Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Going Heirloom

For the past couple of years I have been wanting to grow some heirloom vegetable plants. An heirloom plant is basically a plant that you can collect the seeds to grow more plants in subsequent years. Most plants and seeds purchased at local nurseries or home improvement stores are hybrids which means that they are genetically altered to grow fruit that is high in quality and disease resistant and good for mass production. However, the seeds from hybrid plants are unreliable and if collected and sown will not likely produce a similar product the following year. Don't ask me why this is. I'm not a botanist, just a gardener. Anyway, I just thought it would be cool to have heirloom seeds so that 1) we can save money each year by not having to buy pepper and tomato plants, and 2) to take us one step closer in being self-sufficient in the whole gardening thing.

This year I finally remembered to order my seeds early so I could start some bell pepper and tomato seedlings indoors. I think I found a good supplier at They have a good catalog you can order for free too, if you are interested in seeing what they have to offer. (I was up until about 2AM last night browsing through it.)

Bell peppers and tomatoes need to be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. They are not good plants to be directly sown in the ground in the Spring because they have a long growing period. So last night I started my peppers and tomatoes. I am hoping really hard that this will work. As soon as they sprout I am going to put them under some florescent lighting for about 16-18 hours per day. I haven't had the best of luck starting seeds indoors in past years. Natural sunlight seems to make the seedlings very leggy and weak. I am determined to do it right this time. I even gave my precious seeds a nice heating pad to warm their bottoms because they germinate best at temps of 70-85 degrees. I even put a thermometer in the soil to monitor their temp. So now the hoping begins. I also told my kids tonight that they are welcome to pray for Mommy's seeds.

Here is my setup:

I put the Jiffy Seed Starter Greenhouse in my husband's office because it is the warmest room in the house with several computers running. The heating pad is still necessary though. Unfortunately the heating pad has an automatic shut-off so I have to run up there several times a day to turn it back on if I want the soil temp to be just right. (I'm too cheap to invest in a real seed starting heating pad.) I also have an aluminum cake pan and lid with some more green peppers. As of now I have a hopeful 30 tomato plants and 44 green peppers. We aren't going to plant them all. There will be some lucky neighbors and friends if my experiment is a success.

But this whole seed starting thing leads me to wonder if the early pioneers ever ate tomatoes and peppers? Starting seeds indoors is kind difficult even in this modern world. I'm not sure that the pioneers would've had sufficient light and heat inside their cabins to get high quality seedlings. If anyone has the answer to this I would greatly appreciate the insight. From what I read online, tomatoes and peppers don't seem to be mentioned as part of a pioneer diet. It seems they stuck to corn, potatoes, beans, squash, and greens. I suppose that also means that the pioneers didn't eat BLT's. How sad. Maybe they were satisfied with just BL's.


  1. How exciting. Our last frost date is May 15.

  2. I am sure the pioneers ate tomatoes, especially the immigrants from Italy. I start my tomatoes inside with none of the fancy equipment (my pots are toilet paper rolls) and they did fine. I do get good morning sun in the kitchen where they grow though.

    And yes, even though I have all my seeds from last year, plus a container of hand harvested seeds someone gave me...I got the catalog and will probably order some more. You know, my flower beds could use some more herbs in them.