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A Noob's Story (pics)

14 years ago

Forgive what will inevitably be a wall of text. I posted a few times when I was first starting out with seeds, but have basically been sitting back and absorbing the collected wisdom of all the seasoned growers here. I just wanted to do a rundown of what I've done so far with some pics to help illustrate.

THE STORY SO FAR...

I started out by doing a lot of reading on here and some other sites before picking out what cultivars I wanted to try for my first time out. I ended up settling on a mixed bag of tomatoes that had received favorable reviews. Being new I really wanted to run the spectrum and get a feel for what I liked flavor-wise. I settled on Brandywine, Cherokee Chocolate, Lillian's Yellow, Aunt Ruby's German Green, and Stupice (just to see if it's the tomato machine it's been hyped up to be). I could only find Ferry-Morse Brandywine seeds at any of the stores I checked. I snagged a pack, and put in an order for the others. Being impatient, I planted every single Brandywine seed in the pack. A week later, I had these guys.

2 weeks later I got the remaining seeds and started them in the remaining peat pots (along with some squash and zucchini). Now, after reading the forums I ran out and picked up some grow lights and kept them 2 inches above the seedlings as directed. When their true leaves emerged, I potted up to 18 ounch cups with drain holes cut in the bottom, pictured here:

I didn't have the heart to thin the peat pellets (seemed like a waste!), so I just separated the plants and gave everyone a cup of their own. Again, they went under the lights. I actually ran out of room under the grow lights, and I had four plants with no place to go... so I just tossed them out on my back porch and completely ignored them. They were my "outside experiment". A few weeks pass and I start to worry. The plants under the lights are going nowhere. They just seem to be in stasis. At first I think it's because I make the mistake of not turning out the lights at night, which was something I asked about here. I was told they grow when the lights are out. I figured I had stunted their growth, so I immediately put them in a timer that gave them 8 hours of dark per day. Still, the growth is EXTREMELY slow. I checked on my outside experiment and they absolutely exploded! They had huge, broad leaves and were much darker green than their indoors counterparts. Apparently copious amounts of Georgia sunshine > my grow lights. By far. I build an impromptu brick platform on my patio to keep them from blowing over while allowing them to drain properly, and everyone goes outside! After a couple of weeks, they all look great!

Now it's time for me to get my garden ready. Let me say this... had I known what I would go through setting up a new garden there is NO WAY I would've started out this big. But being clueless about the job I was signing up for, I lay out a 30'x9' garden. I then set out to till it with a tiller/cultivator attachment I bought for my weed eater. Now, I give the tiller setup credit... it chewed through hard Georgia clay, thick Bermuda grass (which I lacked the foresight to kill first), and countless fist-sized chunks of solid granite. However, the time and back-breaking effort it took me to till 3 solid rows... probably not worth it. There was so much granite in that soil, that after being thoroughly tilled it sparkled like you'd dumped glitter all over it. I think I pulled out the equivalent of Stone Mountain in rocks. One encouraging thing was, while I was tilling, I noticed TONS of big fat earthworms in the soil. That's good, right?

Mid-May I decide they're big enough to plant out. I also find a Sweet 100 at Home Depot that looks really healthy, and pick it up after checking reviews, which were very positive. I tried rooting a sucker from the Sweet 100 and, to my surprise, it sprouted roots very quickly, and when potted up it caught up to the other plants in no time!

I end up planting several Brandywine, 3 squash, 2 zucchini, and one each of the other tomatoes. I stripped them of all but their top leaves, and buried them deep with a little lime and a handful of MG potting mix to help get them started. Finally, this weekend I got around to planting out the rest. The grand total was 43 plants with the breakdown being: 4 Stupice, 2 Aunt Ruby's German Green, 2 Cherokee Chocolate, 3 Lillian's Yellow, 2 Sweet 100, 3 squash, 2 zucchini, and... uh... 25 Brandywine. Here's all of them in one pic I took yesterday:

Sweet 100 has set the first fruit of all my plants:

Brandywine on the right, squash and zucchini on the left:

Aunt Ruby's on the right, Lillian's on the left:

Not tomato-related... but here's some squash action!

WHERE I AM NOW

I still have plenty of work left to do. As you can see, I haven't put in the garden border yet. I'll get around to it... eventually. :) I also need to mulch. I'm going to let the guys I planted this weekend get off the ground a little more before I do that though. Finally I need a support system. I bought some nice metal conduit pipe and I drilled holes in it and I'm planning on doing the "Florida weave" with my plants.

I have some MG tomato fertilizer I gave the plants after being in the ground for a week. We'll see how that turns out.

As for the plants, the Sweet 100 is loading up with fruit as you can see. The Brandywines I planted out mid-May are starting to produce clusters of buds. Hopefully they'll set fruit before it gets too hot. Stupice, though it's easily the smallest of the plants so far, is starting to cover itself in buds too. I'm expecting an explosion of yellow in my garden in the coming weeks.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED

I guess my noobishness prompted me to overplant the Brandywine since I wasn't sure what germination rate would be (100% - yay). Part of it was impatience and not wanting to lose the 2 weeks it would take for the seeds I'd ordered to ship. Next year I'll try to get a more even mix, and focus on cultivars that do well this year.

I don't know if it's the grow lights or what, but setting the plants on my patio seemed much more effective at getting them ready to plant out.

9'x30' is not "starting small".

Slugs are annoying, but easily dealt with.

Big (1-1.5 gallon) plastic watering cans are really hard to find, for some reason.

Touching a cherry tomato = a cherry tomato on the ground. :(

I wish I'd sought out Sudduth strain Brandywine, but supposedly there's a chance that the generic labelled Brandywine are Sudduth? Regardless, they seem to be doing well so far.

THE END - FOR NOW

If you made it this far, I'm impressed. I just wanted to post my experience as a first timer. I'll follow this up with any significant developments and pictures of my progress. Any comments, criticisms, or suggestions are absolutely welcomed. Thanks for reading!

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