Gardeners across the country all get that itch in January. We have survived the biggest hump-day of the year. Wednesdays as hump-day? Pah! We scoff at that. Gardeners feel like they have crossed a humongous hurdle on December 21st, the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. We long for spring and a new growing season so desperately that the thought of the days beginning to stretch longer and longer, even if for just a few extra minutes; our minds swim with anticipation. But, of course, we have to get through the holidays — and then clean up after the holidays….yada yada. Yay, now that time is over. Time to get busy getting a start on what we love to do.
Starting seeds indoors is about all a gardener can do, other than look at catalogues and dream. Well there is more to do, but that is a topic for another day. Yesterday and today, I started a bunch of seeds indoors. I started a lot of cool season greens and herbs, and of course a couple trays of Chiltepin. Tepin peppers have a reputation for being difficult to germinate. Many pepper seed sources state that they will not guarantee that the seeds will sprout and that it could take up to 80 days. In my experience over the past 5 years or so, it has definitely been hit and miss. Several times I have had the flat of seeds sprout within a couple of weeks. Other times, it just sits there for months and I give up. Last spring, I had a large flat of several hundred seeds that did nothing. I finally gave up and dumped the soil back in my wheelbarrow to re-use to start cucumber seeds. Lo and behold, up popped each lovely cucumber sprout, and soon thereafter, a cluster of chiltepin seedlings surrounding each one! – - Yikes! What to do? – - I kinda had a Sophie’s Choice moment…..but I really wanted to make pickles, so the tepin seedlings bit the dust. Anyhow, this year’s resolution is to get this germination conundrum figured out. I have a few ideas, and I’m gonna be more scientific about it. The main variables to contend with are soil, moisture and temperature. And potentially seed conditioning.
Soon I will show pictures of the experiments I have started so far. But for today, since this article is going on and on, I want to leave you with one idea. Never, never use any type of potting soil or seed starting mix that is mainly peat moss. Peat moss is anti-microbial. It does nothing to stimulate life. In fact it does the opposite, hence “antimicrobial” (Sorry to repeat myself. My kids complain about it all the time.) Peat moss lives for years and years in bogs without breaking down. That is your first clue. Also, there is some current research regarding its anti-microbial properties that I won’t bore you with right now. So don’t use peat for starting tepin seeds, or possibly any other finicky seed. It is looking like these little guys need a generous boost to get started in a hurry.