Peppers are one of the vegetables you start indoors 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting outside, once the danger of frost has passed.
Generally for Toronto, Ontario and surrounding area we have a fairly good frost free period, that on average lasts 160-170 days. Typically the average date of the last spring frost is April 30 and average date of the first fall frost is October 13. Many gardeners in the GTA use Victoria Day (May two/four), as the date after which to plant and transplant vegetables that require warmer temperatures and protection from frost. I also use Victoria Day long weekend to plant, so counting back from that, this week is 8 weeks and I am planting my peppers indoors now to be ready to transplant them outside May 24 to May 31.
Here’s what I do.
Read the packet for seed instructions:
- For my peppers the package tells me when to start the seeds, the seed depth requirement and the ideal temperature required for the best seed germination. Always read the package because some seeds have very unique seed planting instructions
Find a warm place, almost a cove, for the pepper seeds to germinate:
- I have tried different areas of my place out the past few years and I found an area works best for my pepper seeds to germinate because it is consistently warm – its in my kitchen, under a counter by a heat vent. Since seeds don’t need good light this location works great for me (once the seedling appears then it needs to be moved to a place with good light).
Secure everything I need:
- pepper seeds
- peat pots or egg cartons (I use both)
- I found out about a neat substitute for the pots at the Brampton Seedy Saturday event. There is a two piece wooden tool that garden stores sell, it kind of looks like a muddler. You wrap regular newspaper around the muddler and then squish it into the cup like base and it creates a biodegradable pot. I don’t have the tool and have not used them yet for my seeds but I will consider it for next year to see if that’s my new seed starting pot for February/March 2018
- trays to place your pots and egg cartons into
- soilless medium or a seed starting mix (this is the one I am using this year)
- paper or cardboard, a small cup of water and a pencil (the pencil is for really small seeds. Sometimes it is hard to grab seeds one at a time with your fingers, so by wetting the pencil tip you can pick up one small seed at a time easily to place in each pot)
- strips of firm cardboard or popsicle sticks to label your vegetable pots and trays (it is so easy to confuse them)
- tape or glue to reseal the seed packages if you have left over seeds
Plant my pepper seeds
- put soilless medium in the peat pots and egg cartons not right to the top, leave some space for water to run off
- open your package of seeds and empty it onto the paper/cardboard
- place one seed in the middle of each container, one by one; if you have trouble doing this with your fingers use the pencil (with the pencil tip touch the water and then touch a seed, the pencil tip should pick it up, if not, wet it again and try again)
- cover each seed with the surrounding soilless medium based on the depth provided on the seed package
- gently put some water on the seeds/containers with your hands, not direct from sink faucet or watering can
- cover the planted seeds loosely with see though plastic bags or cover them with plastic dome type covers
Watch and care for my planted seeds:
- the seeds need to be moist, but not drenched, and don’t let them dry out
- once you see a seedling you can move them to a place with good light, place them in a bigger pot and add seedling soil to allow them to spread beyond the peat pots or egg carton holder
It’s so much fun to see the seeds sprout into seedlings, they are so small and delicate. Not all seeds will sprout seedlings so don’t be surprised by that, just care for the ones that do sprout.
If this is just too much or it is too late to start this year, you can buy good pepper plants started by nurseries in May at retailers and some of the pop-up garden centres there are lots to chose from to plant outside at the end of May or early June.
I’ll share how my seeds progress over the next two months. Did you plant any pepper seeds? If you do share any of your experiences with your pepper seeds and their germination, I’m always looking to learn more and tips from others.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/climzoneveg.htm, January 2016.