Color me GREEN

Thursday, April 15, 2010

ENVY is thy name. Glad to meet you.

One day after posting up some rather tempting pictures of our little tomato and pepper stater plant grow operation (which I was quite proud of mind you) -- well -- someone just had to pop that balloon.

What a mighty big PIN that was. The air in that balloon? Gone!

Listen -- I know there's some section of the Ten Commandments that says something along the lines of "Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor's Donkey" (among other things) -- but do you think the Good Lord in Heaven would apply that to -- say -- a neighbor's tomato starter plants?

He would? Dang. Major disappointment.

Well then -- I won't "covet." I'll just drool from a distance then. What do you mean by "that's the same thing as "covet?" How about admire? Is that OK?

I can't help but feeling this way after looking at some pictures of the tomato plants that Farmer Fred Hoffman has growing in that great big greenhouse of his. I mean -- we both planted seeds at right about the same time. But my tiny seedlings just do not compare to the California Coastal Redwood starters to the immediate left.

Those suckers are HUGE! Sure -- they're a tad "leggy." Who cares! Look at the stem growth on those things. Anyone who grows starter plants from direct seed would KILL for stem development like that.

Well -- perhaps "kill" is the wrong choice of words here. Drool? No -- I already used that. We'll stick with "admire" then.

So what gives? Why are Fred's starter plants that much larger? That much more lush? Well -- even though I don't have one and can't say for sure -- that nice greenhouse has to play some kind of role here. It's not the only thing -- to be sure. Fred's been at this game a little bit longer than I have -- a little bit longer than most of us.

The last time I spoke with Fred about tomato starter plants? Well -- let's see? It's been at least a month and a half. At that point in time -- many of my seeds had sprouted. Fred indicated that he was having germination problems. So -- at one point -- I was ahead in this game here.

Obviously -- something has changed between "then" and "now." Those pictures are fairly dramatic. As much as I've learned from him -- I also know that I have a long way to go. No -- I don't have a greenhouse. I don't have that advantage yet.

But it's more than "just a greenhouse." It's the expertise that comes with using a greenhouse in the correct matter -- or the right soil solution -- or the right fertilizer. The tomato starter plants in question will send you a message -- telling you what they really need.

It's up to you to "read the leaves."

It's just a guess on my part of course -- but something tells me Fred Hoffman is pretty darn proficient in this langauge.

Am I buttering him up in hopes that he'll cut loose with some starter plants? Of course! I'm not stupid! But it's more than that. In looking at the photos he provided?

I still have a lot to learn.

As we move into the prime tomato growing season that is summer -- a lot of this argument will become moot. Yes -- you can start tomatoes early. But those that are started later invariably catch up to the plants started indoors. In other words -- if you compare the two plants at the end of the summer? It will be tough to tell them apart.

That's why the lovely wife that is Venus and I will be doing a lot of direct seeding this weekend. More on the "direct seed" option in a future post.


Fred Hoffman said...

a) it is not a big greenhouse. It's only 8x12'.

b)If I had removed the shade cloth from the roof of the greenhouse last fall, there would have been less internodal spacing. If I had used artificial lighting, that would have helped also. But I didn't.

c)The trick to thick stems: have a fan blowing on the seedlings. Really!

d)Look at the difference in pot size, Bill. I used 4" azalea pots to start my tomato seeds. What are those in your place? one or two inches?? Bigger pot=bigger plants. But don't overdo it. Too big a pot, and you risk damping off.

e)When you go into their room,do you give your plants a bright and cheery, "Hello! How are you beauties doing today? You're looking good!"
I posted my soil and fertilizer regimen for the tomatoes at the Get Growing with Farmer Fred Facebook page. And thanks for drooling!

Bill Bird said...

I'm still drooling. WAIT -- let me check -- yes -- that's a puddle. Still drooling.

Garry said...

ah - so fred's real secret, he talks nice to them. no snarky comments, just nice soothinig words.

bill, i can tell you, i waiver back and forth between coveting a greenhouse, even though i know i wouldnt use it but 3-4 months a year (tomatoes only) and then there is the complete lack of perfect space for it. cant beleive on 1/2 acre, i dont have space - but with the trees, slope and house -- and future hot tub area, i just dont know what i can do.

but again, it seems fred does have some magic to get those starts looking good year after year.

and you are right at the end of summer, know one can really tell - but in early summer; fred's fatties will most likely pop out some of those red orbs, which all of us hold in such high regard, a few weeks earlier and thats where it pays off.