A “Near Death Experience”- Seedling Style

Seedlings 1 week after transplanting up to pony packs. They are MUCH happier in a bigger home.

Actually, for some of my unique heirloom tomatoes and ALL of my baby bell pepper seedlings, it WAS a death experience. Sorry little guys!

I approached this ‘seed season’ with far more gusto than usual. After 20 years of growing seeds in my window sills or under lights in the basement I now have access to a REAL greenhouse at work. And not just any greenhouse, but a state-of-the-art facility that has every bell and whistle!

Or at least it’s supposed to. It’s not quite finished yet.

Succulents overwintering in the greenhouse- neither the heat nor the cooling systems work yet.

Still, I couldn’t resist the urge to plant some little tomato seedlings with the same big dreams that always accompany the planting of seeds. I had hoped that the greenhouse would be finished ‘any day’ since it’s nearly a year behind schedule but I should have known not to count on ‘almost finished’ applying to anything that is already a year behind schedule!


Various tomato varieties I am growing from the suppliers listed in the post

In anticipation of the new facility, I acquired some of the most unique tomato varieties I could find- no need to pay top dollar for them at the Farmer’s Markets. I ordered seed from Wild Boar Farms and purchased the rest locally through Kenyon Organics. I’ll have the “Farmer’s Market” in my own backyard. Sort of. Turns out I should have stuck to the ‘lights in the basement’ arrangement for now. Did I mention that greenhouse isn’t fully operational yet?

Little seeds all planted in plug trays.

It got up to 80 degrees last Saturday- unseasonably warm. I’m sure the temperature in greenhouse got a higher than that. Combine the high heat with the fact that my tiny, tender seedlings were only in little bitty plug trays AND that I had a jam-packed weekend with no time to run in to work to water them by hand- and you have a recipe for disaster! Sure enough, my poor little guys were mostly dead by the time I got in there! Sad days.

See how they are falling over and constricting? Some were even crunchy! Crunchy seedlings= bad!

I thought I had lost most of one tray and ALL of the second. Turns out I was able to salvage at least some from the second tray I thought was a goner. I won’t have nearly as many plants as planned- and some varieties I won’t have at all- but something is better than nothing! I am trying to decide whether or not to try a second sowing but I think we’re getting too close to the plant-out date now for it to be worthwhile- no sense growing them all season and then not having the tomatoes mature before the frost comes. I can’t quite decide if I should chance it or not.


Today I took my daughter to the greenhouse and we transplanted the little survivors of the Tomato Holocaust into larger digs. Hopefully they’ll all grow along nicely now. Hopefully. There will still be many chances for me to kill these little guys so I’ll be glad to get them safely outside by the ‘last frost date’!

Seedlings 1 week after transplanting up to pony packs. They are MUCH happier in a bigger home.

In the end, gardening is about learning. I know a lot about some things and very little about others. I’ve grown some things from seed but I certainly don’t think of myself as an expert in that regard. And you know what? It’s totally okay. Gardening is about the process as much as it is about the results! I have now learned a valuable lesson so hopefully I can avoid a repeat in the future.

Yes, I am fortunate to have access to what may SOMEDAY (insert long-suffering sigh) be a fabulous greenhouse. However, I’ve been more successful at growing seeds under shop lights in the basement than I have at growing them in a lovely ‘glasshouse’ so don’t think for a moment that the greenhouse is a requirement to succeed! Hopefully they really will get the thing finished and then much of the process can be on autopilot. Until then, we may well have weekend custody of the little critters to try and save who’s left!

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  • Rick
    April 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Oh no!!! That reminds me I better go water my seedlings!!!!! :)