As a newly addicted seed swapper I figured I’d better start getting better about sprouting seeds rather than buying plants at the nursery. It’s really hard to justify trading seeds otherwise and I’m having too much fun to give it up. I’ve had good luck with winter crops – beets, mustard, kale, snap peas, carrots – but warm weather veggies have always caused me grief. It’s my fault. I’ve been really lazy about it and spring veggies have fairly specific requirements to germinate and grow strong.
Peppers, for instance, germinate best at 75-85˚with lots of white/blue light. Normally I just throw some seeds into potting soil and place them out in the sun to fend for themselves. Is it any wonder they’ve never thrived? Methinks not.
I decided to give my new seeds a fighting chance to sprout this season by building a little baby greenhouse, which we have named the Germination Station. We always like to use what we’ve got if we can. Luckily our recent garage purging turned up a cool old wood crate and a roll of thick plastic which, believe it or not, Jon brought with him when he moved in… twelve years ago. Packrats? Who, us?
It just took a few minutes to staple the plastic to the crate, and then we took my clamp-on desk light and stuck it inside. Some helpful advice from fellow seed swappers led me to use a 100w CFL bulb and place it low, just 2″ above the seeds. I also lined the crate with aluminum foil and placed an uplight underneath with a 75w incandescent for warmth.
Here’s how it looks with the front flap open:
You can see it’s really basic. Mostly I keep the front flap down so it gets nice and toasty inside. The seeds seem very happy! My first pepper sprout that started to pop its head through two days ago:
Last time I checked there were 12-14 sprouts coming up! The Numex Twilight and California Wonder peppers were first to stand up. Pepperoncini, an artichoke and several tomatoes have just started breaking through. Aren’t they cute?
So now I just need to keep an eye on them, which isn’t hard because I’m totally obsessed and have to keep myself from checking them every half hour. They need to stay moist and warm to germinate. Once they grow a bit I’ll raise the light and also put a gentle fan on them to help their little stems get stronger.
When the time is right I’ll take them out and ‘harden them off.’ This process helps acclimatize them to being outdoors so they don’t get overwhelmed by their harsh new surroundings. Now to figure out where they’re all going to go…