Starting Seeds Indoors – Tomatoes and Peppers
Tomato and pepper seeds are some of the first that many of us will sow in the year and indeed, were the first seeds we planted in Callan Community Garden this week.
These plants need a long growing season if we are to harvest any fruit from them so February/March are often cited as the best months to sow them. However, tomato and pepper seeds need heat to germinate (between 15°C/68°F to 30°C/86°F for good results, the higher the better) so a heated mat, propagator or warm windowsill is essential for their success in Ireland.
Tomatoes and peppers are in the same vegetable family (Solanaceae) so their growing requirements are quite similar. Be very careful with your labelling if you’re sowing them at the same time as the seeds look almost identical and are very easy to mix up.
So what are you waiting for, would you like to have a go at growing your own tomatoes or peppers from seed? Here’s a step by step guide showing you how to sow the seeds.
Equipment Needed to Sow Seeds:
Seeds – Tomato / Pepper
Peat Free or Peat Reduced Compost
*A mini propagator with a lid (see image below for an idea – heated or unheated)
Watering can and an indelible marker and labels
How long will it be before I see any signs of life?
Germination, or the time it takes from sowing the seed to when you notice the first seed leaves bursting through the soil, should take less than two weeks, depending upon the temperature the seeds are grown at (the higher the temperature, the faster the germination).
Will I need to water the seeds/seedlings?
If you followed the steps above, you will have watered the compost before you sowed the seeds. It’s therefore unlikely the seeds will need any further watering whilst they’re covered as the propagator will act as a micro climate. However, after the seeds have germinated and the propagator lid has been lifted, keep an eye on the compost, ensuring its kept damp (not soaked) and that the seedlings aren’t allowed to dry out. The best way to test whether soil needs watering is to stick your finger carefully into the compost and feel how dry it is. In time you’ll learn how to recognise whether pots need watering by lifting them and feeling their weight. Watering the tray the modules are sitting in is preferable to watering the seedlings themselves as it causes less disturbance and a more equal distribution of water.
What happens next?
If you haven’t already, you might like to fill in the free email sign up form (on the side or bottom of this post, depending upon how you’re viewing it) to receive the Greenside Up blog directly into your email account. In a few weeks we’ll look at the next steps involved in growing your own tomatoes and peppers from seed and how you “prick the seedlings out and pot them on” into larger containers.
For a step by step guide for sowing peppers, take a look at the Greenside Up YouTube channel:
I understand that we should use peat-free compost from a sustainability point of view, but does it have any advantage for plant growth? Will the plants grow just as well with peat, or is it detrimental? (I grew up being told to add peat to the garden. so it’s been a hard habit to break.)
Hi Rich, that’s a good question. We’ve carried out experiments in community gardens growing seeds in peat free and peat reduced and though results can differ depending upon the brand of compost used, seeds will still grow in peat free, and grow well. The following article might interest you http://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/RHS-Publications/Journals/The-Garden/Past-Issues/2012-issues/January/PDFs/Science-update—replacing-peat and the RHS has some good information about it too http://www.rhs.org.uk/search?cx=partner-pub-6402928726328738%3ampzwff-w8oa&cof=FORID%3a9&ie=UTF-8&q=peat+free&sa=SEARCH Personally I use a Growise peat reduced compost for seedlings and modules and am very happy with the results. That said, I wouldn’t add peat to the garden, well rotted animal manures or home compost works wonders for adding organic matter to the soil.
I still use some peat, but hopefully will have enough home-made compost this year.
Glad to help 🙂 green manures are very handy for people who don’t have ready access to animal manure. There a link to them on my website here https://greensideup.ie/gardening-information-and-jobs/articles/ best of luck
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