I’ve been ramping up my indoor seed starting over the past several weeks. The first of my spring cole crops and my peppers and tomatoes are just getting to the true leaf stage. I thought you guys might want to see the veggie madness that has taken over my seed starting rack.
My first round of seed-starting on these crops was done Saturday, February 1st. Pricking out of the first round of seedlings and the second round of seed-starting was done on Saturday, February 15. All photos were taken last night (Monday, Feb 24) so you can get an idea of seedling development.
Unless noted, all seeds are from High Mowing Organic Seed Company, my favorite seed house, and a sponsor of this-here blog. If you’re looking around for a super-ethical seed house to call your own, check out High Mowing. They’re fantastic people selling fantastic seeds.
Despite telling myself every year that it’s probably not worth it to grow tomatoes in Seattle, I find myself (yet again) staring at dozens of cute, harmless-looking baby tomato starts. I have all these plans every year for why this year will be different – how I can totally hack my microclimates to make my tomatoes think they are living in Tennessee. (I’ve got plans for a great sweet potato experiment, too, this year - I must be extra garden-feverish this spring.)
Of course, those great Southern yields never materialize up here – tomatoes tend towards a heartbreak crop in my maritime climate – but over the years I have gotten a bit better at selecting cool-season adapted varieties that work in my yard and not skimping on the season extension techniques. With a little extra love and care, most years there is a very short window when we have more tomatoes than we can possibly eat. That’s a good window.
This year I’m growing a few old favorites, trying a few new varieties, and limiting myself (hah!) to mostly cherry and paste variety tomatoes – our favorites for fresh use and preserving, respectively. You’ll notice I’m not growing any monster-huge beefsteak types like Brandywine. I’ve found that in my cool maritime climate, cherry and the smaller-sized tomatoes are far more reliable.
This year I’m growing:
- Moskvich – I’ve had very good luck with this early, midsize heirloom slicer. Semi-determinate.
- Rutgers – This was a variety developed for Campbell’s Soups. Despite it’s commercial pedigree, it’s a good all-purpose tomato for slicing or processing. Determinate.
- Indigo Rose – This Black-skinned Saladette is new to me but so pretty I couldn’t not try it out. Developed in Oregon and a small-sized tomato, so I feel like there’s a reasonable chance it will preform here in Seattle.
- Esterina – A super-sweet golden cherry – very excited about this one. Indeterminate.
- Sweetie – A great little treat of a tomato, my kids will devour this red cherry straight from the vine. Indeterminate.
- Black Cherry – One of my favorite cherries, not super sweet like Sweetie but kinda reminds me of balsamic vinegar – a rich, fruity sweet-tart flavor. Indeterminate.
- San Marzano – Excellent flavor Roma-type processing tomato. Indeterminate. Great tomato if we have a warmer summer.
- Roma VF – Very reliable processing tomato that cooks down well with good flavor. Determinate.
- Speckled Roman – Lovely stripes, good cool night tolerance and good for fresh eating or processing. Indeterminate. Johnny’s Seed.
You would think that peppers would be even harder than to grow than tomatoes, but I’ve found the short season varieties to be remarkably adaptable to life in the Pacific Northwest when grown in a greenhouse or under low-tunnels.
King of the North did well for me last summer, with my kids gobbling down bell peppers as soon as they blushed red. I harvested the last of my Anchos on November 17th last year and they were in good shape. I was also pleased to not have to buy any peppers for salsa making last summer! So I think peppers in the Northwest are worth a try.
This year I’m growing:
- King of the North – a short season bell type that produced best of all my bell varieties last year.
- King Crimson – a High Mowing-bred variety I’m excited to trial against King of the North.
- Catriona F1 Hybrid – early maturing Yellow Bell. My kids eat a ton of sweet peppers so I’m trying to grow the full range of colors.
- Oranos F1 Hybrid – early maturing orange Italian type. I’ve had good luck with the Italian frying type pepper – Gypsy used to perform very well for me, but it’s a Seminis brand so I no longer grow it.
- Stocky Red Roaster – an Oregon-bred, red Italian frying type. Looking forward to this one.
- Iko Iko Bell Pepper – A High Mowing bred strain that’s really mostly for fun. The plants put out peppers in a rainbow of colors. Super cool looking.
- Early Jalapeño – Performed very well for me last year, with lots of green fruit and many turning to red. The fully ripe Jalapeño is a revelation to this Northwest girl! Yum!
- Ancho Poblano – This pepper did great for me last year! I got heavy yields of green Poblanos.
- Ring-O-Fire – Super spicy pepper for ground cayenne pepper.
Much of the spring garden is comprised of brassicas – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, etc. I’ve got quite the assortment going here.
These guys are Red Express Cabbage:
In the foreground is Janvel Cauliflower.
The top row of seedlings, from left to right, is Snowball Cauliflower, Belstar Broccoli (the sprouts in the middle) and Tipoff Romanesco Cauliflower (the sprouts on the right). The bottom row of seedlings is Lech Kohlrabi.
This month I have the following brassicas started under lights:
- Belstar F1 Hybrid Broccoli
- Red Express Cabbage
- Farao F1 Hybrid Cabbage
- Janvel F1 Hybrid Cauliflower
- Snowball Y Cauliflower
- Tipoff Romanesco F1 Hybrid Cauliflower
- Lech F1 Hybrid Kohlrabi
Greens and Herbs!
I try to start a fresh batch of greens somehow, every month. Sometimes I sow outdoors, sometimes I start in. I like to start parsley inside because it takes forever to germinate and start growing. The parsley in the back of this photo was seeded over three weeks ago and it’s just starting to do something.
This month I have the following greens started under lights:
- Parsley, Giant Italian Green - not just a garnish! We eat parsley all year long as a delicious salad green and vegetable component to grain and pilaf dishes.
- Renegade Spinach
- Optima Butterhead Lettuce - butterhead’s are my favorite kind of lettuce. I’m trying two varieties this spring.
- Antago Red Lose Leaf Lettuce – a crazy red variety currently out of stock at High Mowing, but Red Sails is a lovely Red Leaf Lettuce I’ve had lots of success with in the past.
- Mirlo Butterhead Lettuce - Mirlo vs. Optima – it’s a butterhead showdown! Who will win?
I don’t have photos and it’s too late right now to go outside and take them (it’s 10:00 pm as I write this)
My peas are already a few inches tall and I transplanted them outside late last week after starting them inside at the beginning of the month. Yippie!
Don’t worry if you haven’t started a single thing! You’re not too late! Here’s my garden to do list for February.
Still trying to figure out which seeds to buy? This post makes it easy.
Want to jump-start pea-season? You can start your peas in a length of gutter. It works great – here’s my full report on the technique.
What about you? Have you stared anything under lights yet?