Growing your own food is right up there with riding your bike when it comes to green acts. It doesn’t get more earth-friendly than the hundred foot diet.
With our short growing season, the tomatoes that we put in the ground in late May can’t be in seed form. Traditionally, Edmontonians head to their local nurseries when the time comes to buy tomato seedlings. With a bit of foresight, though, you can save yourself a bunch of money and reduce the impact of your tomatoes even further.
A couple of weeks ago I bought some open-pollinated tomato seeds from the good people of A’bunadh Seeds (from Cherhill Alberta – they had a booth at Seedy Sunday this year). I’m no seed expert, but I believe that open-pollinated means that I can harvest my own seeds from the resulting tomatoes (as opposed to hybrid seeds). Earth’s General Store sells some great seeds too.
Any old tomato seeds will do in a pinch though. I chose a yellow, cherry, paste and beefsteak varieties.
The way to start your own tomatoes from seed is to get a bunch of small containers, they could be anything from actual seedling containers to Tim Horton’s cups, and fill them with soil. The soil should come from your backyard. Conventional sources will always tell you to buy potting soil from your local Home Depot or nursery, but I’ve never done so.
Potting soil ranks up there with bottled water on the list of useless items that companies have manufactured demand for. One website claims “garden soil is not a good choice, as it compacts too easily and can harbour organisms that cause diseases.” So how exactly will your tomatoes grow in this disease-infested soil once you plant them in said garden? For large greenhouses that have disease problems, sterilized potting soil makes sense. For the backyard gardener, it’s just another example of diminishing returns on investment.
(fill some containers with backyard soil)
Once you have soil in containers, plant the tomato seeds about 1/8” deep. I labelled the containers with strips from an old Venetian blind that I found in the alley.
(pieces cut from old blinds make great signs to label plants with)
Now moisten the dirt with a bit of water and place the containers in the window.
(just water every four days and wait!)
It’s not too late to plant your own tomato seeds. The ideal date for starting the seedlings is March 25 (that’s what it says in the August Organics calendar), but even April 20th probably wouldn’t be too late.
I planted about $4.00 worth of seeds in 45 minutes. The 30 or so tomato seedlings that I end up with will be worth $90.00, so the whole exercise was low-impact and cost-efficient. Plus, there’s nothing quite like seeing the entire life cycle of your food. Somehow it just tastes better.