6th February. In January I have little to sow but garlic and peas. As soon as February starts, I get overly excited: It’s time for my greenhouse veggies: Tomatoes, (Bell) Peppers, Eggplants. There are other vegetables on my February sowing list as well, but let’s talk warm climate vegetables!
In a former post I explained the 12 main hardiness zones. These have been divided in even more specific zones, “a” and “b”. So for 9a, my hardiness zone, this means minimum temperatures remain between -6,7°C or 20°F and -3,9°C or 25°F.
Most will dissuade you to start warm climate seeds in zone 9a during the month of February. Not without reason though. There’s not enough warmth, but more importantly there’s a lack of light for your seedlings. This causes them to be stretched out and weak. Waiting just 1 month actually solves that problem as sunlight hours increase from 9h13 on 1st February to 10h56 on 1st March. Only problem is: you have to wait another month to start and your harvesting period is shorter..
I find it very hard to wait until March to start sowing my veggies, so with a few tricks up my sleeve, I manage to grow healthy seedlings a bit earlier than recommended. To each his own, I guess ;).
Last year’s cultivars.
Last year I tried out a couple of varieties of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in my greenhouse, but I didn’t pay enough attention to their needs. One of my vegetables, eggplant cultivar Rosita, gave no yield at all. Still I got to harvest more than enough other vegetables for our household. Here’s the 2017 list.
- Orange Paruche F1
- Brandy Boy F1
- Clackamas Blueberry
- Dakota Gold
- Unknown cherry tomato variety I got from my brother.
- Trinidad Moruga Chocolate (2nd most spicy pepper in the world)
- California Wonder
- Yellow Bell Pepper grown from supermarket vegetable seed Ewaut harvested in 2016.
This year’s cultivars.
This year I’m mostly trying out new cultivars. I also want to keep the hybrids to a minimum, so I can save my own seeds. And frankly, I find the thought of heirloom seeds more appealing than hybrids as I believe it leans in closer to organic farming. Nonetheless, It’ll be hard finding a better cherry tomato than Orange Paruche F1, so that one’s still on my list.
- Orange Paruche F1
- Brandywine Pink-Red (instead of Brandy Boy F1, hybrid derived of Brandywine)
- Caspian Pink
- San Marzano 2
- Tequila Sunrise
- Tinkerbell Red
- Corno di Giallo
- California Wonder (leftover seed last year)
- Tongues of Fire
- Trinidad Moruga Chocolate (leftover seed last year)
Warm-climate plants need warmth to thrive. However, keeping a room at 20°C (68°F) day and night is a bit expensive. A compromise is keeping the containers in your living room near the window.
I’ll be keeping them in our guest bedroom, near the window. I’ll make sure the temperature never drops below 18ºC (65°F) during the day and 15°C (59°F) at night. It’ll take a bit longer for them to grow, but it will save me a lot of money. As I’ll be keeping them near the window, they’ll get an adequate amount of light to grow. I’m thinking of investing in a germination heating pad next year. But for this year, warmth and light, check!
I was thinking of using old toilet paper rolls to make extra planting pots out of, but instead I started saving yogurt containers, instead of throwing them out. I drilled a hole at the bottom for drainage. I wonder if the light reaching the roots will harm them. I hope not.
I read somewhere that it isn’t the light that harms roots, but the algae formed by light, bogarting all the oxygen. So I’ll be monitoring the yogurt containers closely.
If you have your containers, here’s what you do next:
- First I gently filled the containers with a neutral potting mix to the brim. I’ll dedicate a whole blog post on choosing the right potting mix somewhere soon.
Never press the soil, because the roots need oxygen as much as they need water.
- Sow 1 seed per container as this simplifies transplanting them without root damage. Always sow more seeds than you need as some of them won’t germinate. A rule of thumb on how deep to sow, is to provide a depth of double their diameter.
- I labeled my containers with cultivar names so I won’t forget which is which.
- Finally, I watered the soil. Always make sure it isn’t too wet. When you place the containers on a saucer, there should be no remaining water coming out the drainage hole. In doing so, you avoid rot and mold on your seeds.
You can cover your containers with a glass plate or plastic foil to minimise evaporation. Don’t water your seeds again until seedlings are showing or the soil looks and feels dried out. If you don’t cover up your containers, check the soil every day and keep it moist.
It’ll take 5 to 15 days for germination to take place. This off course depends on the cultivar, seed viability, temperature and moist level. I’m looking forward to those little seedlings. Once they’re out, I’ll show you how to keep them healthy and make them strong. Happy sowing!