Let’s Get Started!

cluster of serano peppers on counter

package of seed starter

Seed Starting Mix

It’s finally time to start some indoor seeds!  I used to start the pepper and tomato seeds at the same time in mid-February because I was SO eager to get going in the middle of winter.  But I have learned that they are not created equal in their growing times.  The peppers take a really long time to germinate, sometimes 2 weeks before any sign of life.  I often think they will never come up so I add additional seeds in the cells in case they were bad seeds and of course then they both come up and I sometimes have double!  The tomatoes germinate and grow much faster than the peppers.  They would get so tall by the time I would plant them in mid to late May that I would have to stake them in the window!  Now I wait until early April instead of February to start them so they will be about the same size as the peppers.  


pepper seeds in seed pockets

Pepper seeds in 6 packs

I start the seeds in small ‘cells’ with 6/packet with “seed starter”.  This ‘soil-less’ seed starter is crucial to get seeds going.  It’s light and fluffy, so it holds onto water easily without bogging down the plant. Potting soil does not have enough of the necessary nutrients and is too dense.  I put some in a bucket, wet it all down and pack it in the cells. I use a pencil to make the perfect size whole to drop the seed in and press it all down (see photo).  Next I label rows with plastic inserts:  P 1 is Jalapeños, P 2 Hatch, etc.  The tray is placed in our laundry room near the furnace where it is nice and warm.  Some people use warming pads but I have not used them, they just need a warm place to hang.  They will not need any light until they start to sprout.  Now I wait….and wait.

Once the cotyledons show their heads, I place a metal rack in our living room window along with grow lights for each shelf.  The plants will get at least 12 hours of natural daylight along with the grow lights (you can find grow lights at any nursery or Home Depot). I set a timer to have then on all day and most of the night.  They need some dark time as well which is important for the plant to produce sugars  (remember the dark stage of photosynthesis in biology?).   Just when the peppers get going, I will start the tomatoes the same way.  Once all the plants are on their second or third row of leaves, I transplant each plant cell into 3” pots with potting soil and put them back in the window.  They take up a lot more room on the shelves in the bigger pots.  It’s best to get them as close to the lights as possible so they don’t grow too much stem at they reach for the light; so I have to adjust the height of the trays frequently.  When still in the cells, I water with a bulb syringe from a pitcher that has a splash of fish emulsion, a great natural fertilizer full of nitrogen but VERY stinky!   I will place a fan on them once they are well established to help them get a sturdier stem when outdoors to withstand our front range winds.  They will stay in these pots until I transplant them into the garden mid to late May depending on weather.  Will update with photos of this year’s starters….

plant staters on shelves in window

Last year’s plants in window.