It has officially been spring for a couple of days, but around here it has not felt like winter for weeks. It is warm, mostly sunny, and weeds are starting to appear in the garden beds.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to start some seedlings. I had been meaning to get started for a couple of weeks but dragged my feet. Then somebody mentioned they already had seedlings in their greenhouse and that was enough to light a fire …
That night I separated some worm compost and started a tray of 36 seedlings (12 peppers and 24 tomatoes) using exactly 32 seeds (yes, I was counting). I placed one seed in the middle of each of the 36 seedling starter pots. This sounds pretty anal but last year I did much the same thing, only I planted a few seeds in each tray in case some seeds did not germinate. I figured I’d just trim back the plants I did not want and life would be good.
Unfortunately, I discovered that worms do NOT kill all of the seeds in the finished compost. I had volunteer plants starting like crazy (much like this year) and consequently did not have a clue what was what in my seedling trays. I ended up guessing which plants were the ones I had intended for the garden and culled the rest. Last year I culled all of my pepper seedlings and wound up with tomato plants instead. I am not sure why but the vast majority (possibly all?) of the seeds left in my worm compost are tomato seeds. We do eat a lot of tomatoes, but I have seen other seeded vegetables appear on our chopping blocks occasionally. Fortunately, I got tomatoes off of all of the tomato plants in my garden, but I wanted some peppers too!
This year will be different. Yesterday I culled the volunteers from my first seedling tray. I still made some guesses but in most cases it was pretty obvious (from their relative positions in the pot) which was a plant I had intentionally started, and which was a volunteer. Again this year, the vast majority of the volunteers appear to be tomato plants. I also think I have figured out how to distinguish pepper and tomato seedlings. The pepper seedlings take longer to germinate and they develop a little knob below their first leaves where the tomato seedlings remain smooth. Progress I guess!
I just started a tray of onion seedlings (last year I waited too long and our onions were uniformly small). This time I bought sterilized compost from the store to start the seeds. I am curious to see if it is indeed ‘volunteer’ seed free, and if my life will be easier.