Tomato Trivia

A bit of tomato trivia. When you buy tomato seeds from a catalog there are a series of letters associated with a particular variety. The letters denote specific characteristics that have been bred into the variety to fight diseases, fungus, virus and other crop killers. I’ve honestly never paid too much attention to that and selected based on the descriptive material describing taste, size and maybe nutrient information. I just recently noticed a big N buried in the string of letters and checked the legend to see exactly what the N stood for. Turns out it’s Nematode resistance – one of my big problems. I noticed when I pulled out the dead tomato plants earlier this week that among the three varieties I had planted side by side, one had roots that were totally eaten up by nematodes. It’s very distinctive because nematodes create large, white nodules all over the roots. I had labeled the varieties so went back to the catalog and sure enough, the varieties with the N were clean whereas the variety without the N were eaten up. Next year’s seeds will all have the big N.

Have you ever tried pelleted seed? The seeds from some veggies are really tiny and difficult to see and handle; carrots, lettuce, parsley and mustard come to mind. When you sow these seeds you tend to do it thickly and then have lots of thinning to do when they pop out of the ground. Some seed companies provide these seeds in a coating so the resulting pellet is maybe double the size of a BB. I’ve always had some doubts about using them, especially lettuce where the seed envelope usually says that it takes light to germinate the seeds. How does the seed get light if it’s incased in a thick coating? This season I started using pelleted seed for carrots and have had great success. You can plant them evenly spaced and the germination rates have been just fine so the thinning task is virtually eliminated. I decided to try it with lettuce using my new indoor, planting system from Park Seeds. I placed the pelleted seeds on top of individual peat impregnated sponges set into the sponge holder. The sponge holder is in a tray with a clear plastic cover so the moisture is contained and the temp remains nearly constant. I keep a grow light going overtop the seeds 24 hours a day. Three days later, no signs of anything happening but on the next day, one of them had sent out a root and another was turning greenish. Over the next two days there was similar action in several of the sponges so it seems to be working as advertised.

One of the crops I’ve had great difficulty with in Florida is Spinach. That’s a bummer because it grew so well in Utah and we love it. I’ve tried several different varieties, different planting techniques, different timing but nothing has worked. The seeds seem to have trouble germinating and when they do, the plants are spindly and not very healthy. According to the seed companies, spinach seed is one of those that is best planted fresh – in other words, buy new seed each season. With my soil looking so good now I decided to give it one last try. I took a couple of packets of older seed – purchased 2 years ago, combined and soaked them in a cup of water overnight. I then prepared a bed and basically broadcast the soaked seed throughout the bed rather than trying to equally space the seed in nice rows. Normally it takes 7-10 days before you start seeing any germination at all from spinach seed but I noticed a few poking out 3 days after planting. I’m sure that comes as a result of the pre-plant soaking.

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