Home Home & Garden Springtime Pepper Starting

Springtime Pepper Starting

By Zeak Rice, Gardener

If you want to grow peppers for the next season, it’s simple:

Obtain seeds, germinate them, plant into small pots, harden them off, then transplant them into the ground. 

A. There’s a plethora of places to get seeds, near and far, expensive and cheap.

1. Most pepper plants will grow in the Pacific Northwest, but not all. The common ones will do just fine.

2. Seeds from a local company will be acclimated to the local area’s weather, dirt, insects, etc.

B. There are many ways to germinate seeds: 

Be sure to start with a sterile seed-starting mix. This ensures no fungi or other harmful things are in the soil. You can purchase it at stores that have a gardening section. 

Put the mix into a tray a couple of inches deep. Bury seed to the depth stated on the package.

Important: Keep moist throughout the entire process from “seed bury” to harvest!

C. After the seed pops up above the top of the soil, wait a couple of days, carefully putting the newly-sprouted plant into a 4″ pot – ( round, square, or whatever you decide to use to grow them in until transplanting into the ground. ~ Example: 4″ tall cut off bottom of a half-gallon/gallon cardboard milk carton.} To ensure success, use a sterile mix here also. 

D. Start hardening off seedlings when they’re a couple of inches tall with their first set of true leaves.

When a seed first sprouts, it has what looks like leaves. When more leaves begin to grow out, these are the true leaves. Now you can give them a diluted fertilizer in the water. 

E. Before you plant them into the soil, you must condition them to being outside. This is called “hardening off.”

Set them outside in partial sun or tree-limb shade, (wind-free to start with) for 2 to 3 hours. Bring them in for the night.

Next day (day 2), place in the partial sun for 2-3 hours and bring in for the night.

The 3rd day, give them 3 hours in the sun with some breeze; bring them in for the night.

On day 4, expand to 5 hours in sun and breeze, etc. ~(keep well- watered !~)

Gradually exposing seedlings to the outside elements stimulates their natural defenses and gives them time to adapt to their new environment.

Wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the high 50°Fs for warm-weather plants like peppers.

F. It’s now time to transplant if the temperature is consistently warm enough. 

If you desire to put them into larger containers {10-inch top or more}, you can use fake soil (using only dirt tends to pack it down too hard.) The usual mixes are perlite or vermiculite, peat moss or coir fiber, sand, fertilizer, and limestone. 

“Basic Mix” – RATIOS:

This mix works for most outdoor potted plants, including annuals and perennials.

1 part peat moss or coconut coir ~or half n half mix of each~

1 part compost

1 part perlite or vermiculite

½ part sand and limestone-fertilizer mix

4-GALLON Mix result:

Pour 2 gallons of peat moss or coir into a large container. [Ex: Wheelbarrow]

Mix well with 2 gallons of perlite or vermiculite and 1 gallon of sand. (careful !~too much sand makes it heavy ~)

(Compared to dirt, this mix is supposed to be light and airy.)

Before putting the mixture in a pot, moisten it first.



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