May 29, 2007

Safety First

Memorial Day Weekend is the unoffical tomato planting weekend for my area but, since I was away for a wedding in D.C. I had to wait until today. The wedding was lovely and congrats to the happy couple by the way!

My flight landed and less than 2 hours later I was in the garden getting the seedlings, that had been pretty much just surviving on my porch, into the ground. These included 6 tomato plants (5 varieties), 4 eggplants (2 varieties), zucchini, and basil. I also borrowed my brother's car and got marigolds and rosemary.

Since all my seedlings came in six-packs I selected a few healthy ones and gave the rest to a friend who gardens in a nearby community garden and a new gardener who happened to be clearing out her plot while I was working.

I might have gone a little overboard but, here's what I did for maximum seedling survival:

1) I staked AND caged the tomatoes. I know that everything I read says that if you do one you don't need to do the other but, my experience last year (with just staking) was that everything just got out of control and ended up on the ground. I only had 5 stakes and 5 cages so two of the plants only have one support thingy but, I'm planning to add the extra reinforcements as soon as I can get to a home depot. Most of the time I'm glad I don't own a car just every once in a while it would be pretty handy.

2) I planted everything inside toilet paper rolls as a defense against cutworms. This was kinda tricky since the soil and roots for the seedlings was often bigger than the width of the cardboard roll so I really had to cram them in there. I'm worried that this will be a little suffocating for the plants although I know that the roots can grow through the bottom of the roll, it just seems like a long way to go at first. Hopefully it will all work. I will say that the chard I planted a few weeks ago seems to be doing ok in the tp rolls so I suppose that's encouraging.

3) I layed out Enriching Mulch around all the seedlings that I planted (not in the photos) which will help retain moisture, prevent splashing and keep the weeds down a bit. I assume the "enriching" aspect of the mulch is a good idea. I sure hope so.

4) I watered with diluted fish emulsion which is supposed to provide really good nutrients for seedlings -- especially tomatoes.

By the end I was really filthy, smelled like fish and had a really bad and funny looking sunburn (due to my racerback tank top). I stupidly ran outside and stayed in the sun for hours without applying sunscreen -- pretty dumb move I know. Safety is important for plants and gardeners alike.

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