Posted in : The veg patch
As I mentioned in my previous post I'm having a go to see if I can get tomatoes to fruit by the end of May beginning of June by starting them off this month, although I'm only going to spark off half the plants I want just in case it all goes tits up. The rest will be sparked off around the end of March, which is the normal time to do these things. After deciding that it wasn't worth switching the heated beds on early, they'll be switched on in a couple of weeks for the dahlias, in the potting shed for the small area of it that I'll need I had to come up with another solution.
At first I was considering putting them under my computer desk, where they could keep the 77 chilli pepper seeds company, as this seems to be pretty successful so far at being warm enough to germinate seeds, but there's only so much room and lots of seeds. Then Gary had a bit of a brainwave! As you may or may not know Barry ( that'd be Gary's dad ) runs an aquatics business which has a pretty big tropical & marine fish room which is kept at a constant 22+°C and the excess heat is vented down a storage corridor and then pumped outside ... so, the corridor should be about 22° as well, and my seedlings need a heated area, and it's the off season so there's a fair few empty shelves, and my seedlings need a heated area, and they'll easily fit in the empty bits, can you see where this is going? ... so, now the corridor has become a propagator. Hopefully, by the time the seedlings germinate the heated beds will be switched on so I can move the plants in there and put them in one of the light tents otherwise my computer room is going to become very full very fast and I'll be getting a tan as I sit here pretending to work.
The other problem I'm going to have to overcome is at planting out time. As I'm starting them off this early they're really going to be to big for the light tents come March and will need to be put into the small greenhouse which is unheated, but it is near the outlet vent for the corridor so I'm going to see if I can find a way of redirecting the warm air into the small greenhouse to help keep the temperature a few degrees higher, especially at night. IF it works then bonus, if not then I have the other half of the seeds and I'll just have to wait until later in the year for my first crop, but if you don't try you can't fail huh?
I've also sparked off about 300 onion seeds, half of them are Ailsha Craigs and the other half are Red Baron, the good news is with these is that they'll be happy enough in the potting shed under the lights without needing to turn on the heated beds, and by the time they're ready to be hardened off the small greenhouse should be warm enough for them to be happy. We'll have to see how that goes I guess.
Being the dumb blonde that I am I managed to misread the date for sowing leeks, so now I've got the best part of 200 of them starting to germinate, which will be interesting as they're faaaaaaar to early and I won't have the space for them in the beds until about June, oops. Rather than try to shove the seedling back into the seed I've decided to grow them on and then just use them as baby leeks when they're big enough, so at least they won't go to waste. It'll be interesting to see how long they take to get to baby leek size, as we like leeks and I'm considering successional sowing specifically for baby leeks.
Due to the fact that the chilli pepper seeds germinated a lot faster than I expected I now have another problem! They should have taken a couple of weeks before they poked their noses out of the seeds, by which time the heated beds would have been on and I could have moved them out from under my computer desk and into one of the light tents in the potting shed ... ahhh well, time for plan 2 ... unfortunately I didn't have a plan 2 so some rapid thinking was required. What I needed was a warm place with plenty of daylight.
The "warm place" bit was easy, it's more than warm enough under my computer desk, unfortunately it's a smidge lacking in daylight under there, mind you it's a smidge lacking in daylight outside as well. So, I needed some daylight, and I was stood in an aquatics shop that's full of bulbs specifically designed for growing aquatic plants. Time for another chat with Gary ... Half an hour later I was wending my way home with a four foot light setup which was going to be the start of my home made grow box.
As well as the light I also managed to acquire some 2 inch thick sheets of polystyrene that were big enough to do the job. After spending 10 minutes with a tape measure and an old knife I'd reduced them to the sizes I needed. I then ransacked the kitchen cupboards for some tinfoil and sellotape and proceeded to cover both panels with the tinfoil. Hopefully between the tinfoil and the light there should be enough daylight available to the seedlings for them to grow without stretching. At the same time I also raised the seed trays up so that they were about a foot below the lights, as the seedlings grow I'll gradually lower the tray so that the tops stay about the same distance from the lights.
So all that's left to do now is to wait and keep my eye on how things go ... and hope it doesn't all go tits up, even if it does though I have plenty more seeds I can sow at the right time, I'd just have to wait for my first crop of tomatoes
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It's a hard life having to bimble around all summer in my shorts looking after dahlias