The Kids Are Alright...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

For those of you who are as "Mathematically Challenged" (Dumb as Rocks) as I am -- please answer the following question:

When do three flats containing 72 tomato and pepper starter plants suddenly equal nine flats and 216 tomato and pepper starter plants?

If you answered "second planting," WRONG!

But if you guessed that the wonderful wife that is Venus and I got a little *ahem* "generous" with our seed distribution efforts in those first three flats? DING! You're ready for Alex Trebek.

What do you win if you answered the math question correctly? Let me check my supply of used cat hair -- and I'll get back to you on that. Vanna White -- I'm not.

I thought that Venus and I would be a tad late with our tomato and pepper plant starters this year (we started our seeds on the weekend after the Super Bowl) -- but our local weather has been more than highly unpredictable. It's been downright pathetic.

At this point last year? Venus and I had already received our starter plants courtesy of Farmer Fred Hoffman and half had already been planted. Why did someone as famous as Fred Hoffman "volunteer" to grow starter plants for our North Natomas farm? Does a hearty contribution to the Hoffman Foundation of Fine Scotch begin to answer that question?

But this year -- contribution or no -- the decision was made to strike out on our own. My decision? Oh -- HECK NO! I begged and pleaded on bended knee for another starter plant offering from the Hoffman estate. I even entertained the thought of enlisting the support of the Sacramento branch of Al Qaeda to change Fred's line of thinking -- but alas -- we were on our own.

See? This is what happens. The happy North Natomas gardeners start with three simple trays containing 24 cells each. Two months later? I'm seriously considering knocking out one of the bedroom walls in an attempt to gain more growing space. Heirloom tomatoes make you crazy. Not wives -- tomatoes.

But -- so far -- everything is working. In fact -- I'm more than a little surprised by the results of our plant separation efforts. We didn't do anything fancy mind you. When the time finally came to separate plants -- Venus and I literally tore them out of each cell and then re-planted into new trays. End result? Take a good look. The trays containing the transplants are actually doing BETTER than the trays that contain the original plantings.

How is this happening? Why is this happening? I'm not sure. The jury-rigged -- excuse me -- professional light system setup we're using is just extensive enough to cover three trays. The problem is -- we have nine. Those that are closest to the light source should be doing better.

But they're not. The transplants furthest from the light source have actually grown at a faster rate and look healthier than the starter plants that were not rudely ripped from their homes and transplanted into another tray.

We didn't change our methods much during the transplant process -- a job that we undertook in stages. We used the same "Black Gold" seed starter mix that we used for the first three trays. I continue to fertilize my seedlings with a weak mixture of a liquid organic fertilizer called Omega 2000

So what gives? I'm not sure. For those of you who are visiting the blog for the first time expecting expert advice -- I'm really sorry to tell you that not only are you going to be sorely disappointed -- but you've come to the wrong place. Despite what you may have read recently in your local newspaper -- about the only expertise I have is in the consumption of fine gin that comes from a plastic bottle.

What I can tell you is this: There are 216 tomato, pepper and eggplant starters that are growing in a spare bedroom. Instead of just two varieties of each heirloom tomato starter -- I suddenly find myself with four or five. Instead of one or two varieties of peppers (sweet, hot and VOLCANIC) -- there are six.

I suppose I could plant all 216 starter plants in my backyard. But -- at last check -- I still hadn't gotten around to building raised beds on the roof of our home. Therefore -- yes it's true -- Venus and I will be parting with a great many of our plants when the time comes.

This is provided -- of course -- that I don't kill them all off during the hardening process. What's that? Can that possibly happen? Does gin come in a plastic bottle???


Fred Hoffman said...

Bill: Even Peaceful Valley won't claim that Omega 2000 is a fertilizer. There is no nutritional analysis on the label. But it works well as an adjunct to fertilizer. These were started on Feb. 14 from seed using fish emulsion, kelp and Omega 2000:!/photo.php?pid=11488&id=101135776596504

Roya Rose said...

I'm hoping I can trade you a bottle of cheap gin for some of those starters when the time comes...
With TWO little ones walking around and TWO nutso cats....every time I tried to get started on seeds, something got in the way:)

Maybe this year I'll actually get to meet the fabulous Birds!

NeCole said...

If bartering booze for plants is the name of the game, then county me in! I started some plants from seed this year, but not peppers and tomatoes. I'd happily take some off your hands. If there are other items on your "barter" list, please post that list.

Steve said...

Bill: Thanks for your Blog-found through the Sacramento Bee.

I am a Californian (from Tracy) transplanted to San Antonio Texas due to a Job move.

I can't tell you how much I miss the ease of access to such wide variety of produce as you have in California. I hope all your readers realize how lucky they are.

Am moving back in a couple years when I retire ( we bought land near Oroville) and will enjoy your blog in the meantime.

Once again, thanks for such an entertaining blog.

Bill Bird said...

There will be no BARTERING for anything. Roya? NeCole? I will be BEGGING you to take as many starter plants that I have off my hands. You are free to take as much as you can carry. Is that clear? Both of you? Anyone else who reads this blog posting? Fred Hoffman? (like you'll really need it). Fred -- I will start mixing some of the kelp and normal fish emulsion fertlizer with the Omega in hopes that will give the plants a boost.

Bill Bird said...

Oh -- and Steve -- thanks for reading and I hope you reach that retirement life soon. I have a friend from Southern California who taught me how to build the best tomato cage ever (from PVC) who just finished up his last day on the job -- and is now growing tomatoes and drinking fine wine 24/7, 365. We should all be so lucky. As for me, I am merely preparing for my retirement occupation, in the garden section of Home Depot.

Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

Bill & Venus,

I grew way to many tomatos and peppers too! 72 of each. I was feeling ambitoius. Last year I had bad tomato plants! Maybe we could trade! I was thinking of trying the omega 2000, but I usually just use rabbit poo tea! Works well

Greg Damitz said...

I'll be looking for some tomato plants. My late starts are way too small. If you've got extra we can barter.


NeCole said...

Bill, I would be happy to "help" you by taking some plants off your hands. I'll send you my phone number via email, please let me know when it's convenient for you. I'm a SAHM and my time is flexible.