Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Tomato Transplant Operation

The snow is gone, except for a few random patches that don't get much sun, such as the former glacier where the snow slides off the roof. So thoughts turn to agriculture. My windowsill is full of greens. But we have a major project: get the tomatos (or tomatoes, whatever the proper plural is. Strunk & White recommends adding -s and so I shall).

Whatever the grammar, we must get the tomatos out of their flats and into transplant pots. You can buy peat pots, of course. This is 180 degrees away from my George Dyson philosophy (never buy anything you can make, and never make anything you can find), so I make my own. I used to employ newspaper for the purpose. Unfortunately newpapers are now all largely colored, and the colored inks are poisonous. Fortunately, a kind friend always gives me, for Christmas, the New York Times daily crossword puzzle desk pad; best crossword in the nation. But that leaves me with a large number of pad leaves. Aha! Make pots out of them.
At left, the cardboard tube I use as a former. Wind the puzzle around the tube, press in the ends, tape it for safety, and voila! a pot. A finished pot immediately to the left of the tube. The flat (plastic tray, otherwise castoff from some food product) immediately to the left of the tube. Transplants at the center. Microshovel (see below) inside flat.

You can buy pot formers from (among others) Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog, but why bother? Get a cardboard tube (paper towel roll, for instance).

Using a micro-shovel made from a piece of sheet metal castoff, carefully extract the plant from the flat, microshovel in some dirt, tamp it down with a chopstick, and you're done. Water it! This will start the decomposition of the paper. It will also rehydrate the plant and minimize shock. When it's time to plant, shove pot, plant and all right into the ground. I usually open up the bottom when I do this; less work for the plant.

Modern Industry will gladly sell you pots, tools, and seeds. I do buy the seeds. If you freeze seeds, you can use your leftovers next year; even if you don't you can reuse them for at least one year. Some of those tomatos are '08 vintage. I have not yet learned the art of letting X go to seed and then collecting X seeds. If you use hybrids, then you will not get away with gathering your own seeds. Hybrids, by definition, do not breed true.

Some people say they cannot have a garden because it is too expensive. I don't understand that attitude. Most of the things you need are in your kitchen garbage can! There is a blog out there called "Free Man's Garden" by a gentleman called Eleuthero. Unfortunately the blog has not been updated since 2007 or so. The photos have vanished. But Mr Eleuthero makes me look like a spendthrift. You can google it if you like; but without the photos it loses much of its value.

The ground is still wet. There is also frost 20 cm down. Can't work it. But today I spread manure (bought, unfortunately; but it's cheap) and compost (homemade) over the garden. Also the winter's ashes. Alaska soil is very acid; the ashes counteract that to some extent. I will also lime it.

Patched up the greenhouse -- thanks to some careful winterizing, it came through the winter almost intact. Now to wait. All gardeners and farmers must wait on the weather. Unless, of course, you own a heated greenhouse. Midas I am not; I too wait on the weather. It's a good time to clear brush, another post; but there is next winter's wood to get in. More things to do than there is time to do them!

No comments:

Post a Comment