Thursday, April 24, 2008

Growing Challenge: Tomatoes, Surprises and Seeds

I learn something new every day when I garden.

Well, maybe almost every day. Some days I'm stuck inside, nursing twins and thinking about gardening. Possibly bird watching in my yard. (Two sets of finches are building nests in my yard! One in my Japanese honeysuckle!)

A couple of weeks ago, some of my tomato seedlings were getting pretty crazy leggy, because I was too excited to start planting and not paying an-NEEEE attention to last frost dates and the fact that eventually I would run out of room in my house, because I just didn't care. As far as I was concerned it was Spring! and Spring! means it's time to [Announcer's voiceover:] Starrrrrt Yourrrrrr Plantinnnnng!

So I started pinching back the worst of the lot.

I figured it couldn't really hurt, tomatoes grow rather like weeds, being annuals and all. They'd grow back. Then I tossed the pinched out bits into the compost.

Normal activity. Logical even.

When suddenly I wondered what would happen if I stuck some of those bits into some water? I mean, tomato plants root readily all along the stem, right? So it stands to reason that it should be happy enough to root in water, shouldn't it?

Wouldn't you know it? I was right.

Mystery tomato.

Tomatillos do this, too.
Purple heirloom tomatillo.

A word of warning, though: if you have leggy tomatoes (or tomatillos) and you want to pinch them back, do yourself a favor and label the variety. Otherwise, there you'll be, with a fully rooted Mystery Tomato. Or two. Not that I'd know anything about that.


Of course, I then kicked myself for days over having composted all of those other potential tomato plants! Argh! Oh well. Next year!

Moving on to ornamentals, I grew a 'Ruby Moon' Hyacinth Bean Vine (Dolichos Lab Lab for you Latin [plant name] Lovers!) and assiduously clipped off the bean pods before they had a chance to set seed so that it would continue producing flowers. Well, at some point, I stopped doing that and these were the result:
Free seeds!

I was cleaning up my deck and found the pods and seeds scattered in the corner and thought What the heck! So I thought I'd try scarifying them (rubbing them against sandpaper until I could see a little of the white pith), soaking them (for about 24 hours, with a few water changes) and then planting them. Considering that I bought twelve seeds in a packet for something like $3 or $4, I had a fistful of them on the deck for nothing other than a little time.
They plump when you soak them.

Then I had a look around for where else I might have some seeds and found the dried up husks of Moss Rose (Portulaca) and gleaned a whole lotta seeds from them as well.
Teeny tiny, obnoxiously small seeds.

They should be Peppermint - light and dark pink striped ones like these. However, we'll see what we get. I planted a whole lot of them and they've already come up (Three days!). I didn't know if they'd be viable, since they sat outside all winter, but they all appear to be fiiiiine.

Gardening is funny that way: nothing risked, nothing gained.

While I may be kicking myself for not planting this, or planting that other thing waaaay too soon, I have to remember that there are plenty of fun surprises to be had like rooting tomato clippings and "found" seeds and discovering interesting new "weeds" or "volunteers" in my front yard.

I have a lot of work to do to get my garden ready for the spring/summer season. At this rate, it will be full on summer before I've gotten anything significant finished. Then again, Nature is patient and will do as she will, as she does every year. It is just that I am impatient and want to get my Gardening Groove on!

Oh well. Must be time to start some more plants from seed....

They don't call it Spring Fever for nothin'!


April Clarke said...

I'm so happy you said about the portulaca seeds. I had never thought about collecting them before! If I take a clipping from an older tomato does it count as a new plant now? My tomoatoes are biennial if I bring them in over the winter so I thought that I could just bring in a few clippings from the best varieties. Super cool blog and great photos. I just wish I could see the garden in person. I live in Troy, MI so our winters aren't very forgiving but it does provide a clean slate each spring.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hi April! Glad you like me blog. : )

It would count as a new plant, if you took a tomato cutting. The only problem is keeping it alive over the winter, indoors. If it's a determinate, that might not be too bad an idea. However the indeterminates get so big, so quickly, that it would be...interesting to see if you could keep some alive indoors. Give it a whirl! Nothing to lose but a little soil, right?

Portulaca can also be cut and brought indoors. If I can get myself organized, I may even do it over here before everything is killed off by a frost. Of course, I now have a million billion seeds, so I'll never be without randomly colored portulaca ever again!

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