Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pepper seeds are in the dirt

Finally – Pepper seed planting time! I have been looking forward to this day since New Year’s, planning it for the last month, and preparing for it all week.

I tried homemade newspaper pots last year, but wasn't too thrilled with them. So this year I found some vintage cups to plant in – mostly old wax coated paper cups, with holes punched in the bottom and sides for drainage and air flow. I filled them with pre-dampened Miracle-Gro potting soil, then placed them in water-tight flats. I plan to water by pouring into the flats, so it soaks up into the cups from the bottom. Until the seeds germinate I've got them covered in plastic wrap. Then as they germinate I'll move the cups to other flats with overhead lighting.

For markers I cut off several of the plastic blades from a broken vinyl mini-blind and trimmed them into 3-5 inch lengths with a pointed end to slide into the potting mix. I marked the variety and date planted on them with a black felt tip pen.

To prepare the pepper seeds, I made up some of Jerry Baker’s seed starting tonic (weak tea, Epsom salts and baby shampoo). I used little plastic bottles from baby fruit juices that my daughter saved for me – cleaned thoroughly, poured in a couple tablespoons of the tonic, added the seeds and marked the bottle with a sticky note to identify the variety. These soaked overnight outdoors since the temps were between 35-50, but could be put in fridge for up to 24 hours.

To give the pepper seeds the warmth needed to germinate, I put one flat on an old waterbed heating pad that has a thermostat controller. The other flat sits one shelf above a food dehydrator I put on the bottom shelf to provide some heat. All of this is located on a free-standing wooden shelving unit I bought for $5 at a yard sale last summer. I placed it in front of a west-facing window, and placed heavy-duty foil on the shelves to help reflect light - all in preparation for when the new seedlings will need lots of light. I will also attach fluorescent under-cabinet style lights to the bottom-sides of the wooden shelves with chains so they can be lowered/raised to the correct distance from the baby plants. I have a timer, so I'll use that too for turning on and off the lights instead of relying on my memory!

While the blustery winds blew and drizzling rain spat, I stayed dry, warm and ever-so happy, planting and dreaming of sunny garden days ahead. :)

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