How To Start Pepper Seeds
Pepper seeds can be a challenge to germinate. If you follow the steps below, you'll be on the path to a great season!
Gather Your Supplies
In this guide, I will be covering 2 different methods for germinating seeds. I have decided to include 2 options because my preferred method might be too involved/expensive for people just getting started and may not want to overcommit to a project at this level. For my preferred method, the supply list is as followed:
50 or 72 Cell Seed Tray
T5 or LED Shop Light
Pulleys For Light Fixture
Outlet Timer for Light
UV Fade Resistant Sharpie
Solo Pump Sprayer Or Mist Setting On Hose Nozzle
Solo Cups w/ Drain Holes On The Bottom
2L Soda Bottle w/ Bottom Cut Off
Outlet Timer For Light
Watering Can or Other Watering Method.
This second option is much cheaper compared to my preferred route. It doesn't work as well as the first option listed but still works fine. You can also overlap these two options in whatever combination that works for you.
Setting Up Your Germination Space
Before we get our seed trays going, we need to make sure the growing space is ready to go. There is no one right way to do this, but this is what I prefer (option #1). Make sure all equipment is securely in place to avoid any problems. Hang your light up using the pulleys and plug it into a programable outlet timer. The light sits about 8-12 inches above where the tray will sit. The heating pad is placed beneath the light. Plants like fresh air, so set up a little fan to create a gentle breeze for the plant. This will not be needed during the first few weeks, but better to have it ready beforehand. I will sometimes have my fan connected to the light timer as well to give plants a break from the breeze at night. For option #2, set up your light and small fan, plugging it into the timer (or even cheaper, put plants in a southern facing window).
Seeding Your Trays
The next step is to prepare your seeds trays (or solo cups). I prefer using 50 or 72 cell seed trays. You can really use whatever you'd like, but 72 seems to be the max before it starts becoming more of a challenge to manage properly. The higher the number of cells, the more frequent you will need to water, and the sooner you will need to transplant to a larger container. Take your tray (or cup) and fill it with your soil up to the top, but make sure not to overpack the tray/cup. Then place the seed tray into your 1020 tray. Now for the dibbling (making holes for seeds). I like to use a sharpie for this. I have had the best result burying the seeds 1/4 inch to 3/8 inches deep. I have found going much deeper than that increases the chances of the seeds getting washed out or not germinating. Take a measuring device and hold it next to the sharpie. I like to use the back end. Once you know what that 1/4-3/8 inch looks like on the sharpie, use the sharpie to make your holes in the center of each cell. Fingers work too, but I prefer sharpies. Place one seed into each cell, then pinch the holes shut. Alternatively, you can sprinkle more soil on top and carefully brush off the excess, but you risk moving seeds this way. Make sure you have everything labeled!! UV resistant sharpies won't fade as quickly in the sun on plastic tags. Now take your Solo Mister/hose nozzle/watering can and water in your seeds. Misting is the best way to not disturb the soil, resulting in less seed wash out. Typical spray bottles are too tedious and takes forever to fully saturate the soil with these, thus the reason I recommend the Solo pump sprayer or a misting setting on a hose nozzle. Water in a fashion that does not let water pool up on the soil surface. This will lead to channels being formed in the soil that the water will rush through, not fully saturating the soil, and possibly washing out seeds. Make sure to water enough so that water comes out of the bottom of the tray, but don't overdo it and wash away your nutrients! Put on your humidity dome (or 2 liter if going the cup route, a plastic bag will do as well). Your tray/cup is now ready for the lights! I prefer 18 hours on, 6 hours off. Like humans, plants need to rest, don't have your light on for 24/7, it's not natural. Make sure to "burp" the humidity dome at least once a day to get fresh air in there.
Maintaining Proper Moisture Levels
Pepper plants are picky drinkers. They like the soil to dry out a fair amount before watering again. Many people fear under watering and instead overwater as a result. This can lead to things like root rot and fungal/bacterial diseases. The more common cause of death for young peppers is "Damping-off," which is a broad name for a variety of different potential fungi that takes the seedling out at the base. This is incurable. This can be prevented by letting the soil dry out in between waterings.
Click Here to go onto the next stage of the process, Transplanting!