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Germinating Chile Seeds

  • MGZ Feb 19, 2014 06:06 AM
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I am a Jersey Shore gardener. I plant tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, and whatever else, every year, around Mother's Day, using plants that I buy. I have had trouble, however, finding seedlings for the super hot chiles that I enjoy and cannot buy. Thus, for Christmas this year, I ordered a bunch of seeds of Beelzebub's favorite varieties - Carolina Reaper, Bhut, Seven Pot, etc. I want to make some fire in our sandy soil.

So I ask you my fellow chow producing 'hounds, how should I best approach germinating the multitude of seeds I have acquired? I have an East facing window in the house that is capable of keeping my potted herbs growing all year long (if that helps).

Thanks, in advance.

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  1. We also find that the seed catalogs have a better selection of the varieties we like to grow.
    Germinating the seeds is easy, growing them to transplantable size is the problem.
    In fact todays project is starting peppers and broccoli !

    This year we are using 3 inch square peat pots to hold moistened Pro-Mix BX . Each pot, 20 for peppers,and 20 for broccoli, will get 1 to 2 seeds each, buried about 1/4 of an inch deep. We leave about 1/4 inch above the soil line to top of pot to allow for watering, let it almost dry out, then water.

    The soil is kept moist but not soaked.
    The pots are put under fluorescent grow lights , always keeping the light within an inch of the plant, adjusting according to growth. The broccoli will sprout first, within 10 days, the peppers will take longer, up to 21 days. This is all done indoors at 60-70 degrees F. We thin to one plant per pot after they have grown a bit, second set of leaves.
    The hardest part is giving the plants enough light!!!! We never had success with just a south facing window,hence the grow lights. If they do not get enough light they will get leggy and not thrive.They lights are on for at least 12 hours a day, but not 24 hours.
    We plan on planting the broccolli in the garden in mid April, the peppers in late May.
    We fertilize with a weak all purpose solution of a generic miracle grow type product after a month or so.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Raffles

      Not sure where you are, Raffles. I'm west of Cleveland pretty close to the lake and we, too, plant late May. I was surprised to read you are starting peppers now. I had planned on hot peppers starting +/- March 22 and sweet ones +/- April 5. Have you always started peppers this early?

      1. re: gourmanda

        We have started around St.Pats Day in the past with our new grow light set up in little 6 or 8 packs in flats. We always wound up with very small plants in 2 months. This year we are trying the bigger 3 inch square peat pots to make a bigger plant. We are in the Finger Lakes of NY now, but we plant our garden in the Adirondack Mts, where the growing season is much shorter, by an extra zone....we plan on using floating row covers in the spring and fall.
        The broccoli are frost tolerant so we get them going as soon as we can, hopefully in the ground by mid April.
        We grow all our own veggies, and for an other family, from April to October...

        Ahh the stories of gardening in the ADKs Mts....

        We will direct seed all kinds of greens,peas, in April also....3 weeks for something!

        Then rhubarb, asparagus,start to come up....and we direct seed summer crops..we gave up on tomatoes, just not enough warm nights...

        1. re: gourmanda

          I about 50 miles south of you and I start my pepper seeds about St Pats days. I start them in egg cartons that I transfer to grow lights when they are an inch of so high.

          I plant them outside during the first few weeks of May and cover with milk jugs if there is a threat of frost.

          I order my seeds from Pepper Joes.

      2. my favourite way of sprouting seeds is between two moist paper towels. set on top of fridge so there is slight bottom heat. don't let dry out but don't have water siting in dish. then you know your germination rate so don't have to over or under plant.

        esp ones like tomatoes, chills other ones don't think to be disturbed like cucumbers.

        now I do way to many tomatoes so I just load up a flat of 6 pack trays. put in my seedling mix (i use sunshine 2?) and make sure to pre wet soil really well esp when using a mix with a lot of peat. Then take a pencil and poke wholes as deep as i want in all the spaces and pop seeds in. cover with plastic dome.

        what tomatos are you saving seed from that you use?

        I am going to try some piri piri pepper seeds my mom brought back from portugal in my paper town method will let you know how it works. They have been dry for 3 years, might be to long.

        1. I grow chillies with quite a bit of success every year. We don't usually have a lot of heat in the UK (apart from the last wonderful year!) but the secret of success as far as I can see is, they like a long growing season so the earlier in February you can plant, the better. I did mine last weekend. They are in pots of standard compost, on a windowsill which gets sun when there is some, and is also near a radiator.

          When they are around 3 inches high, I transfer them to larger pots and put them outside in the sunniest part of the garden. I don't plant them directly in the soil, because sadly, most of the soil is in the shade (too many trees in my neighbours' gardens!). I usually leave one outside the kitchen window for ease of leaning out and grabbing a chilli when needed. Good luck! Very satisfying plants to grow.

          1. If you can rig up a light table, I think they'll do better and prevent tall, scraggly plants. I think there are plans for rigging things up. I start out using a plastic dome over the planting tray that hold the little 6-pack containers and always water from the bottom. Take the dome off once you have good germination. I think the lights need to be on more than 10 hours. Our days aren't long enough yet and it's about time to start peppers in your area, I think. We use old florescent lights hung from chains so the lights can be lifted as the plants get taller.

            3 Replies
            1. re: dfrostnh

              Heat mats really speed up germination and early growth for plants that like warmth such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

              I too use fluorescent lights on chains and clear plastic covers on the seed trays. The combination lets me seed a good two weeks later than people who try to grow seedlings on window sills and produces much stockier plants.

              1. re: Eldon Kreider

                Agreed. I starting seeds today, and I believe the instructions from the company (Tomato Growers Supply)says 75-80 degrees for tomatoes, and 80-90 for peppers. For me, bottom heat seems to make a real difference with peppers, especially the hard to germinate ones.Then again,my seed strarting set up is in my N. Cal garage. It's usually in the sixties in there around this time of year.

                And if you are not ready to "spring" (ha ha!) for real heat mats, I've heard top of the refrigerator is about right, or an electric blanket. Do the still make those?

                BTW, the light should be fairly close to the seedlings, and you can put something under trays with shorter plants, so they can all be close enough.

                This year I am planning 8 tomato varieties and six sweet and hot peppers. I used to do dozens,but I've learned my lesson.

                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  good point about the heat mat and keeping light close to seedlings.

            2. I personally had a dfficult time with Bhut Jolokias I tried two years ago. I was able to get the seeds to sprout (grow lights) but when they reached a few inches they died. I don't know what happened because I have successfully grown tomatoes from seeds. I grow other hot peppers from plants, habaneros, jalapenos (grow like weeds, very easy) from starts but failed on the Ghost peppers.

              Lowes and HD, Walmart, Target, etc all sell small seed starter kits. Very easy, but generally, I don't think tomatoes or peppers do well with just window light. I have found they need the more intense fluor or grow lights. The hardest part of growing from seed is a successful transition from inside to outside.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                sounds like something called 'damping off'. you can put something called no damp in your soil before you pack into pots or water in after.

                1. re: daislander

                  or just water with chamomile tea. It kills the bacteria/fungus that causes dampening off.

                  1. re: Novelli

                    but it does not cure a sick plant, remember to let the soil surface "almost' dry out between waterings!!!!and to use sterile medium and flats! No using last years medium, flats, etc unless you sterilize! which I think is not worth it....I have been growing transplants for 30 years, both in a small commercial greenhouse setting, and at home, never been damped off using these methods.

                2. re: Jerseygirl111

                  I managed to get 6 Bhuts to sprout in 2012 but only one grew to adult size because most died off when they were an inch or so high. They are a very fussy pepper to grow so I didn't grow them again in 2013. I didn't enjoy the extreme heat so now I'm back to red savinas for my hottest pepper.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    I agree. I have heard they are not an easy pepper. Also my seeds were given to me from someone that obtained a pepper, not a packet, so who knows how healthy they were.

                    I also agree it might have been damping off but oddly, none of my other seed starts were affected. I had tomatoes, cukes and corn too.

                3. Not sure where you are in Jersey, NJ isn't that big, check out Cross Country Nurseries. I've had plants shipped from them for several years and have always been happy. They may not have all varieties, but they have a few, 500 according to their website.

                  https://www.chileplants.com/aboutus.a...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chileheadmike

                    Not saying I'd like to be back east right now, but I sure wish Cross Country was closer. They will ship "cross country" but that shipping costs, and I think it's a 6 or 12 plant minimum. Last year I had them ship me stuff to California! They have about 3 varieties of aji dulce, and three of scotch bonnets. Last fall they shipped some peppers, and they have seeds for some varieties as well.

                  2. Others have addressed the germination (i.e. heating pad, damp sterilized starting mix, etc.). I am a little concerned about the seedlings after they sprout (by the way, peppers ay take more than a week to germinate.)

                    An east window does not usually furnish enough light for peppers or tomatoes, leading to spindly plants. I use 2-bulb shop-lights (fluorescents) placed closely above the plants, and move them to a plastic greenhouse outside when they get too big for the light shelf. Don't be in a rush to transplant outside. Harden off 5+ days (60-65°, reduced water) before transplanting 2-3 weeks after last frost when weather is warmer, and use plastic cover to preheat soil.