It’s Time to Start Tomatoes by Seed!
My biodynamic calendar tells me so
Each year I look forward to starting tomatoes indoors around this time. Generally if someone asks me when to plant tomatoes, I’ll say, “April 10 at 11 a.m.” I say that to give a laugh, but it’s about right. That will give you six to eight weeks of tending the seedlings, which is about right. Twelve weeks is way too long, though many people do it.
These seedlings are too big for their 6-packs and need bigger pots
But I actually consult the Stella Natura calendar to guide me exactly when to plant. It is a biodynamic calendar that takes into consideration the location of the moon, sun, stars and planets and charts out every hour of the day, year round. It is based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner, the man who started the biodynamic farming movement.
This year a good time for planting tomatoes and other fruits starts at 4 pm on Wednesday, April 5 and goes until 9 pm on Saturday, April 8. During that time there is a blackout period during which no planting is recommended from 3 to 7 am on Friday.
Why do I trust the Stella Natura calendar? Because I’ve tested it, and it seems to work. There are 4 groups of plants that are listed in the calendar: fruits, flowers, roots and leaves. Tomatoes are in the fruits group along with cucumbers, beans, peppers, grains and more. Yes, you could plant these on flower days as a tomato must have a flower before the fruit. Similarly, roots and leaves overlap to a certain degree.
Kohlrabi starts best on a leaf day
According to the calendar, “Cauliflower and kohlrabi develop best when sown on leaf days. Broccoli, on the other hand, shows that flower days produce large, firm heads whereas those sown on leaf days are mostly leaves… Potatoes, leeks and onions, while not technically roots, develop best when planted on root days.” The calendar is a useful guideline for cultivating and harvesting food, too.
Some years ago I tested a “blackout” day by planting when nothing should be planted, according to Stella Natura. On a Monday, a leaf day, I planted a 6-pack of lettuce seeds indoors. The next day, a black out day, I planted lettuce again. Same seeds, same soil mix, location. Everything the same. But while the first seeds pretty much all germinated and grew well, those planted on a blackout day germinated at a low rate – roughly 33% - and never thrived.
This made me wonder about seed failures I’ve had in the past. Before I used the Stella Natura calendar I occasionally had seeds fail. I assumed it was due to poor quality of the seeds or my own negligence. Did I let the seeds dry out before the seedlings came up? Did something come along and steal my seeds if planted directly outdoors?
The calendar does not pretend to be an absolute set of rules. It recognizes that our lives are busy and that we cannot always follow the set guidelines. “So it is helpful to spot a second-best time,” it cautions. But I never plant seeds deliberately in a black out time.
I plant 20 or more kinds of tomatoes each year, and am looking forward to planting them this week. And if you have had luck using the Stella Natura calendar – or not – you can leave a comment below.
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