Posted in Oh noes!, Plants

I am April’s Fool

I never did call the Territorial Seed Company to change the delivery date of the two tomato starters. I sure meant to, but nope…slipped through the ol’ brain sieve.  Guess what arrived today?  Yep.

Of course this is right when the temps again started to plummet below freezing at night in particular. Snow has even been threatened in forecasts of late and near future, though what little did fall recently didn’t stick around.  I did get an email notice from TSC on the 31st heralding their arrival, but was frankly too embarrassed to post about it then though I did do some research to try to figure out how to not kill them.  The gig is up now, though, so here I am. Mea Culpa.

Fortunately, I was home on the computer and happened to notice I had a new email which stated they’d been delivered.  I was suspicious that I didn’t hear footsteps on the porch, but promptly stopped what I was doing to check.  There was indeed a box waiting for me.  It might have hit the high of 40°F by that time of day (roughly 2pm). I brought them in and was, I admit, afraid to open the box.

But open it I did, and found some paperwork they inserted along with the packing info paperwork before I dared look at them and was immediately relieved they weren’t outright dead, but concerned they looked wilted.  Before I realized I was doing it, I heard myself softly saying to the plants, “I’m so sorry.”  The paperwork actually explained there could possibly be wilt and more post shipping care, so I set it aside before I stared down at what was a rather well thought out shipping method for starter plants.

I then precariously balanced the open box on top of the dish rack with the one short edge tucked under the windowsill so they could at least get some of the remaining south sun.  I immediately paced through the house trying to busy work myself while I pondered the imminent problems ahead of them, though at least I manged to take care of two quick things on the To Do List which is awesome to behold. (Not really a fair tradeoff, if I’m being honest.)

I read the paperwork again.  Then I then braved figuring out the best way to extract them without causing further damage without cutting the box away around them if possible.  Since both pots were on one side, this wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  I meant to take pictures during, but at that point I was more worried about letting the plants know I did care even if I was an idiot.

The first plant I extracted had a leaf that was so wilted it had stuck to the cardboard support, and I didn’t notice until the tender shoot was ripped off.  Ack! The rest went fairly smoothly, just a bit of maneuvering where the bigger variety had some curling around and under at the latest growth.  I already had a few empty small glass bowls on the window, so I at first put one pot in each, cursing myself as I did because I realized I should have gone down the cellar to get a jug filled with saved rain barrel water so the water would already be in the bowls so less fussing.

One trip down and up later, and I lifted them up one at a time so I could pour a bit more than a half an inch of the rain water in the bowls before setting the pots back down. I was amazed at how quickly that water got sucked right up.  It seems the potting soil mix for them is slightly different, which might have to do with the fact that they are different types of tomato plants–not really sure.  I did add a bit more later to each, more for the taller regular tomato and less for the cherry. Then I wandered back into the office being of the mind to look for homemade fertilizer booster recipes just in case.

The kitchen windows still have not been reglazed (yes, I said reglazed–our 85 year old wood double hung windows are fixable, but we’re still not caught up on all the deferred maintenance left by the previous owners).  The indoor temperature was still fairly warm even after dinner when the sun had long set.  I was thinking of other possible solutions because I was worried putting them on top of a radiator for the night might be too much. I do still have one of those small rectangular heat pads with a cover, and was thinking of maybe using that or trying to fabricate a sort of mini glass house for the windowsill to help retain heat and moisture.  Apparently some folks put their tomato starters on top of the fridge because that’s always warm, but we have the equivalent of a two door office mini fridge, and when I felt under the microwave on top of it…not warmer than the rest of the room at all.  I left them on the sill.

Not long after, I went back into the kitchen to make some tea and realized how much the temperature had dropped. No way would it be good to leave them in there–tomatoes love warm.  (There used to be a radiator in the kitchen, but apparently it had cracked or busted somehow and was removed before we bought the house.  We honestly haven’t bought a replacement yet because although it is a bit cooler in winter in there, the temperature has never been an issue even for the plumbing.)  So, I picked them up and moved them to a room the cats never hang out in–the downstairs bathroom.

Temporary night time tomato starter home.
They both haven’t fully recovered from the wilt, but there is already definite improvement.

We had found some professionally made metal radiator covers in the garage, and although none seemed sized for the bathroom’s small radiator, the one cover would only fit on the two smallest we have. It has some sort of insulation (with our luck, asbestos) under the hinged lid, so anything on the top doesn’t get terribly hot–it’s a nice warm.

The current plan is to move them in there every night after sunset until it’s safer to try to get them outdoors and under the cloche, but keep them on the south facing kitchen window sill during days. I will likely repot them over the weekend so they don’t get rootbound.  I’ll also be looking into a few more methods of how to keep them alive until it would be the natural time to harden them off.  If anyone has suggestions, please do not hesitate to share them below in the comments.

Wish us luck!  The poor plants will need it.

Care to share thoughts on this?