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Problems with Propagation of Persnickety Peppers

 
gardener
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I HATE starting pepper seeds. I never manage it.

This year, my mother planted a bunch of saved seeds from last year in little pots with seed starting mix. Only one type managed to grow ("stripey sweet bell"). The tomatos planted at the same time did great!

So i took saved seeds AND purchased seeds, and attempted to get them to start with paper towel and moisture in a warm spot. The chili peppers  (purchased seeds) started. Nothing else. I started some tomatos and ground cherries in the same container, and they did great!

So now I threw everything on a makeshift seed mat  (dog heated bed)- a few things SEEMED to start to sprout, so I planted them out, in pots on the seed warming mat. Nothing started - except a few more chili peppers. I figured the seeds were rotten/bad after 3 weeks of trying to start them.

So I started fresh with moisture, on the seed mat - three types of purchased seed, 5 types of self saved seed.  More than a week later - (2 weeks later?) still no signs of life.

What am I doing wrong?!
 
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Peppers take forever to germinate.  I have mine in decent conditions and some still haven't sprouted after 25 days.  So you might be doing just fine
 
master pollinator
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Yup. It's waiting game.
 
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They are slow and it seems to me also very susceptible to adverse conditions.  So if the potting mix dries out, or they get too hot, or they get too cold, or they damp themselves out before the seedling gets above the soil, or they get eaten by tiny birds before you ever see them, or a house mouse grazes them flat, or or or or...

After years of failure I have finally managed to successfully start pepper seeds a couple of years running.  I do it the Joseph Stalin way: I overrun the enemy with an endless wave of cheap troops.  "Quantity has a quality all its own."  Instead of planting one or two seeds in every cell, I plant eight or ten.  Instead of just planting the three varieties I might want in a given year, I plant three similar types for each variety, for a total of nine sets.  And so forth.  

Basically I still get massive failures, whole sets of starts that never do anything or where just one seedling germinates.  But somehow this way I still end up with half a dozen pepper plants in my garden.
 
pollinator
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Alliteration absolutely approved!  And also- super relieved to know I'm not the only one.  I give the seed at least a month before passing judgement.  Sometimes I get an early popper at 2 weeks and I get my hopes up about the rest.  I'm about to mass germinate a bunch of varieties and hop I come out with a few dozen for planting!  Hang in there, one of em's gotta sprout one of these days!
 
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Same here.  The tomato's I started have been re-potted 3 times and need to go into the garden ASAP.  The peppers I started at the same time have only recently popped out of the starting mix.  Only a handful made it that far out of many planted.  I will keep watering and so on, but I don't have high hopes for them, because I seem to loose one every day, I am down to three.  I resorted to picking up some peppers at Home Depot when I had to take my daughter to work a week ago or so.  I read they require a heat mat, which I don't have.  Peppers, lavender, and most of my other herbs didn't work for me this year.  I only got 2 watermelon and they haven't grown very much.  I will use them, but will direct sow probably this weekend since it has gotten hot.  I may throw some herb seeds in the herb garden just to see if maybe it was to cool for them as well. To be fair this is my first year starting seeds in pots.  Before I would direct sow, or buy veggies plants.  Please share if you discover the tried and true method for germination Peppers.  Good luck everyone, and happy gardening.
 
Catie George
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Very glad to hear I am not alone on this. A month to start is normal?! Wow.

I have been throwing a lot more troops- I mean seeds - at it this year than usual, determined to manage it ( I usually give up and buy transplants). I guess I will keep going, although my ability to focus is strained by trying to keep things moist and not rotting for a month.

I wonder if it is variety dependent/something that could be bred for? The chilis were so fast. I would cheerfully buy pepper seeds if they were marketed as "easy to start".
 
Catie George
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Well here it goes again....

Last year I basically got chili peppers and a few sweet peppers to start. More than three quarters of what I planted failed to start. Then something ate them out of the ground (vole?) and I ended up having to buy pepper starts and growing none of my own.

This year - as it's now 12 weeks to May 24th (traditional planting weekend) I planted 54 cells of peppers, 2 seeds per cell, 9 cells of each type. They are in the warmest window of the house.

In 4 weeks I will assess how many managed to start and potentially start another round with the seeds that did manage to start.

Anyone want to take bets on how many I start? I need about 12 plants, 6 hot, 6 mild.

 
pollinator
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I'm trying a new method for starting peppers this year. Instead of putting the seeds directly into seed starting trays with dismal success rates, I "presprouted" them in damp paper towels tucked into sandwich baggies. I set the baggies onto a warm windowsill. I've seen a few seeds sprouting in less than a week!

I am transplanting the delicate seed sprouts into seed cups. I've already got a few cayenne peppers sprouting out of the soil.

Some of the sprouted seeds didn't want to let loose from the paper towel, so I delicately cut out a teeny square of the paper towel with the sprout in the middle. Then I planted the bit of paper towel and seed.

I am optimistic this will be a better method than what I've used in the past. I think it's more efficient for me to keep a few baggies with damp paper towels, then plant only sprouted seeds into trays, than to plant a whole tray and try to tend them all with little to no hope for germination.
 
pollinator
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yeah peppers are hard and slow to start, erratic germination, not easy.

the key is warmth, which you already got that, so dial it in...with a way that works for you.

some other pointers - plant shallow (do not push the seed in very much, or at all, surface sow and keep misting surface for at least a few days)
and direct sunlight on pot is awesome too.... to warm soil and wake the seed.

a humidity dome is also helpful, as with all seeds, but peppers very much, as is - heat mat. it doesnt have to be a fancy humidity dome, you can make shift it with some recycling, like clear plastic containers that some foods come packaged in, or even use saran wrap over the top of the pot and put in a nice sunny windowsill.
 
pollinator
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Catie, It's not clear to me.....are all of your seedling start attempts with these peppers being done in moistened paper towels or in potting mix?    As with yourself and several others here, we need to use a heating-mat-for-seedlings to get peppers to germinate and yes, they can take weeks to emerge.  We keep them in soil the whole time and keep the 'gro-lights' turned off until they do.  They should be moist, but not overwatered since in that warm environment, the mold issue may get worse.  And when you say 'warmest window in the house', this is still with the heating mat underneath it for when the sun is not warming the soil, yes?  Here's to good luck this year!
 
Catie George
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John Weiland wrote:Catie, It's not clear to me.....are all of your seedling start attempts with these peppers being done in moistened paper towels or in potting mix?    As with yourself and several others here, we need to use a heating-mat-for-seedlings to get peppers to germinate and yes, they can take weeks to emerge.  We keep them in soil the whole time and keep the 'gro-lights' turned off until they do.  They should be moist, but not overwatered since in that warm environment, the mold issue may get worse.  And when you say 'warmest window in the house', this is still with the heating mat underneath it for when the sun is not warming the soil, yes?  Here's to good luck this year!



I have tried several methods - this year is in a covered dome seed starting tray in the warmest room of the house (top of stairs with a South facing window and a heating vent). No heating mat (dog warming bed) as i can't find it.

Last year we tried :
- random pots in side porch - some success
- damp paper towel on top of fridge - mold, mostly failed to germinate
-damp paper towel on heating mat - mold, mostly failed to germinate
- soil on heating mats - failed to germinate except chilis
- transplanting started seeds from paper towel into soil both on and off heating mat (mostly failed)

In the end, the only things that produced a seedling were method 1 (stripey bell) and chili peppers produced in any of the above methods. The Chilis just seemed very vigorous.

So I have bought a few more packages of fresh seed , and am trying many varieties (6, for now) and am hoping that a few will produce and then I can save seeds from them, selecting for 'actually will start for Catie'. I will start more in 3 weeks or so from some other saved seeds I have, if I don't get enough from this attempt.  I grumble about having to coddle something this much!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I actually managed to get bell peppers to germinate. I soaked the seeds in water with mycorrhizal fungi  for 72 hours. Then I planted the seed in 1/2 seed starting mix, and 1/2 organic compost.  I used a thin plastic pot, maybe 4", maybe a little smaller.  On a seed starting heat mat.  It took about two weeks.  I think it's the mat that made the difference. I put some of the soaked seeds in the greenhouse, and nun have germinated yet.  Now if I can keep them alive I'll be in business.
 
gardener
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I love to watch videos from Russian gardeners (or those from ex-soviet republics) because they both have lived with a gardening tradition and have to deal with climate constraints similar to mine.

So some days ago I came across this video which was too late for my own pepper seedling mission but I might save it for next year:


She talks quite lengthy but you can jump to minute 9 or so. What she does is snip off the hard corner on each of the seeds so that the first sprouts emerge after a day.
Haven't tried it yet but for those in the US where there is still time to start pepper seedlings you might give it a try.
 
pollinator
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I grow several varieties every year and have learned a few tricks to get my peppers up quickly.
 I mix coco-coir, worm castings and sand for potting mix.
I place seed trays in water to wick them wet. I press seeds into the surface cover with cheap covers and place on seed starting mat.   Then I cover the whole thing with a towel.
  The heat from the mat works okay but slowly because temperatures from above vary based on night/day. and even from one day to the next.
I believe keeping the temperatures steady for a week or so is the trick, at least in my area. After doing this for the last 6-8 years I have quick, even germination every time.
 
Ralph Sluder
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Three varieties started this year...
IMG_20210303_172016915.jpg
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Catie George
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Thank you Anita!!!

I will try that with a few peppers. .

One of the sources for my grumbling is that I know my eastern European /former Soviet block relatives (who grow fantastic peppers) don't have heat mats. In fact, I think they may start their peppers outdoors under plastic. Obviously, here in Canada the growing season is much shorter, but I really grumble to be tied to a heat mat. I haven't visited them since I started really trying to start my own seeds, and my language skills aren't really up to asking what they do.
 
Anita Martin
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Catie George wrote:Thank you Anita!!!

I will try that with a few peppers. .

One of the sources for my grumbling is that I know my eastern European /former Soviet block relatives (who grow fantastic peppers) don't have heat mats. In fact, I think they may start their peppers outdoors under plastic. Obviously, here in Canada the growing season is much shorter, but I really grumble to be tied to a heat mat. I haven't visited them since I started really trying to start my own seeds, and my language skills aren't really up to asking what they do.


Hi Catie,
I have just seen that this might work with eggplants as well. I had a terrible termination rate with my eggplants so I might try some last minute seeding.
Here is another video from a guy (also in German) who uses this method: Cut off that edge that makes it hard for the young root to penetrate, roll into cotton pad, dip in hot water, then cold water, then keep moist. And in 24 hours the first seeds open up at that cut point to let the root get out.
 
Catie George
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Let there be PEPPERS!

One pepper is up ('Hot Salsa Blend')

Several more are pushing out from the soil and will be up tomorrow ('Hot Salsa Blend' and 'Purple Star Pepper')

Hot and sweet peppers! Yippee!
 
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