Starting tomatoes & peppers

jesky(8b)December 27, 2010

I've cruised around the tomato & pepper forums, but think this may be a more appropriate forum in which to ask about starting tomato & pepper seeds for spring, mostly because my zone can be pretty specific, and most advice I find is geared for cooler zones. I'm in very deep, south, Georgia, and last year I started seeds for the garden and to share with friends at the end of January, and felt like I wished I'd started them earlier. I was thinking of starting seeds this weekend, but am also worried about starting too soon. I keep myself entertained through the winter with various indoor experiments, but this will be for my earnest attempt. Any thoughts or experience that anyone can share would be appreciated.

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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

A general rule of thumb is to check out to find your last frost date. Now get your packet of seeds, see how many days it suggests planting before frost. Not all seeds have this information but most store purchased seed packets will have it. "4-6 weeks before planting out". So just count backwards from your frost date or when there abouts you plan on planting to that many weeks/days and voila! You'll have a nice idea of the time frame to start your seedlings!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 1:08AM
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jesky(8b)

That's more or less what I did last year (except I went with eight weeks), and really wished I'd started earlier. I think the process of hardening them off is what did it. UGA's data from 1998 - 2007 shows our latest last frost as March 13, so starting the seeds this weekend would give me ten weeks. I figure that gives me a week for germination, seven weeks of growing, and two for hardening off. I'm just wondering if seven weeks might be too long inside.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 7:51AM
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mikeyjoe98(z7GA)

I live in Rome, Ga. I normally start my tomatoes and peppers inside (I have an understanding spouse) around Feb. 15 or so. I generally don't put them outside until the second or third week of April, keeping them under lights nearly the entire time. 40 watt shoplights will work fine, but give them 6 hours of darkness or so each night. I nornally transplant them into bigger containers twice before planting them outside. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 4:28PM
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jesky(8b)

mikeyjoe, that helps me a lot. Your average last frost date is probably about a month after mine, and it sounds like you start seeds in a similar way that I do, so I think I'm not entirely off-track. I have a large, really sunny window with lights, as well. I also pot up, but only once if I'm growing them in-ground. How large is the largest pot you move them into before they move outside? In the second or third week of April, is that when you have them completely outside, or begin to harden them off?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 6:55PM
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mikeyjoe98(z7GA)

I generally am ready to plant by them. I harden them off my moving them inside and outside before then. I grow mine in styrofom cups (unearth friendly I know) and each time I transplant I get a DEEPER cup since the tomatoes will root up the length of the stem. The biggest cup I use is about 10 inches deep. Then when I plant them I pull off the lower "branches" to get them as deep as I can. May seem silly but it helps establish a good root system which is important in our hot climate. Make srue you poke holes in the bottom of the cup

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 7:05PM
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jesky(8b)

Yeah, I like to get deeper in the repotting and planting, too. I saw something about a guy that had buried his tomato plant a couple of feet into the ground, and had a great season. I've never gotten that deep, but I like to go about a foot down.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 8:54PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I don't know that you need to put tomatoes that far into the ground, however planting deeply was proven to be good practice a few years ago. Scientists discovered that the "hair" on tomato stems contains substances which fight disease. Planting them deeply gives the plant an excellent head start for healthy planting. I thought that was pretty neat.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 1:03AM
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mikeyjoe98(z7GA)

I don't know if I would go a couple of feet down, but I do usually go down at least 18 inches or so. In less harsh climates, some people plant their tomatoes horizontally, if that makes any sense, six inches or so underground, and bend the tip so it points up above ground. I just don;t think would work well in our scorching summers.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 10:04AM
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jesky(8b)

girl, I'd never heard that there were disease-fighting substances in the hairs, but I did know that they turn into roots. Interesting.

mikeyjoe, I know what you mean with the horizontal planting, and agree that it probably wouldn't be best for our summers. I do think planting deeply really helps the tomatoes survive the summer, as it creates a strong "tap root." I wouldn't go as deep as that man did - I don't want to dig that many deep holes! I might try it with one plant, as an experiment, but the rest of the plants should be very happy at 12 - 18" depths.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 12:23PM
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caseyf(GA)

Im in south ga too..and I think its ok to plant peppers now..and Im going to try eggplant too..but I am holding off on tomatoes..They grow quicker..so I will plant them first of Feb..
Casey

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 8:53AM
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jesky(8b)

casey, thanks for your input. I think you're right, and am starting my peppers today, but waiting to do the tomatoes.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 11:34AM
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caseyf(GA)

Jesky
Did you get your seeds started on the 31st?I got behind and just got peppers planted yesterday.Will keep them on the heating pad until they germinate. I have found the heating mat with peppers and eggplant really help out in getting them to germinate faster.Im still waiting till the first of Feb on tomatoes..they get leggy so fast..But I might try one pack of roma or something next week..as an experiment.
Funny..Im getting Spring fever with this predicted ice storm heading our way.
Happy Gardening..

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 9:33AM
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jesky(8b)

I did start the peppers, and a couple of tomatoes (to experiment). The germinating mat I ordered hasn't arrived yet, but about half of the peppers and a couple of the tomatoes have already started to come up. I am thinking about starting the rest of the tomatoes next weekend, or maybe the weekend after that. What peppers are you growing this year?

The cold weather definitely gives me Spring Fever. Fortunately, the ice is supposed to miss us, so it will just be rainy and nasty down here, but we cut short an Atlanta trip to be safe. Stay warm!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 5:46PM
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caseyf(GA)

Im in Southwest Ga,..so we are missing most of the ice I hope..I am planting peter,birdseye, jalapeno, sweet banana, cal wonder bell, thai hot, red,yellow and orange bells, mini bells, cubanelle,fish,black pearl and some others..but those are so far.. I use them myself but also sell plants at a local market.
Tomatoes I grow a large selection too. Idonthave a regular heating mat but use an extra large heating pad.
Good Luck
Casey

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 6:15PM
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wayright

Hi Jesky,
Im in Tucker, I got my wild peppers started on the first,,and my Chinense's started yesterday,, I will wait on Annuums,Baccatums's and Frutesens till mid Feb.
Kevin

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 8:51PM
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jesky(8b)

Shortly after about half of my peppers germinated, I started my tomatoes. Then, on a dark and stormy night, I heard a thud from inside of the closet that I start everything in. Everything was upside down on the floor. As I sat down on the floor and started crying, my sweet husband came and picked everything up as best as he could. I've lost about half of my starts, and the half that look like they will recover are a complete mystery to me, as their little name tags were a part of the fallen heap. So, this year, instead of it being a year of carefully monitoring germination and growth, I'll be gardening in the blind. I have no idea what was lost, or what was recovered, so this ought to be interesting. I'm hoping to make it into a fun game.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 10:21AM
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wayright

Wow that sucks Jess,If you wanna email me I can resend a few seeds. Its not too late to start some more! :)
Kevin

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 1:01PM
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caseyf(GA)

So sorry to hear of the loss of your plants..so frustrating.>Thankfully its still pretty early and you can restart. How frustrating though..Sorry
We are having good germination on the peppers and eggplants and we planted tomatoes yesterday..Still working on more..but its fun..Keeping fingers crossed that we dont get any damping off...lost a lot to that last year but couldnt figure out what happened.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 5:57PM
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jesky(8b)

Kevin, that is extremely generous of you to offer, but what you have already sent me was so generous that I have some seeds left! I think I overplanted enough that I'll be OK for the season. Thank you so much for the thought!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 6:00PM
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jesky(8b)

caseyf, it seems to have eaten my response to you. I'm glad to hear that you are having good germination. I've never had a problem with damping off, and hope that doesn't start this year. What do you do to try and prevent it?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 9:19AM
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