Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 93 of the Basil Aerogarden...Day 1 of the Cherry Tomato Aerogarden!

Today is a momentous day for me. Granted, I have no life, but that's another thing altogether.

For the first time since the mid-1980's, I have planted tomato seeds. When I was a kid, I used to live in central New Jersey. Our neighborhood was literally built on the site of an old potato farm, so the soil lived up to the state's moniker as "The Garden State". My banner year came when I was in high school. Once summer, I had so many tomato plants growing that by the end of August, I literally couldn't pick them anymore...I had eaten or given away tomatoes to everyone I knew, so I just had to leave them on the vine. (Sadly, back then, I didn't know what I know now about making tomato sauce and canning tomatoes).

Then, college came and then I went out on my own. I lived in a co-op in Montclair, New Jersey for a couple years, and now I live in a co-op in Great Neck, New York. You guessed it. I don't even have a square foot of land to call my own.

So, the Aerogarden has let me exercise my green thumb again. And now that it appears that I've conquered basil, the next challenge is...cherry tomatoes.

My goal? Before the end of this year, I want to make an insalata caprese and a margherita pizza using only fresh-grown ingredients from my Aerogarden!

The first step was to open the box of cherry tomato seeds.

Next, I took my old Aerogarden (the one which was growing the mixed gourmet herbs), and cleaned it out. This was my first Aerogarden, which I haven't written about in this blog, but it's served it's purpose well for many, many months.
While the instruction booklet says to throw out the old seed pods, I decided to try to transplant the surviving herbs: the thyme, chives, mint, and basils into traditional soil pots (I had stopped harvesting the dill, parsley, and cilantro a long time ago).
I removed the bowl from the main unit and cleaned it inside and out with warm water and soap. The only slightly tricky part was cleaning the roots and a little gunk that had accumulated around the pump, but that cleaned up real good. I also followed the instructions in the manual to clean the innards by filling the unit with water and a cup of bleach for 1-2 minutes. Before you know it, my little Aerogarden was good as new.
The rest took a grand total of 11 minutes.

I filled the base with water.

Then, I replaced the top and put in the seed pods.

One interesting thing the cherry tomato set has that other Aerogardens don't is a "plant spacer". While some may be tempted to feel a bit short-changed by this, as an old tomato farmer, I know exactly why they do this. A tomato plant needs a lot of space to spread out, and counterintuitively, one plant with plenty of room to grow will produce many more tomatoes than two plants which are competing for room and light.

Here's what the unit looked like with all the seed pods.

Next step was to drop the two nutrient tablets in the green bag. I really like how Aerogarden makes these steps consistent across all the seed kits.

The next step was to select "Tomatoes/Peppers" from the control panel. Each setting regulates how much light and how often the pump runs in order to promote the best growth. I also made a point to start the cycle during the daytime, to give the tomatoes some totally "dark time", which is needed for the plants to thrive.

And so, here's the unit with the seed pods and the hoods over them.

And so, stay tuned. And for those still interested in the basil, they are drinking up water at an incredible pace now, and they started to hit the lights again, so I pruned some more. I plan tomorrow to go out and buy a blender/food processor so I can start making those additional recipes!

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