Tuesday, March 9, 2010

El Nino and Seedlings

We are not having a typical March in Southern California this year, or for that matter did we have a typical February.

This is an El Nino year, which occurs approximately every 5 years. This means that we get a lot of rain and temperatures are much cooler than normal.

This weather has wreck havoc on my seedlings. I have lost all of my Winter Melon and Charentais seedlings.

My Cherry Tomato seedlings have survived but have definitely not thrived. I had one Cherry Tomato seedling that was tall enough to transplant (see this blog entry). I transplanted that seedling two weekends ago and it has surprisingly done very well (see this blog entry)

Unfortunately, my other Cherry Tomato seedlings are much smaller (see the pictures at the top and below)

Because of a problem with my Grow Light setup, I only got one Cherry Tomato seedling during my first attempt at seed starting this year (see this blog entry). This was the Cherry Tomato seedling that I transplanted 2 weeks ago.

My other Cherry Tomato seedlings germinated 2 weeks later. We had decent weather in the last half of January and that enabled the first seedling to get a good headstart. The other seedlings suffered through the cold and wet February, which has stunted their growth.

See this blog entry and this blog entry for how my Cherry Tomato plants look a year ago at this time.

I probably made a mistake by turning off my Grow Lights right after the second batch of seedlings germinated (see this blog entry) But, I don't like to have my plants under the Grow Lights for too long. The light from the Grow Light is not the same as the natural light from the Sun. I find that if I leave Cherry Tomato plants under the Grow Light for an extended period, the plants grow long and spindly (i.e. "leggy").

I would rather take them outside and let them grow naturally. In the past this has worked well, but the El Nino weather pattern has messed this up.

Still, if you look at the Cherry Tomato seedlings in the pictures above, they look fine ("not leggy"). They have just not grown as well as you would expect 6 week old Cherry Tomato seedlings to look. I think they will be fine. If not, I can always clone new plants from my first Cherry Tomato seedling.

It was very windy today and I thought that the wind chill would lower the effective temperature that it might harm the Cherry Tomato seedlings, so I brought them all back inside tonight. Hopefully, the wind will die down tomorrow and I will be able to take them outside again.

My Dove Melon Hybrid seedlings are doing ok (see picture below). The seedlings are bigger than they were last week (see this blog entry). However, I am still waiting for them to grow their second set of leaves.

I started another batch of Winter Melon and Charentais seeds this past weekend. I am not using Grow Lights this time. Just leaving them outside like I did the Dove Melon seeds (see this blog entry)


  1. Hi SoCal Gardener,
    Well that is one advantage of starting early :-) ... you still have time to try new things ... I agree with you ... the weather has been all over the place.

    I posted a comment recently about my concern of hardening off the seedlings since I work long hours. I took your advice and put them in partial sun. They're doing pretty good. I got a little sunburn on my cucumbers and melon seedlings. But, for crying out loud ... they all started blossoming ??? Strange!

    This weekend I'm going to move my tomatoes outside to start hardening off. Remember, I'm a few weeks behind you. I've kept mine under lights this whole time and they are thriving (not spindly). I have graduated them up to larger containers which has helped them to grow bigger.

    I'd be happy to share my seedlings with you ... I planted way too many. Maybe we could meet half way somewhere some weekend. I have a large assortment of heirloom variety tomatoes.

    But, to be honest, my seedlings are ready to go in the ground, but, I'm not ready yet. Yes, I think the weather has not been cooperating.

    Happy gardening,

  2. Thanks for your offer, but I think I have enough Cherry Tomato seedlings.

    I planned to stagger the transplanting anyway so that I do not get overwhelmed with Cherry Tomatoes like I did last year, so this actually is not a bad thing.

  3. Hi SoCal Gardener,
    That's cool. I've gotten a lot of good advice from your blog. I would have liked to pay it forward :-). I don't have the heart to thin out seedlings, so, now I have well over a hundred seedlings growing (tomatoes, peppers, melons, okra, chard, spinach, etc.). I only know a few people that do patio gardening. I'm thinking of taking the extras to my kid's school or the community garden and giving them away.

    Happy gardening,

  4. Just found this nice blog - great! Good job, too Chris - yes, giving plants away is good & can become addictive :). We've been giving away organic heirloom tomato plants grown by one of our most ardent gardeners (he plants around 500 seeds!) for a few years now. Last year we started a Garden Club to make our giving away more efficient :). Anyway, the Great Tomato Give Away is at Irvine Presbyterian church this sunday (march 21, sorry its too late now) and next (March 28) between the morning worship services, ~10 am. Irvine Pres is across from Woodbridge High on Alton. See here address: http://www.irvinepres.org/