Starting tomatoes from seed is quite easy to do. By starting your own plants not only can you guarantee you have a particular variety and grow some unusual varieties, but you will have healthy plants to set out and share with others.
Timing: Start your tomatoes beginning 6-8 weeks before you intend to plant them.
Containers: You can use virtually any container that provides good drainage. Paper or plastic cups work as do plastic or peat cells or trays. Plant several seeds in each. This will not be the final container.
Soil Mix: Use a lightweight sterile soil mix. It needs to hold moisture and yet drain well. Half peat and vermiculite is fine. You don’t need extra nutrients – the young embryo uses the concentrated nutrients in the seed.
Germination: Moisten your mix slightly before planting., Plant seeds about 1/4” (7mm) deep and cover. Seed should emerge in about 3-5 days at a temperature of 75-80F / 24-27C degrees (minimum 50F / 10C, maximum
95F / 35C). In other words, the soil should be quite warm. An old heating pad set on low under the tray is what I use, but you can put them on top of the refrigerator or in the furnace room. A bit of plastic can be stretched over the top, but there must be some ventilation. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Wait until the seeds have germinated to put them in the light and remove any cover.
Growth: Once the hooks begin to emerge, immediately put the plants under strong light. In the winter at northern latitudes, even a sunny windowsill may not be bright enough. For stout plants, I use regular fluorescent shop lighting just an inch or two off the tops of the plants. The light fixture is raised as the plants grow. Tomatoes can use up to 12-14 hours of light a day, but more than 16 hours is not useful. Optimum temperatures for this stage of growth are cooler – 60-65F / 15-18C. Allow the soil surface to dry slightly between watering, but never let the seedlings wilt. Sometimes the seed coat will continue to adhere to the cotyledons. Moisten a bit of cotton or paper towel and hold it on the head to loosen the seed coat.
Potting Up Wait until after you see the first ‘true leaves’. Then choose the strongest seedlings to move into the individual container where they will grow until planted out. This step is important because it forces the tomato seedling to develop a dense root system which will result in a larger and healthier plant during the growing season. At this point you can fertilize the seedlings as you water them in. I use a tea made from worm castings, but anything that provides a little phosphorus will work. Cooler temperatures, even as cool as 55F, bright light and even moisture are the secrets to avoiding weak and leggy plants. I also run a small fan to strengthen the stems.
Hardening Off Almost done! A week or two before planting out, begin acclimating the young plants to the sun, wind, and temperature variations they will face. It is easy to burn the tender leaves, so a sheltered spot and some shade cloth is helpful initially. The time is increased from an hour or two a day to all day over the course of this treatment.
Good luck and have fun!
Pepper Seed Starting Tips
Pepper Seed Starting Tips – How to Plant and Sprout Hot Pepper Seeds
Following are some pepper seed starting tips –
Plant pepper seeds in pre-moistened seed starting mix or light potting soil. You should plant the seeds flat, and then cover lightly with soil.
Pepper seeds should be started indoors, or in a greenhouse, and then transplanted once they are large enough and it is warm enough outside. For best results, you should not plant pepper seeds directly outside. The exceptions are certain types of chile which were traditionally direct seeded.
Water carefully as needed to keep the soil moist but not drenched. Do not water from below, as this can adversely affect germination. Covering your seed starting pots with Saran wrap or something similar to increase humidity will help the seeds to sprout.
Keep your planted seeds in a fairly warm spot while sprouting, as peppers won’t even sprout if temperatures are much below 60F. If you have a seed starting mat or warm spot, 80-85 is an optimum temperature for peppers and will speed-up sprouting. Otherwise, try to keep the planted seeds at least at 70 or above.
Depending on the variety, you may see your first sprouts in about 7-14 days, but hot peppers can take as long as a month or more to come up. Pepper seeds are notorious for taking their time to germinate, or germinating at different times, and it is not unusual for some of them to surprise you and sprout several weeks after the first ones do!
How to Avoid Damp-Off: Damp-off is the arch-enemy of any gardener trying to grow plants from seed. This disease is fairly easy to spot – seemingly perfectly healthy new seedlings suddenly start flopping-over dead at the soil line for no apparent reason.
Damp-off is caused by a fungus, and can be spread through contaminated soil or pots. It is typically more of a problem for smaller seedlings like mint than for larger pepper seedlings, but it can still cause peppers trouble. So how can you avoid it?
Following are some tips to prevent damp-off:
- Do not re-use old potting soil for planting new seeds. Always plant your seeds in new seed starting or potting mix.
- Do not re-use old pots for planting new seeds.
- Peat pots can sometimes have a tendency to get soggy and can be “mold magnets”, so avoid using them for seed starting.
- One of the primary causes of damp-off is overcrowding. So avoid it – do not plant too many seeds too close together!
- As it is a fungus, another primary cause is excessive humidity. While high humidity is good for seed sprouting, it can be dangerous once they have sprouted. So if you have your seeds covered by a tray cover, plastic wrap, etc., as soon as your pepper seeds start coming up, remove the cover!
And if you do notice any of your seedlings starting to look sick, immediately move them well away from your other pots to avoid spreading anything to your other seedlings.
Thank you to hotpepperseeds.com!