In this section we will discuss everything that is necessary in turning seeds into seedlings. If you purchased seedlings from a nursery, you can go ahead and skip this step.
Lets start by talking about acquiring seeds. When it comes to peppers and tomatoes there are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties to choose from. Personally before I choose the coolest looking peppers, or tomatoes to grow, there are a few considerations that I tend to make. The list of these considerations is in a specific order according to my needs. You may choose to change the order, or add or remove items all together. On our website www.growpepperseeds.com we have detailed plant information for many types of pepper and tomato plants that is constantly being updated. This is my list of considerations.
I have pepper plants that did not even get a foot high, yet I have had others that reached well over six feet tall. If I end up with an open spot to put a new variety, I choose something that will fit into available space.
2. Time to Mature
I have Thai Bird Peppers that produce and ripen in a couple of months, yet Rocoto varieties can take upwards of years. Depending on your growing season and time of year, this could be a huge consideration.
3. Heat / Flavor
Everyone has a preference of how hot they like their peppers, or what flavors they prefer in their peppers and tomatoes. Personally I use a variety of peppers and tomatoes in my day to day cooking. If your making soup, then a ghost pepper is probably going to be way too spicy. If your making a double batch of chili, then you will probably want something a little hotter than jalapenos. Tomatoes have completely different flavors from one variety to another. Personally I use red cherry tomatoes for hot sauce, black/purple varieties on sandwiches, yellows for fish dishes, and romas for spaghetti.
Some pepper and tomato plants grow like weeds, others are very picky on the nutrients that they receive. Some varieties are prone to disease. I have even had pepper plants that had so many peppers on them that they literally fell apart from the weight. If your new to the world of growing peppers or tomatoes, or have had poor results in the past, I would choose varieties that up your odds.
5. How Cool They Look
Some peppers and tomatoes look absolutely incredible, especially if grown for ornamental use.
Once you make your choices, you need to get your seeds. I highly recommend purchasing your seeds from a reputable seller. Not doing so is a mistake I’ve made more than once. Please learn from my mistake. If you get seeds that wont germinate, it might be too late to get new ones started. Nothing is worse to a gardener than growing an exotic variety to find out that its not the variety you expected. My advice is do not buy seeds off of auction sites, or any internet site where goods ship from random sources. There are many reputable seeds sellers in the marketplace. At growpepperseeds.com we submit each individual variety of our seeds to an independent lab for germination testing. Bottom line… If it wont grow, we wont sell it.
Now that you have selected the varieties of seeds that you wish to grow, you should figure out when is the best time to get them started. If you start them too early
, they could get too tall and spindly by the time you plant them unless you have a high intensity grow light. If they get started too late, you will be missing out on valuable growing time. Here in Minnesota we have a very short growing season. Without a greenhouse or a way to shelter plants from frost, June first seems to be a good time to plant seedlings outside. As a rule of thumb, I usually get seeds started about two months before I intend on planting them. That means that my seed should be planted no later than April first.
There are many ways to get seeds started. The easiest and most popular is to put some potting soil into a tray, moisten the soil, and plant the seeds. By saying that this is the easiest, I’m referring to the initial amount of work (dirt, water, seeds). Its usually a good idea to let the seeds sit in water overnight before planting. A heat mat helps germination rates.
The second method uses coco coir in place of soil. The coco coir seems to give a better ratio of air/water than soil. This makes it harder(not impossible), to drown the seedlings. The seeds like as high of a humidity as you can throw at them, but there is a point where no air in the medium means dead seeds. To help prevent this from occurring, they make self watering seed systems. These are a nice way to get seeds started. Its more involved than the first method, but tends to yield better results. Once again, a heat mat helps germination.
The final method uses Rockwool. Rockwool makes it very hard to kill/drown seedlings, yet keeps them very wet. The process starts by taking a container and filling it with enough filtered water to complete the task. The water should have as close to zero parts per million impurities as you can get. A good reverse osmosis system is a very good thing to have. Next you want to add plant food to the water at a very low ratio. About 1/4 of what you would feed an adult plant. This would be an ec of .5 or about 250-350ppm. Next the PH might have to be adjusted to somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5. I shoot for about 5.8-6.0. Having the perfect amount of nutrients and PH level is an essential part of growing plants to their full potential, and will be explained is detail in an upcoming chapter. Next the grow cube are placed in the nutrient solution and allowed to soak for about ten minutes. Then they are placed into their tray, so that the seeds can be planted.
In soil and coco you can sow many seeds close together then later separate. You could also start your seed in individual cells three at a time. By planting multiple seeds, you increase the chances of germination. Later kill off the weaker seedlings leaving the larger one to grow. I also plant multiple seeds when using Rockwool even though I get really good germination. If your just getting into pepper and/or tomato growing, I recommend using coco coir. You should have a much higher success rate than using soil. In all seed starting methods it is best to cover the seeds to maximize humidity. After the seeds sprout they no longer have to be covered. If they do remain at an excessive humidity, they can get sick and die. You also need to raise the temperature in your seed starting tray to 85° for tomatoes, and 90°-95° for peppers. This is typically done with a heat mat that goes under the tray.
No matter what, stick to these principles and you should be OK. The seeds need oxygen, while being as humid as possible. Higher temperatures help humidity and seed germination. Once they sprout, its time to keep them alive…