...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


starting tomatoes + eggplants indoors...

Of all the plants to start indoors, the holy trinity of seedlings is most definitely
tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
They really need the warmth and light and that extra bit of time to get started
to really be productive for the growing season.
In the past few years that we've been growing tomatoes, 
this is our first year of starting them from seed instead of buying ready-to-go transplants.  
Here's what we did:
First you need some growing media.
Look for organic or ask to make sure it hasn't been chemically treated.
We got Lambert LM-18 germination mix from Agway.
Seedlings are tender little things, so you want to moisten your growing media first,
rather than sow your seeds into dry soil and then flooding them with water.
So I took an old plastic storage container and a bunch of scoops of soil mix and kept adding water.
I mixed it and massaged it with my hands until it felt just right...
Uniformly wet, but not so wet like soup, oozing puddles of water...
But wet enough that if you squeeze a ball of soil in your hand, water would come out.

I scoop with my hands and fill the tray with growing media,
and press down a little to pack the soil in.
For tomatoes and eggplants, I got 36 cell trays. 
Depending on how large they get, I will most likely need to 'grow them up'
into a tray with larger cells, so their roots can keep developing and not get crowded. 
Then I took the end of a chopstick and pressed gently into each cell,
to make approximately 1/4" deep insertions for the seeds,
which is their preferred germination depth.

 Then come the seeds...!
I'm trying a bunch of different varieties of tomatoes:
cherries, grapes, heirlooms, tomatillos, and
tomatoes grown specifically for sun-drying. 
And just one type of eggplant...
Every time I hold seeds in the palm of my hand,
I can't help but be humbled by what an amazing thing it is
that an entire life is contained within such a small vessel.
Programmed and ready to go, when given the right conditions...
 The easiest way I've found to keep track of what's in my trays is simply to label them with tape.
First I write on a flat surface and then apply the labels to the sides of the trays.
I label them with arrows to indicate which part of the tray contains which plants.
In my made-up labeling system, two arrows mean the far back tray and one arrow means the front.
Sometimse I break it down further to 1.) and 2.)
if a compartment of 6 is broken up into two different rows of 3. 
Then I cover the seed trays with plastic humidity domes,
and get them under the growing light,
and let the growing begin...!
If you're curious to know about the varieties I've chosen for this year, here goes:
The Super Sweet 100:
A newer hybrid of the low-acid type.  The name says it all!
The breeders have added crack resistance and an extra burst of sugar in each 1” fruit.  
It grows TALL on indeterminate vines, so stake it and give it room, then enjoy a bumper crop of juicy cherry tomatoes until frost. It is perfect for pasta, briefly sautéd in halves with chopped garlic and arugula in olive oil. Serve over piping hot pasta; garnish with ground pepper, parmigiana and fresh basil. (John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
Yellow Jelly Bean Grape Tomato:
These sweet, little gems are really like garden candy: no one will be able to resist plucking them off the vines and popping them into their mouths. Clusters of 15 to 30 crack-resistant Jelly Beans are borne on vigorous, disease-resistant indeterminate vines. Easy to grow, they are small grape-shaped tomatoes that are incredibly sweet with a firm texture. Children of all ages love them.
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry / Husk Tomato:
This sweet and fruity ground cherry originated in Poland. When ripe it turns a golden orange color and drops to the ground. This tomato has pineapple and vanilla flavor. Because of their high pectin count, they can be used for preserves, pies, over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads.
Will store up to 3 months in the husk.
(Territorial Seed Co.) 
 Purple de Milpa Tomatillo:
 The tomatillo that grows wild in Mexican cornfields. Very small (3/4") purple-tinged fruits borne on 3-4' tall plants. Fruit typically does not burst through husk when ripe. Sharp flavor preferred by some cooks over other tomatillos.  Plants are self-supporting, but sprawl over a large area. Cage or trellis when space is limited.  (Seed Savers Exchange)
Dr. Wyche's Yellow Tomatillo: 
A Seed Savers introduction, given to them by the late Dr. John Wyche.  Unique yellow tomatillo with contrasting purple blush (1½" diameter), delicious sweet flavor. Very prolific and easy to grow.  Excellent for salsa verde and chili verde.
(Seed Savers Exhange)
Principe Borghese (some write it as Borghesi):
 (photo from Horizon Herbs)
Principe Borghese is an Italian heirloom grown exclusively for sun drying. Traditionally, the whole plant was dug up and hung out to dry in the hot Mediterranean sun. Borne heavily on compact determinate plants, it yields abundant, small, plum-shaped, ruby-red fruits with a rich tomato taste that intensifies as it dries. To dry, we suggest cutting stems of the ripe fruit and drying in a dehydrator or on a baking tray in a gas oven heated only by its pilot flame. Dry until shriveled, leathery, and intensely flavored. Terrific in sauces, salads, soups, stews, pasta salad and bruschetta.
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
Black Pineapple Tomato:
Ananas Noire” is a beautiful, incredibly delicious and rare variety that was discovered growing amidst regular Pineapple Tomatoes in a Belgian garden. Ranging in skin color from black-purple to hazy green with red streaks, red-pink blotches or yellow splotches, these kaleidoscopic orbs will delight you with bright green flesh emboldened by deep red-pink striations.
Growing on regular leaf-type, indeterminate vines, this heavy producer yields large beefsteak-type tomatoes weighing in at 1 to 1½ pounds with a sweet, fruity, smoky, rich flavor. It is unadorned perfection. It will elevate summer sandwiches and salads to palate-blowing, festive party fare. 
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
 Striped German Tomato:
I saved these seeds from tomatoes we grew last year. 
Striped Germans are medium to large, variably ribbed tomatoes that are shaded yellow and red.
The marbled interior looks beautiful sliced.
The flavor is considered complex and fruity with a smooth texture.
(Johnny's Selected Seeds)
Rosa Bianca Eggplant:
Open-pollinated bicolor Italian heirloom. No bitterness!
Alan LePage calls it “the best eggplant in the universe,”
with a creamy consistency and delicate flavor. Gorgeous fruits, white with lavender streaking down the side, can command a premium in gourmet markets. Rosa is plump, about 3–4" across and 5" long, narrow at the top and widening with indentations almost like folds in draped fabric.
Fruits average 2 lb, max out at 4 lb, LePage’s highest-yielding eggplant. Rosa needs to be coddled, particularly in the northern half of New England. Seed needs alternating temperatures to break dormancy: warm days (preferably 80s), cooler nights (around 70°).
(Fedco Seeds Co.)
That's it! 

p.s. Only 5 days later and all of the yellow jelly bean tomatoes have sprouted up!

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