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in the garden: starting the tomatoes

March 21, 2012

Last week my partner Kyle & I started some of our seeds. Mostly those in the nightshade family—tomatoes, peppers, eggplants—as well as a few salad mixes (for micro greens), basil, and leeks. Because of an awesome deal at work, and also in part due to seed swaps, we have a lot of free seed. As in, hundreds of packets. And all organic, mostly heirloom. How lucky we are!

And we’re also lucky with this weather. I started with the tomatoes. All 31 varieties of them.

…31.

Since Kyle & I don’t use any grow lights or heating implements, I wanted to start our seeds a little earlier this year to give them a better head start. And I’m glad I did—after a cloudy week hovering in the 50s, we’ve moved on to nearly 80 degrees every day with plenty of sun. And our seeds are finally responding. The first to shoot up (they popped the surface and grew about half an inch in 4 hrs!) were, appropriately enough, two of our Sub-Artic heirloom variety. Shortly following, and taking its time, was one Japanese Black Trifele.

One thing I love about starting seeds (as opposed to buying starts) is the sheer variety you’re faced with. Your tomato options aren’t limited to Better Boy, Big Girl, Patio, or Rutgers, and your kale isn’t limited to purple or green. And you can grow weird things you didn’t even know existed, like shiso, warty thing pumpkins, or banana melons.

And, of course, there’s also the fun in watching something grow, in nurturing a living being, in propagating a new life. Starting seeds (or keeping houseplants, for that matter) feels a lot like having a pet to me. You have your responsibilities to keep them watered, warm enough, protected from harsh environments, but what a rewarding task—the joy of watching your little seeds grow, and reaping the fruit of your labor.

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