Tomato tricks

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

My story today about the growing interest in vegetable gardening included a simple trick to give your tomato seedlings an early boost before they go outside. Jeff Clarke of Camden Children's Garden shared this in the workshop I attended last week: Go ahead and buy your seedlings now. It's not a great idea to put them in the ground yet, even though weekend temperatures will be in the upper 80's. As Jeff explained, it's the temperature of the soil that matters, not the air. The soil is still too chilly for tomatoes.

Jeff cuts the top off a plastic soda bottle - or, in this case, a seltzer bottle - fills it with potting medium and puts his seedling in there. Set it in a sunny window and water it to keep it damp. The space in the bottle will soon be filled with roots. When you finally do plant, your roots will be much farther along than if you'd just bought a seedling in one of those tiny pots. 

Such a simple, inexpensive idea. See - talking to other gardeners really pays off!  And there's nothing we like better than free advice.