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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Keeping Propagation Cubes Moist For a Long Time

I experimented with my "tray in tray" idea and it worked out. I put the tray with the propagation cubes in a bigger tray that I used to use to propagate plants in previous years. I filled the bigger one with water. The water level was as high as it could almost reach the cubes tray surface. Thanks to that the cubes stayed very moist. My tomatoes grow on the south facing windowsill which has a radiator underneath so water evaporates quite fast. This is important to keep sprouting seeds in warmth because it speeds up this process. Unfortunately these conditions caused the drought problem and my cubes with tomatoes used to get dry so often. I was afraid that the water from the container would evaporate too quickly but after 24 hours its level did not go down too much. I did not see any signs of fungus and plants look healthy in their "sponges". They even seem to like these conditions;) I had a little problem with fitting the smaller tray into the bigger one because the bigger one was not wide enough. At the end I suspended the smaller tray between two walls of the bigger one hoping that it would stay in a horizontal position. I will see what happens after a week and will write about it...

Underwater view

Tray in tray

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sowing Tomatoes

I should have started writing this blog one month ago because my posts would be more up to date. Unfortunately, I got this idea only yesterday. Anyway better later than never. Tomatoes should be sowed in the beginning of March. I did it more than three weeks ago. In previous years I used to sow my tomatoes in a special soil mix for starting plants from seeds. My gardeners store sells big bags of this mix. This year I wanted to experiment a little and try something new and hopefully easier and less messy. It´s still very cold outside and I did not want to dig in frozen soil so I bought a propagation kit with 24 cubes on a plastic tray. 

The cubes are made of composted organic materials with micro nutrients. They have a spongy texture. They are supposed to help seeds to sprout fast and develop strong roots of the plant. There is a small hole in every cube which makes it easy to put seeds in it. I put 2 seeds in every hole according to the instruction. There are always seeds that do not sprout at all. Therefore it is better to sow 2 seeds in one cube/pot to have more chances to get at least one plant. 

Like I expected cubes were great and easy to use. I only needed to push the seeds a little with a help of a match. The other little problem was to "close" holes over the seeds. I was afraid that they might get dry. I cut  small pieces of the cubes corners and pressed them in the holes over the seeds. Maybe that was not needed but it felt more secure. My tomatoes started sprouting three days after sowing! In some cubes I got one and  in some two sprouts. Normally it takes around a week. When I had two in a cube I picked the smaller and weaker one.

Not everything is great though - my cubes need to be watered all the time. I use water in a spray bottle. The sponge cubes absorb easily small amounts of water but the rest just leaks out through wholes in the bottom of the tray. When I had my plants in regular soil pots I did not need to water them so often. Maybe once in three days. Now - at least three times a day. I work at home so I can do this but what will happen when we go away for a few days? I am going to try to put the tray with them to a bigger tray filled with water. I hope that they can suck the water through the bottom holes like a regular plants in pots do. I hope it works. I will test this today and will write about the results later. 

My tomatoes this morning

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why I Run This Blog

In my first post I want to present my experience with growing tomatoes. I don´t pretend to be a professional - it´s just my passion and try to do my best to get great tomatoes from seeds. Every year I learn something new about it and my blog is the place where I write what I do and what effects it gives.

I have always loved taste of real homegrown tomatoes. My grandma Helena used to have a greenhouse and had the best tomatoes in the world. It is almost impossible to find really tasty tomatoes in stores. Therefore, I decided to grow my own plants. My first cultivation took place 3 years ago. I decided to check if it was possible to grow tomatoes in Sweden. Poland and my region of Sweden (hardiness zone 6) have more less the same climate so it seems possible to succeed. Though, I was a little crazy planting my tomatoes in the ground outside instead of keeping them in a greenhouse. Summer in Sweden is unpredictable - the weather changes several times a day. It rains quite often. Tomatoes don't like to be wet. Luckily, it was not the worst summer so my plants grew well. Problems started when they were still green in September. I had to pick them in this stage and keep them on windowsills. Eventually, they became red but then I discovered that they tasted awful - I turned out that I had used too much fertilizer (natural) which affected their taste. All my tomatoes landed on the compost pile but I did not give up...

Thanks to this experience and many professional publications I have learnt a lot about tomatoes. I also  get advice from my mother in law who successfully grows tomatoes in the northern Sweden (Leksand). Last two years I succeeded with my plants and I keep growing them. I test and introduce new solutions for watering, fighting pests and other potential problems that I face. I also check different sorts of tomatoes every year. I have been running a paper tomatoes cultivation diary with information about every tomato sort I have had - if it was tasty, when fruits were ready to pick, how much it weighted and how many tomatoes I got from one plant. Now, I decided to run this blog instead of the paper diary.