Although family needs out of town prevented me from starting my tomato seeds in early January like I’d hoped, a seed-starting heat mat still got my seedlings going pretty fast this week. I planted on Monday. By Thursday I had Camp Joy seedlings, and within hours several other varieties started poking their pretty green heads out of the seed-starting mix.
I was absolutely determined to have no nursery-purchased plants this year, after the nightmare of the Bonnie plants last year. In case you missed the news (and don’t want to click the link), a major nursery supplier, Bonnie Plants in Alabama, shipped thousands and thousands of plants that had been contaminated with blight (the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine). Given the extraordinarily wet weather last summer, the blight spread like a wildfire through gardens in the eastern half of the US as well as places a bit further west like Arkansas. We only had a few Bonnie plants, but that was enough to wipe out our entire tomato planting. Blight is especially scary for organic growers because organic controls do not work that well on blight, and blight can remain in the soil for years to come. Your best bet is to abandon the land for tomato growing and any other nightshade plants (potatoes, eggplants ) for several years.
You can also avoid contamination in the first place by starting your own seedlings at home, using a seedling heat mat (if you keep your house as cold in the winter as we do), grow lights, and mini-greenhouses, like shown in these links to Burpee products. I’m not advocating that you buy all of these things from Burpee, by the way. My seedling heat mat did come from Burpee, but the rest of my growing kit came from the hardware store. I reuse my starter pots every year, taking time to thoroughly clean them, including using bleach. Although I ordinarily do not use bleach, I do use it to disinfect all of my garden pots. Getting seed-starting equipment will set you back a bit, but your cost of producing plants from that point forward will be much less expensive, and you’ll be able to grow greater variety. That makes starting seeds at home frugal in the long run.
Have you started your seedlings and aren’t sure what to do next? Read here for my next installment in growing tomatoes.
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