How To Grow Organic Peppers From Seed
Learning how to grow peppers from seed is a little different than most other seeds. Whether you are grow organic peppers or traditional peppers, pepper seeds require some extra care to ensure proper germination. Just like growing organic tomatoes from seed, it is best to start pepper seeds indoors and allowing the plants to mature a bit before planting in your garden. The first thing you need to do of course is to determine what type of peppers you want. There a wide variety from traditional sweet bell peppers to varying degrees of hot peppers. Once you’ve decided which type of peppers you want, it time to learn how to grow peppers from seed.
Soaking pepper seeds helps to speed up the germination process. Again, unless you are a true die-hard organic gardener, you do not need to use organic pepper seeds to grow organic peppers. There are two different soaking methods I prefer. First, fill a pot with cool water and pour the seeds into the water. Allow the seeds to soak until they sink to the bottom. This usually takes anywhere between two to eight hours. Now, if you do decide to use traditional seeds over organic seeds, add 2-teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide to each cup of warm water. The hydrogen peroxide helps to break down the seed coat and disinfect any chemicals on the seed. Again, the water should just be lukewarm, and allow the seeds to soak until they sink to the bottom.
Starting in Egg Cartons
Since I prefer to grow organically, I start my pepper seeds indoors in the bottoms of egg cartons eight to ten weeks before the last frost date. You do the same thing with pepper seeds as you do in my Hub on How To Grow Organic Tomatoes From Seed. Once I add the compost to each individual cup, I simply press the two to three seeds into the center of each cup. Water each cup so that it is moist, but not soaked. Once the seeds are planted, cover the egg carton bottom loosely with plastic wrap. This forms a bit of a greenhouse effect for the seeds. Pepper seeds, organic or traditional, love temperatures around 80-degrees.
Let The Light Shine
Unlike my tomato seedlings, I do not set my pepper seeds in a window sill. Direct sunlight on a covered egg carton can produce enough heat to virtually burn all of your pepper seeds. Instead place a light over the top of the carton, such as under a small table lamp with a cool fluorescent light bulb. Another thing to try is also placing a special heat mat under the carton. This helps keep the soil warm without over-heating the soil. Once you start to see sprouts, remove the plastic wrap and check the soil dampness. Water if necessary, but only until it is wet. Recover the egg carton bottom loosely so that the sprouts have room to grow.
Transplant Into Cups
Once you see two true pepper leaves on your sprouts, it is tie to separate the weak plants from the strong ones and transplant the strong ones into 2-inch paper cups. Poke a couple of holes in the bottom of the cups to avoid over-watering, and fill each cup with a mixture of sand and organic compost.
Carefully remove the strong pepper seedling from the egg carton and transplant into the 2-inch paper cup. When inserting them into the soil, bury them a little lower than when they were in the egg carton. Water the compost until moist. Place the cups and pepper plant seedlings back under the lamp.
Planting in the Garden
I prefer to harden off my organic peppers before planting them in the garden, about one week after the last chance of frost. Simply set the cups outdoors on the ground next to the patio close to each other. Avoid placing them on the patio or concrete, as the concrete cools quickly and could cause harm to your pepper plants.
During this time, add a 2-inch layer of fresh organic mulch to the garden area where you are planting the peppers. Select an area of your garden that will receive full sun for most of the day.
Dig a hole large enough for the root ball of your pepper plant. Space the holes about 18-inches to 24-inches apart in rows that are 24-inches apart. Cut the paper cup carefully with scissors or a utility knife from top to bottom and carefully remove the pepper plant with root ball. Insert the root ball into the hole, and cover with fresh organic mulch. Since you are using organic mulch, much of the moisture will be retained in the soil. However, stick your finger into the soil about 2-inches every week and water if the soil is dry without puddling the water.
I will have more growing tips coming in upcoming Hubs that are great for organic vegetable gardening for beginners. I just like to get a few of the basic in now before the season is in full swing like how to grow organic peppers from seeds.