I started some seedlings near my brightest window a few weeks back. Everything sprouted and is doing well, except the peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, and poblano). I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I covered them to keep humidity in and kept them moist. It has been almost a month and nothing, but my tomatoes all sprouted.
I am not using heating mats or lights, because I cannot afford such things.
Should I just toss the soil? Are the seeds rotten by now?
" With all the changes, nothing changes, no matter what you're told."
Cool season crops like lettuce, chard, etc, winter rye germinate in early spring when soil/air temp is really low. Summer crops like tomatoes, pepper, etc like the soil temp to behot (60F) before they start doing their magic, that or the seeds are just no longer viable.
I know they have similar demands to tomatoes, but all my tomatoes came up and they are all under the same conditions. As far as the seeds not being viable, I used 3 varieties, 2 of which were brand new. I think my methods are to blame here.
" With all the changes, nothing changes, no matter what you're told."
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
An alternative to a heating mat is to put the seeds on top of the fridge or water heating tank until they germinate, then move them to a sunny window. Take advantage of warm microclimate inside your house. Microclimates aren't just for major permaculture endeavours, you would be surprised how much the temperature varies throughout a house.
With very few exceptions, seeds do not need light to germinate. Most plants also need a warmer environment to germinate then they need to grow.
I'm having the same trouble with peppers this spring. My regular peppers germinated at room temp, about 65-68F, but the fancy peppers I got from the seed exchange didn't even think of waking up. Not one little leaf or sprout. Not being commercial seed or seed under my control, the problem may be the conditions the seeds were harvested or stored. Or it may be a unintentional cross that has sterility in it.
Or, the more likely problem is my growing conditions are too cold for this variety. Even though my tomatoes and other peppers are thriving, it doesn't mean that these peppers can grow in my conditions.
What I need to decide is, do I want to move the special pepper seeds to somewhere warm? Personally, there are plenty of lovely food crops that grow easily in front of my window without additional heat. Since I save my own seeds when I can, I am usually quite callas about growing conditions - I select what thrives in the conditions I can easily provide because I don't want to have to fret about special germination conditions for each plant. I only nurse special seeds if the crop is something really exceptional.
For the OP, why not try moving the peppers to a warm microclimate (top of fridge, next to cooker, near the house heater/woodstove/water take). They may have rotted, but possibly not. Worth a chance before tossing the soil. Just keep an eye out for mold if you have the moist soil covered. I find lack of airflow does more harm to baby plants than just about anything else.
I use a string of small Christmas lights in the bottom of a cooler, and then some aluminum pie pans, and atop all this the flats of peppers and eggplant (both of which are warm germinators, preferring temps in the 80's). The string of lights can be partially in or out of the cooler, permitting the temperature to be adjusted, and also by propping the lid of the cooler open to varying degrees. Once the crook of the seedling shows, they're committed and can come out into the light at ordinary house temps (60's-70's). I developed this technique years ago for incubating tempeh.
I have a question burning in my mind. I'm asking it with love and in the interest of better understanding what I'm missing out on. Maybe you can convince me of the advantages of your method.
One of the things I really like about this group is how we work with nature and use as few extra resources as we can. We use the microclimates in our land to help things grow, we take steps to reduce unnecessary electrical usage... You can see what I'm getting at. My point of view is that there are an excess of warm spots in a home like above the fridge, next to the stove, above the furnace, near the wood stove, above the hot water tank, the space above the kitchen shelves... You can adjust the temperature depending on how close/far you put your soil/pots/trays to the warm thing. There is enough warm space 'naturally' occurring in the home to start several hundred fussy seedlings - I know, I've done it - without resorting to heat mats, or other use-specific seed/soil heating. I've also tried heat mats, lighting systems, and other things like it, in other years, with the only advantage being the added income to the electric company. They work well enough, but I'm skint, I don't like paying for something if I already have it on hand, that's free.
So, convince me, what makes seed mats and these remarkably innovative seed heating systems, so exceptional? Why do you go to the extra effort and occasional expense when the microclimates in your home can do your bidding for you? What am I not seeing?
I've germinated them this way....moving them around the house from one warm spot to another. It's just another thing to remember and deal with, and it seems like a lot for half a dozen plants. The year we grew 50 plants with plans to can chiles and pimentos, make our own paprika, etc. it was really worth it, and multitasking the same space with tempeh helped too.
The best way I found was to still use an insulated container like the cooler or the oven, with a container of hot water in it, heated on the woodstove. Regulation was done by adjusting how wide open the box was....starting quite wide open and finishing up closed.
"There is enough warm space 'naturally' occurring in the home to start several hundred fussy seedlings - I know, I've done it "
Good for you! Lots of homes have this otherwise wasted heat.
My electric water heater is well insulated, and I insulated it more. My refrigerator is very very well insulated. We tend to keep the house on the cool side by choice, so one fire in the morning often does it for the day, and the other 18 hours, the poor tomato seeds would just sit there and shiver at 60F, not 80F. We rarely use the dryer at times when we need to germinate seeds. Our TV and similar appliances are on a power strip, so no ghost watts keeping the entertainment center warm. Our stove/oven has no pilot light, so it's never warm unless we're cooking. Our furnace has no pilot light, since we don't even really have a furnace.
We both use energy efficient laptop, not big hot energy hog desk top computers.
No hot cable box, since we have no cable.
Perhaps I should ask why you are wasting all that heat...
Also, if you use a soil thermometer, I would be surprised if you are achieving 80F soil temps. 72F maybe, but I doubt 80. Some stuff really needs 80F soil temperature.
No harm, no foul. None intended, and none taken.
Most folks would have some warm spot to do exactly as you suggest. I just don't happen to.
right now I have 100 seeds in a tray on a rack above the pellet boiler down stairs.
24 hrs and they are showing signs of sprouting.
tomatoes and cabbage in this tray.
wen they are ready they will get swapped out with the next batch.
I also cover the tray so they don't dry out and hold the soil at 80-90 degrees [warm to the touch ].
usually 3-4 days and swap.
now if only we can get the snow to melt,got another 6'' yesterday [244'' for the season][about 50'' shy of normal].
easy heat mat that you may already have in your home "heating pad" the kind you use for sore muscles. putting one of these under a seed tray will work just as well as an expensive heat mat, just protect it from any moisture leakage from the tray.
I use cold frames and indoors I have used heat mats and like them a lot.
My absolute favorite is a tray seed incubator, this is a specialized piece of equipment just for sprouting seeds reliably. Not for the average seed grower, simply because of the cost.
I use it for special occasions now, the power use is phenomenal when using it for small farm use.
No worries Troy. These are very interesting replies.
Like I said, these days I choose/create varieties that germinate at my regular room temp, which is also on the cool side, so warm soil isn't much of an issue anymore. It use to be, so I know how frustrating it can get.
It is interesting to see why people choose to do what they do. When I see so many people doing something completely opposite to me, I always worry I'm missing out on something awesome. I'm grateful you took the time to reply.
One thing that got my attention was a fridge that is insulated to the point that it does not produce heat. I have to admit, this worries me. A fridge produces cold inside, much like a heat pump heats the house. The heat from inside the fridge has to go somewhere...which it can't if it's too insulated. On top of this, the motor in the fridge produces heat, which when wrongly insulated, can make the fridge work harder and burn out considerably sooner. Now, if the fridge was cold on the outside, that would be a a definitely cry for more insulation.
All of this you already know since you've taken steps to make your home more efficient. I'm writing it for those new to energy efficiency. Sometimes, well, more often than I like, people get caught up on the idea that if a little bit of good thing (insulation) is good, then lots of it everywhere is better.
An example of what well placed insulation can do: the people who owned this home before us, spent well over $1200 a month on electricity, sometimes over two grand. The first thing we did to make the house more efficient was remove the insulation from around the back of the fridge, this cut the electricity bill down by more than 10%. With a few other changes, both minor and major, we now pay between $100 and $120 (a whole decimal place less) a month and everything from including the well, cooking, farming and heating is electric. Also the rates have gone up in the last decade, so for a more accurate comparison would be my neighbour (who heats with oil, but has a house with similar age and square footage) who pays $1700 to $2800 a month right now.
Things like the water heater, yes, I know what you mean about having it insulated. It was rather annoying not having a warm spot on top of there anymore. However, the motor for the heat pump produces heat, and it has a nice flat surface to start seeds on.
It's very much picking and choosing battles when 'wasting heat'. Heat 'wasted' by my fridge is put to all sorts of use from baking to starting seeds. The heat, a necessary byproduct of refrigeration, isn't wasted, it's used. I suppose if I didn't have it, I would be more inclined to create a warm spot - but we do have a fridge, so why make a second warm spot?
Although I'm intrigued by the reasoning for creating a seed heating place, I'm not yet convinced that's it the thing for me.
To get back on track, the OP suggested that they don't have/can't afford a heat mat. I'm suggesting that for those of us who are financially limited, we have other tricks to use. Our homes have all sorts of microclimates inside them, be it drafts or hot spots. Even lovely cool homes have places where the heat gathers. Unless the house is empty of stuff, different objects gather and store heat all over the place. It's well worth getting out that old thermometer and having a look around the house. What about the top of the bookshelf, how different in temp is it to the table height? How about at night, do the books act like a heat sink and keep the temp more stable there? There are all sorts of permaculture questions that we ask when assessing the land, these can be applied to inside the home as well.
I also wanted to reiterate, not all peppers or tomatoes need 80F to start. Mine normal pepper seeds start just below 70F.
Part of the success of starting seeds is choosing or creating the environment, part is choosing or creating the seeds that thrive in the environments you already have. For those who can't afford or don't want to run a heat mat or other heating system, there are ways to have success starting seeds.