Today I moved my tender tomato starters into pots and put them under a grow light in my kitchen window. I’ve done all that I can do for them. Now I’ll have to see if it was enough to get back some love.
I also put my lettuce starters in one of my “salad bowls” in the mini-greenhouse on our south facing deck. I covered them with, appropriately, a salad bowl inside the greenhouse, because it’s supposed to freeze tonight.
So far my winter tomato romance has all been in my head. I would probably tell someone else to eat seasonally; enjoy tomatoes in summer. But I am infatuated with the idea of fresh, tasty tomato with our dinner salad. Despite the negative feedback, I have not given up. I am still doing what I can to cultivate a relationship between me and my heirloom tomatoes that’s more than a summer romance.
I am still amazed by the humble seed. It is mind boggling to me how a tiny tomato seed can become a vine with pounds of produce hanging from its extended branches. I know it’s only January, but I am getting an early start this year. One reason I am starting early is that I don’t have many flowers in my deck pots right now. I want to fill them with cheerful winter hardy flowers. Why do people call people pansies when they want to say that they are weak? Pansies might look weak, but they are hardy. Last week I said I had bought all my seeds for the year. I guess I lied. I spent another seven bucks on pretty flowers….
Maybe I’m stubborn. Or maybe I have to try a different variety of tomato to grow in winter. I’m going to go with the second thought for the time being. It seems obvious, though, that my Cherokee Purple heirloom variety is not exactly thriving in my kitchen this winter, not even with a grow light. At six in the morning it is bathed in light while it is still dark outside. From a distance it looks really discouraging, and maybe time to scrap the idea as not worth the electric bill for the twelve hours of artificial light that I am bestowing on my tomato, (a celery too.)
But! I haven’t given up yet, because if you look closely, the growth at the bottom looks new and healthy.
At this rate, though, I will be having spring tomatoes, not winter ones. This is what I call learning by doing, as opposed to fantasizing about fat, juicy tomatoes greeting my in my kitchen in the middle of February….
I have finally accepted that a tomato is not going to grow in winter, not even in a greenhouse, without some extra hours of sunlight. I am down to one tomato starter that is still alive almost half way through December. I am determined for it stay alive, and also to get a few tomatoes from it! So I bought a grow light, my first one ever.
Mr. Nathan Vannette gave an information packed lecture about best practices here in the Upstate of South Carolina for keeping a garden going year round. Now, I have to confess I was a little disappointed, but that’s because I have a tomato growing in my kitchen right now, and I thought I was going to leave the class with what I needed to plant that baby and get some tomatoes this winter. Well, that turns out to be more fantasy than reality for now. That’s because Mr. Vannette ever-so-politely informed me that I would need a grow light to get any tomatoes at all, cuz there’s just not enough hours of light around here. A fully constructed greenhouse with a grow light is not in the cards right now, but maybe an LED light in my kitchen?
I don’t know if my plants in my greenhouse died because they got too dry in the daytime, or if it was because there’s a hole in the plastic at the bottom, or if there is too much air coming up from underneath the deck and I should seal that off, or if I should have watered them even more. I have got to learn the right moves.
I wanted to wait. I was hoping I could let these tomatoes grow another week or two. But I was afraid of losing them. That’s the way it goes. If I’m lucky I’ll be slicing my last red tomato for a Thanksgiving salad.