It is mid-February which means it is time to start those seeds that take a while to grow such as tomatoes and peppers (and eggplants if that is your thing-it is not mine). If you are like me you may have already done so because you just couldn't resist playing with soil. If you haven't, here are some tips for how to get those peppers and tomatoes to germinate.
Peppers take a while to germinate when planted from seeds, usually around 2 weeks. Super hot peppers can take even longer. Peppers require warm temperatures to germinate, so if you are growing them in a colder climate you need to be sure the temperature is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit or your seeds will not sprout.
Tomatoes also need heat to germinate, they require a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit to sprout. Tomatoes will still germinate if the temperatures are colder they will just take A LOT longer to do so and overall growth may be stunted. Tomatoes germinate much faster than peppers, usually within a week. If you are not seeing your tomatoes pop up after a week, you may need to figure out a way to increase the temperature.
Ways to Heat it Up
The easiest way to keep your soil and seeds warm is heat mats. They run around 12 bucks for a small one. If a heat mat is not an option you can keep them inside your warm house until they germinate. Last year I put mine on a shelf right next to our wood stove and they did great. Once they germinate though they will need a light source. If your grow set up is outdoors in a shed (like mine is this year) and you do not want to use heat mats, consider adding a small portable heater to the area to keep the temperature up to get those pepper seeds to germinate.
One thing to be aware of with seedlings is damping off. Damping off is a disease caused by various pathogens that kill seedlings caused by overwatering. The stem of the plant will become thin and the plant will just fall over and die because the stem has been compromised.
Bottom watering is one of the best ways to prevent damping off. Once your seeds have sprouted set your seed trays, with holes in the bottom, in another tray without holes. You place water in the tray that the seedlings are sitting in and the roots suck the water up as opposed to the water draining down to the root. This keeps the top of the soil dry, reducing the risk of damping-off and also make the roots grow longer and stronger because they want to grow toward the water, and have to work harder.
Let me know if you have any questions about starting your tomatoes and peppers. I will be back in a few weeks with more blogs on up-potting, hardening off, transplanting, and more as we get closer to that time. Until then, happy gardening!