Monday, May 19, 2008

Remembering the Fallen

Yesterday, I made a last-ditch attempt to rescue some of my seedlings. It's at least another week before I put out the first of the hardiest of the summer seedlings (tomatoes) and probably two or three before I think about eggplant, peppers, or cucumbers. So a little tidying up was in order.
Two 4' shelves seems like a lot of space when you begin planting things, but as the plants expand, the space quickly becomes tighter and tighter. Sacrifices must be made. Up-potting must be done (again). And as in eany good expansion effort, some must give their lives to the cause.
There's the eggplant that the cat ate the first leaves right off of. The Sandia pepper I accidentally brushed with the force of falling water. The tomato I crushed with my elbow. The tomato I forgot that was sandwiched behind the bigger, meaner tomatoes (I'll get to them in a moment) and so, cut off from water and light, shrank to nothing. The cucumber that got caught in a draft on a cold spring night, and remained sullen for weeks - it was just recovering when I ripped it out so I could rescue a pepper from the clutches of the giant tomato plants. An eight-pack of onions, and another of nasturtiums, given for the same cause.
A mass dispersal was necessary because some of my tomatoes have grown large and mean under their pampered conditions. Without the aid of fertilizer, they grew stews thicker than pencils, branches that extended across the lights, and tendrils that shaded out shorter, less aggressive plants - mostly eggplant and pepper, but even some of the smaller tomatoes. These bullies are almost exclusively Fedco heirlooms tomatoes. I don't know if it's the freshness of the seed (most of the other seed was packed for 2006 or 2007), or the variety (Big Mean Bully will be the name of my first created cultivar), or what - I treated these tomatoes exactly the same as the others. To be fair, one of my yellow tomatoes (Giant Yellow Gourmet Stuffer, I think) is also large, but less invasive. My tomatillos are very happy, too, but my peppers and eggplant remain healthy but not enormous. So the shorter plants got moved into space vacated by less important plants. It gave me a chance to eat a large portion of plants - onions, nasturtiums, cucumber roots, a basil, a thyme, a lemon balm. Sort of a weird impromptu salad. It was fun.
Pepper update: I have *one* Sandia pepper sprout, among 12 seeds planted. I'm praying it survives. I have two Thai hots, two Georgia Flames, and a couple others, but peppers are definitely not the winning species at Chez Chick. I overplanted on the seed, with good results for everything else, but not so much with the peppers. I know the germination is supposed to be erratic, but still.
So: several small tomatoes I hope will thrive eventually, plus 4-7 big tomatoes I have high hopes for, plus a few "rescues" that replanted themselves and thus have been allowed to live for awhile. 2 enthusiastic tomatillos. 5-6 eggplants that seem very happy, plus one or two that don't. 6ish peppers, plus rescues. Sage, thyme, lovage, 10ish happy basil plants, 2 sullen holy basils. All in all, not a bad haul. If even 25% of these make out, I should have home-grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and herbs. If they all do, I will have to start sneaking around the farmer's market, dropping eggplants and tomatoes into baby carriages and unattended bags. Next year, I want to start peppers earlier, and tomatoes later. The eggplants have worked out fine.
Interesting note: Cucumber roots have an aftertaste *just like* cucumber. Who knew?

No comments: