I missed the first day of Spring by two days due to the rain (see puddle). Today granted a bit of sun, so I rolled up my sleeves and tackled two of my spring goals: Thai chili peppers (see below) and a tomato plant (above, far right). I also threw in a new spearmint plant (above, far left), to replace two mints that died.
The Internet has a glut of information on growing tomatoes, so I won't belabor the details. In fact, don't rely on my tips, since this is my first attempt at growing tomatoes. My experiment could very well turn out to be a failure. But I'm staying optimistic. At least I know my balcony is blessed with (usually) good weather and full sun exposure.
[That crazy purple plant is an ornamental kale that has bolted on me. Definitely M's excited idea, not mine.]
The Bare Minimum for Tomatoes:
Tomato plant, container, and support
Tomato plants should have plenty of room for their large root systems to spread. Pick a wide and deep container, preferrably of a material that won't dry out quickly, since tomato plants need frequent watering. I picked plastic because it was cheap and lightweight and made sure to punch holes at the bottom for drainage.
You'll also need support to prevent the plant from growing sideways (thus causing fruit rot). You have a few options, from wooden stakes and trellises to metal cages. I got an iron cage.
The kind of tomato you plant may affect the type of container you use. I chose a Brandywine heirloom because it sounded delicious but should have probably reconsidered. This plant is "indeterminate," meaning it won't grow to a set height but instead will grow like a monster.
(You'll also need soil (duh) and fertilizer. Keep reading.)
Biodegradable Egg Cartons
This is to keep soil from falling out the holes
and to (maybe?) help with drainage.
Soil and Fertilizer
Fill 3/4 of the container with potting soil. Add fertilizer. My slow-release fertilizer pods disintegrated because of the rain, hence the scattered mess.
After removing the tomato plant from its pot and gently massaging the roots, center the plant on top of the soil. I dug a little hole to let the roots extend downward. Now fill the container with more potting soil, leaving an inch of space at the top.
Finally, some support
If you have a tomato cage, bury it about six inches deep into the soil, around the plant. Be careful not to damage the plant roots while doing so. You want to install the cage early; if you wait, the roots will have grown, and the cage might damage them further (or so I read online).
And there you have it. Your first tomato plant!
Moving on . . .
Nothing more than a plant and some soil.
Seed starter: Thai chili peppers
Here, a cardboard toilet paper roll is useful. Use scissors to make four equidistant cuts at one end of the roll, each about a 1-1.5 inches long.
Fold in each of the flaps and secure with tape.
Measure out your seeds.
Fill the roll partway with soil, deposit the seeds, add 1/4" layer of soil, and moisten with a few drops of water. There's no need to use the entire length of the roll to start seeds, so you can cut away the excess upper third. I will cut these flaps off eventuallly but thought they made a nice flower effect.
Your seed starter is finished!
Keep it moist and in the sun, and hopefully you will see little green bits soon.