough space for the roots and no more than about 1/4 inch of the seedling to be under the soil. Taking care to ensure the roots all point down, we gently transferred all the seedlings into their larger homes, tapping the pots on the table to settle the soil back around the seedling rather then pressing it down. We learned how important it is to keep the potting soil fluffy so the containers drain properly.
After finely misting water over the newly transplanted seedlings, they went back into the greenhouse to continue growing. Over the next several weeks, Lindsay and Mila will feed and water the growing plants and move the pots outside during the warm days to “harden off” or acclimate the seedlings to outside conditions. After the night temperatures are consistently above 50°F., we’ll be back to move our babies into their final homes in the ground.
All this planting got me in the mood to get my vegetable garden started at home over the weekend. Although it is still too early to plant the corn, cucumbers and melons, I did get crops of lettuce, radishes, spinach and arugula sown in my new raised beds. Keeping in mind everything I’ve learned so far from our trial gardening experience, I was careful to keep the soil fluffy and to properly space the seeds so they have room to grow.
I’ll be keeping a close watch on the beds over the next 2 weeks to see how everything germinates. Just about the time I’m enjoying my first salad of baby greens, it will be time to plant all those pepper and tomatoes and sow the warm weather crops I’ll be enjoying this fall!
-Sarah Renfro, Renee's Garden Business Manager