photo credit: Mike the Gardener
|Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. In that order. Those are my top 3 vegetables to grow in my own home garden. I love the flavors of all 3 and there are a lot of seed choices when it comes to choosing something to grow.
Like tomatoes, when it comes to peppers, you have a plethora of choices here. Hot, sweet, mild, super hot and peppers so hot I think they would be off the charts for their scoville rating, at least to me anyway. An example would be ghost peppers.
Regardless of which variety of pepper you choose to grow, the basic concepts of growing them from seed are the same. Lots of heat, plenty of light, and water should be ingrained in your mind to grow peppers.
Grow Great Peppers at Home with these 4 Tips
WHEN TO START YOUR PEPPER SEEDSI want to concentrate on starting pepper seeds indoors. If you are like me, and have a limited amount of time to grow peppers in your growing zone, you will want to start your pepper seeds indoors. I like to start my pepper seeds about thirty to forty-five days prior to the last frost in my area. That is usually around April 30th here in zone 7a.
However, I have a tradition of not moving peppers outdoors until Mother’s Day. Just something I have always done and will continue to do. In any event, back to how I start my peppers seeds.
WHAT TO GROW YOUR PEPPER SEEDS INI like to use a good organic potting soil which is available at any home or garden center. You can pick up a large bag for under $20 here in New Jersey. You can also make your own with 40% compost, 40% peat moss and 20% perlite (or vermiculite). Making your own is a great way to save some money if you make lots of your own compost.
I’ll then place my soil and pepper seeds in individual pots, usually 3 to 4 pepper seeds per pot will do, and cover with a little more potting soil.
|I will either make the pot out of newspaper, or use biodegradable cowpots, then place the pots with the soil and seed in a tray that I can then fill with water.
In Mike`s Garden Episode #12 - How to Makes Pots Out of Newspaper
HEAT AND LIGHT FOR YOUR PEPPER SEEDSI take the tray and place it under a grow light system I have set up in my house with the lights being about 2 inches from the top of the soil. As the peppers grow, I continually move the lights up, making sure that same distance is achieved throughout the pepper’s growing process.
This next part is very important, at least for my area when starting pepper seeds indoors. Peppers really love heat. Without heat, you won’t do all that well with your peppers. So, I highly recommend using a heat mat that your tray will sit on top of. It keeps your soil warm, but not too hot. I have experienced a tremendous difference in growth with my peppers when using a heat mat as opposed to not using one.
Heat mats are fairly inexpensive, about $14, and simply plug into any outlet. I will plug my heat mat into the same timer I have my lights on. This gives me 10 hours of light and heat for my peppers everyday.
THINNING OUT YOUR PEPPERSI had mentioned before that I add 3 to 4 pepper seeds to each pot. Should all of the pepper seeds germinate, I will need to thin them out at some point. I usually do this when my pepper plants reach about 4 inches tall. When that height is reached, I use a pair of scissors and snip the smaller, less healthier looking, pepper plants in the pot, making sure I leave the tallest and the healthiest looking one.
WHEN TO MOVE YOUR PEPPER PLANTS OUTDOORSFinally, when my target date is reached, in my case, Mother’s Day, I move the pepper plants outdoors to their final growing place. A lot of people like to harden off, or acclimate, their pepper plants before moving them directly outdoors. This is an excellent practice, and one that I will follow if I see the temperatures are not warming up enough by my target date. So, what I will do, is put the plants outdoors during the day, and bring them in at night until overnight temperatures become a little more stable.
This allows my pepper plants to slowly adjust to cooler temperatures. Once the temperatures are more stable, the pepper plants go in the ground, and their season has officially begun.
FINAL NOTES ON GROWING PEPPERSSome gardeners like to feed their pepper plants while they are growing indoors. I do this as well and use manure tea. I will feed them every 2 weeks, which is about 2 feedings indoors. There are a variety of garden feeds on the market or you can make your own compost tea by steeping your homemade compost in some water for 24 hours.
How to brew compost teaBe sure to keep your soil moist, not saturated, and move the grow lights up as the pepper plants grow. Do not let the leaves touch the lights. About 2 inches above the lights is all you need. This will help reduce their “legginess”, that weak look their stems get, when they are trying to reach for a light source.
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