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Saving Seeds (HTW Tip)

Julie Maruskin shared a very detailed seed-saving technique at the Heirloom Tomato Workshop. Warning – not for the faint-hearted. “The seeds of fleshy tomatoes benefit from the fermentation process, which helps clean the seeds of bacteria.”

To save seeds from tomatoes through the fermentation process, you must follow a set of tried and true steps, which Ms. Maruskin explained to us.

  • Choose a pretty, tasty fruit from a healthy plant.
  • Cut the tomato open (halves are fine).
  • Scoop out the seeds and pulp. 
  • Place in a jar with as much water as pulp.
  • Cover the jar loosely with a lid. You want a little air to get in.
  • Label as you go.
  • Keep at room temperature and out of direct sun for 3-7 days.
  • A layer of good mold will form on the surface. This moldy plaque forms a bacteria-killing anaerobic environment that also boosts germination.
  • After the mold forms, scoop it off, and dump everything else into a strainer under running water.
  • Rinse the seed and spread them out on a paper plate.
  • Label the plates as you go.
  • Let the seeds dry two weeks at room temperature.
  • When dry, pack the seed in paper packets or envelopes, and label as you go.
  • Store in the refrigerator if possible. If not, store at room temperature.
Light (HTW Tip)
To make sure your newly planted seeds receive enough light, there are a few things you can do. You can use fluorescent shop lights. Even better, if you have the resources available to construct a greenhouse or cold frame, your plants will receive natural sunlight. You can also start your seeds indoors in a window. However, Ms. Maruskin explained, “natural light from the average Kentucky kitchen window in March does not COMPLETELY satisfy the light requirements of tomato plants.” Incandescent light bulbs will not work. These light bulbs are typically found in lamps/lights. 
Make sure to turn off the lights at night so they plants will have a period of rest. If you leave the lights on 24/7, the plants become confused and end up performing worse than if you would’ve given them a little rest at night.

Light (HTW Tip)

To make sure your newly planted seeds receive enough light, there are a few things you can do. You can use fluorescent shop lights. Even better, if you have the resources available to construct a greenhouse or cold frame, your plants will receive natural sunlight. You can also start your seeds indoors in a window. However, Ms. Maruskin explained, “natural light from the average Kentucky kitchen window in March does not COMPLETELY satisfy the light requirements of tomato plants.” Incandescent light bulbs will not work. These light bulbs are typically found in lamps/lights.

Make sure to turn off the lights at night so they plants will have a period of rest. If you leave the lights on 24/7, the plants become confused and end up performing worse than if you would’ve given them a little rest at night.

Transplanting (HTW Tip)
Transplanting occurs when seedlings become too big for the container you have started them in. If you have started multiple seeds in one container, it is best to transplant them to their own individual containers when they have two sets of leaves. The first set of leaves you see from your seedling will actually be their cotyledons or their embryonic leaves. True leaves will begin forming as the second set of leaves. With tomatoes in particular, its true leaves will be serrated while its cotyledons are simple (not serrated). 
Transplant your individual plants to individual containers that are bigger. Make sure to create drainage holes once again and feed your newly transplanted seedlings with fertilizer. Also remember to label your plants as you go so you do not become confused as to what plant went where. We all think we know what plants are what until you become distracted and realize you have a bunch of seedlings and no idea which is which.

Transplanting (HTW Tip)

Transplanting occurs when seedlings become too big for the container you have started them in. If you have started multiple seeds in one container, it is best to transplant them to their own individual containers when they have two sets of leaves. The first set of leaves you see from your seedling will actually be their cotyledons or their embryonic leaves. True leaves will begin forming as the second set of leaves. With tomatoes in particular, its true leaves will be serrated while its cotyledons are simple (not serrated).

Transplant your individual plants to individual containers that are bigger. Make sure to create drainage holes once again and feed your newly transplanted seedlings with fertilizer. Also remember to label your plants as you go so you do not become confused as to what plant went where. We all think we know what plants are what until you become distracted and realize you have a bunch of seedlings and no idea which is which.

Seed-Starting Review (HTW Tip)

If you’re getting ready to start seeds for heirloom tomatoes (or any other seed), you need to make sure that you buy something that has “seed-starting mix” in its title. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we used Pro-Mix and Espoma seed starter mix for our seedlings. Potting soil doesn’t cut it if you’re looking to start seeds. If you’re a composter, you can use compost for seed-starting mix as well.

To start seeds you want to make sure your seed-starting mix is wet using warm water. If you’re planning to plant a bunch of seeds, put some of your mix in a big pan or pot for easy access. Fill your containers or flats with the seed-starting mix and then put your seeds on top. Cap it off with more seed-starting mix that is also moist.

If you can create a set-up for your newly planted seedlings, it is best to water from the bottom. This allows the plants to draw up the water, which makes them hardier and prevents overwatering.

Sustainable Agriculture Workshops

I attended sutainable agriculture workshops on Thursday, April 19 and Monday, April 30 at the Woodford County Library (Midway Branch). Julie Maruskin, the director of the Clark County Public Library, presented on heirloom tomatoes on the 19th and edible landscaping on the 30th. Through a series of blog posts, I will discuss what Ms. Maruskin shared with us. These posts will have #Sustainable Agriculture and #Maruskin.

To learn more about programs offered by the Clark County Library, please visit http://www.clarkpublib.org/Programs.htm. To learn more about programs offered by the Woodford County Library (Versailles & Midway), please visit http://woodfordcountylibrary.com/News.html.

Heirloom Tomato Workshop

Here are a few terms from the Heirloom Tomato Workshop with which novice gardeners (like me) may not be familiar. They do apply to many plants beyond tomatoes as well.

Heirloom plants are “open-pollinated varieties” and have to be at least “50 years old or older”

Open-pollinated (OP) plant “seeds will produce the same type of plant next year.” Not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms, but as we mentioned before, all heirlooms are by definition open-pollinators.

Hybrid plants are “bred from 2 or more OP varieties and will NOT produce plants like themselves next year.”