Starting plants inside

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  #1  
Old 03-27-06, 03:54 PM
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Starting plants inside

Greetings Green thumbs!

I'm going to try my hand at growing some hot chili peppers this year. We have a ton of different kinds, and I'd like to start them inside so that they will be 6" tall or so by the time I want to plant them outdoors.

In my area, all danger of frost is usually gone by May 1st. I guess my question is, when should I start the peppers? I don't want to start them too early have have them get too big before its time to plant them outdoors. I assume I'll start them in small starter packs, and assume I'll just buy some potting soil.

Also, I'm wondering if anyone has any tips on making an incubator of sorts, to keep the seedlings warm? Or if just keeping them indoors is fine. I'm a carpenter and feel like I should build a box for them with a glass lid or something. Perhaps incorporating a heat lamp or something to keep it warm and humid in there? Any thoughts on that? Good idea or not necessary? Thanks in advance for the advice.
 
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Old 03-27-06, 07:12 PM
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Start seeds 12-14 weeks before last frost date. Seeds need warm temperature, moisture, air, and light for best germination. Choose starting soil not potting soil so roots can get both air and moisture. Peat-based starting soils help prevent mold. Soil needs to be 75 - 90F, 20 - 35C with 85F or 30C ideal. You can set flats on old electric blanket that you have covered with plastic sheet. Use a test flat to allow you to adjust temperature.

Soak seeds in mixed solution of 3 teaspoons of 5% Chlorine Bleach and 1 Tablespoon of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) in one quart of warm water for 15-25 minutes and then rinse for 5-10 minutes under cold running water to kill disease and soften hulls. This does two things, kills most seed born disease and helps soften the seed hull. You can place seeds in sieve and dip into solution. Some seeds will float. If you can not get them to sink with finger remove, as they will likely not germinate. Place seeds on layers of paper towels to dry. Place seeds on top of soil, sprinkle lightly with potting mix, and mist with water. Cover with plastic dome. This can be constructed with popsicle sticks and heavy plastic wrap. There are commercial starter flats available that come with plastic domes.

Do not place in sun where soil and plants can get too hot. Remove dome every other day to allow flat fresh air and to mist. Once plants are up and hull has dropped, you can finally remove dome and just keep soil moist by misting. Do not allow soil to dry out. Some chiles take longer than others to germinate. Seedlings need 10-12 hours each day. Starter racks are available that have fluourescent lights or grow lights on them for starting plants.

When first leaves start to show, fertilize with 1/2 strength Miracle Grow just enough to wet soil and leaves. When first leaves are fully developed and second set beginning to show, transplant to 3-4" grow pots. You can use peat pots, milk cartons, plastic pots. Take care not to disturb the root ball. Apply 15-30-15 soluble plant food. About a week before setting outdoors, gradually harden off by increasing amount of sunlight and air they receive.

Once plants are in ground, sprinkle 15-15-15 fertilizer, just 1 teaspoon around plant about 4-6 inches away and sprinkle over with soil to keep from splashing on plants. When hot weather arrives mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Plants needs to be planted in sunny location and kept fertilized and watered.
 
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Old 03-27-06, 07:55 PM
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Holy Cow! Thanks twelvepole!
 
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Old 03-27-06, 08:11 PM
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My mother grew all kinds of hot peppers. She pickled some and strung some to dry. She would save seeds in little jars and start again next year.
 
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Old 04-07-06, 05:56 PM
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This afternoon it was raining and I had the afternoon off, so I followed your directions. I ended up using peat moss starter disks inside peat moss starter pots, and put in 3 seeds per pot. I'll thin them out later by snipping the stunted ones, provided they all would sprout. It was interesting trying to get some of the seeds to sink. Skimmed off every one that floated and dumped them. Only planted the ones that sank. That was a good tip, I think.

So now I've got 50 pots of peppers sitting on a heating pad. I have a thermometer inside to monitor the temp... right now it's 80F... don't want it to get over 90F. Should I keep the dome on every day until they sprout, or remove it every other day, like you mentioned, maybe for just a few hours?

I also made a 9" tall glass box with a lid handle (window guys have lots of glass) that will fit over the entire tray like a serving tray lid for when they get bigger and I need to remove the small plastic cover.
 
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Old 04-13-07, 09:00 AM
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Twelvepole,

Just wanted to give you some feedback on how last year's crop turned out.

First off, I wasn't able to follow your instructions perfectly, and a few things went wrong. I had them growing on a heating pad to keep the seeds warm. I suspect that the middle of the pan got too hot- the plants there did not do well at all, and I wonder if I cooked them! Once they sprouted, I was scared to overfertilize, mainly because some had sprouted while others had not. I also made the mistake of buying some bad potting soil that I used when I finally transplanted the seedlings. This potting soil turned rock hard if it dried out, and I think that stunted the plants. They never grew much at all until I finally planted them in the ground. many of them died, likely because I had disturbed the root ball, like you had warned against. I also never fertilized them once they were planted in the garden... again being scared about overfertilizing peppers. I still ended up getting a lot of peppers, even though the plants were stunted and it took them a long time to grow to the point that they would produce.

Now, to this year.

Having learned from the mistakes of the past, I did a couple things different. I planted 3 seeds per ball, and after the plants all had sprouted and had 4 leaves, I clipped the weak ones off. I also transplanted them earlier, and used a mixture of 1/2 soil (from the garden the will be planted in) and 1/2 peat moss (to help with water retention and to lighten the soil mix). I also used the 1/2 strength Miracle Grow when watering. I also have tried not to overwater, instead I give the plants a measured amount of water every couple days (from a syringe) so that I'm not getting too much water on them and getting a big taproot growing in the bottom of the pan.

I planted them 31 days ago, and they currently are 3-5" tall, with 8 leaves and more on the way. I believe the shorter plants are a different variety. (my stupid #$%! cats decided to play with them one day, ripping off the plastic cover and batting the fiber balls around the kitchen, mixing up the 4 varieties I planted!)

So I think I will likely be planting them on May 10th or thereabouts, depending on the weather. That's usually a safe date in our area. I suppose that peppers don't like weather in the 30's at all.

I'm currently starting to set them outside on nice days, to harden them a bit, and to keep them away from the cats as much as possible! I also need to build a bigger terrarium cover (I made one out of glass, but it's getting a little small now) which I keep over the plants mainly to keep the cats out of them. But it also is a nice way to keep the moisture in- the glass usually drips like rain when the sun is out. I keep the cover elevated a few inches so that the plants get plenty of fresh air. Like you mentioned, I'm careful not to get them too much sun... especially under that cover it will scorch the edges of the leaves.

This is a great project... now all I need is some great hot pepper recipes. One of my favorite snacks was a halved jalapeno microwaved for 30 seconds, filled with cold cream cheese! mmm-mmm!
 
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Old 04-20-07, 01:17 PM
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What a great update. Here's some handy recipies. At this first site you can even find recipies for pickled peppers. Just type pickled into the 'Name' box.
http://www.fiery-foods.com/rbase/default.asp
http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/drying.asp

Newt
 
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