Germination question.....

skycladFebruary 27, 2011

Every year I do the same thing with regard to germinating my pepper seeds. I take a paper towel, moisten it, lay down the seeds, fold it over and then put it in a zipLock plastic bag with with the top open. Then, I put it under the growLight where it is a bit warm and wait for the seeds to sprout. This year, it appears I put a bit too much water in on the towels and there is a foul smell coming from a couple of the bags. Does this mean I need to start over with the germination process? Are the seeds now contaminated somehow?? I want to address this before problems crop up later if this might be the case. Please let me know your thoughts on this, since it's never happened to me before. Thanks in advance for all responses....

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I never tried the ziplock bag method before. But if a foul smell is coming out of there it sounds like there may be some rotting type stuff goin on, or some bacteria or mold problem?

Maybe try again with a little less water and also try a warm dark spot to germinate em. Maybe the light activated whatever bacteria or bad stuff that was in there?

Dont know for sure, just some suggestions.

Good luck

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Unfold the towel and check to see if your seeds are moldy or rotted. If they are, start over and just keep the towel damp, not wet. I use the same method for a lot of my seeds, but set the baggie on the shelf above my computer(they don't need light until they germinate). I open and check the seeds occasionally, sometimes leaving the bag open a for little while if it seems too moist, or I spritz the towel with water if too dry. HTH

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 10:59PM
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I'm new to chile growing, but here's the method I'm using. I save small plastic containers with lids that restaurants use for BBQ sauce, etc. with take out orders. They are about 2 inches in diameter and have a clear plastic lid. I put a double layer of paper towel in the bottom and the seeds on top of that. Then mist the paper and seeds. The clear lid makes it easy to see when the seeds pop. I mist again as needed. This has worked well for the dozen or so varieties I've started with the exception of the reluctant Bhut Jalokia, which is living up to its reputation as being difficult to start. Tom

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 1:00PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I've had mold develop on some seeds in a bag, but I planted them and they grew regardless.
I was surprised. Now I don't worry so much about the germination process.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 7:17PM
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I've found that 3inX3in. ziplocks work for me.
I start a ton of seed varieties at a time.The small zips stack easily and hold as many seeds as I want of each variety.
I also found that if I put the seeds in a 2in. to 4 inch pot instead of a sprouter the do better-more root growth and less transfere shock...
I think that I get less damping off or water caused problems going with the pots rather than cells transfered latter to pots.
If something seems to be drying out I just put some plastic wrap loosley over the sprout.
I like the paper pots that look like peat pots too.
The peat pots have sawdust in them and the roots can't get out as easily.The paper ones are almost disolved when the sprout is ready for it's final potting up to go outside.
I get 25 pots for $1.00 at the Dollor Ramma.
They come in 2 in. or 3 1/2 in.
I think you get 20 or 25 of the 2in ones per pack and 10 or 15 of the bigger ones.
When I do use cells for starters(mini greenhouses) I like the 12 cell ones.They take the same amount of room aqs my 72 cell ones but are a lot easier to mess with when taking out the stuff that's ready without messing up the smaller stuff.
I replaced the 72 cell starter tray/cell with 9 cell incerts-easier to mess with when transplanting starts.

Some are square

12 cell and pots that peat or paper pots fit into.
With peat pots I peal off the peat before final transplant for better growth.

They sell 9 sell 9 cell incerts for the 72 cell tray at the 99 cent store too.
I don't get along with messing with the large 72 cell incert and if you cut it smaller it breaks up easily when you have to mess with it.
The incerts are thicker plastic.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 7:36PM
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kosherbaker(LA CA-10)

I have a question about those paper/cardboard Peat Pots. My .99 cent store sells them too and I've used them in the past as well, however, they seem awfully happy to develop mold on them. Does that not scare you guys the seasoned pros?

Another thing about these that I learned is that they should not go into the soil, into which the plant/seedling is going to be planted into as it continues to rot/mold and I think can give the plant that nasty white mold on leaves illness. Is that a possibility or did my white mold come from somewhere else?


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:36AM
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I see some mold on some of them but by that time the sprout is about ready for potting up.

I peel off the paper or peat pot before transplanting unless there are a ton of roots comming out through it.

I like paper ones because they degrade fast and I don't have to peel them off as often.

I put them in the small 2 inch pots in the pic.
I still peel it off unless it's some rare pepper I don't have more seeds for and don't want to risk loosing it by messing up the roots.
Plants are designed to grow no matter what.
Most times people love their plants to death.
I'm guilty of that as are a lot of other people.
The hardest thing to do is leave stuff alone and let it do it's thing,recover without help.
In general you end up with a stronger plant once it was left to deal with whatever was cauasing a problem in the first place.
Kind of sounds like you have a moisture problem to me.
I get some mold but it never spreads,stays on the pot not spreading to the soil.
The Peat ones have sawdust mixed in,I don't use them if I can get the Paper ones(no peat).
I can imagine a wood loving fungus spreading from the peat/wood ones.
Fungus is different than mold.
I don't really worry about mold,in general I can control it but fungus spores can live forever waiting for the right conditions.
From time to time I get flushes of Fugus in my pots.
I don't think the fungus itself messes with the plant.
The fungus seems to suck up water though so it can fruit,robbing the plant of water,not nutrients etc. or living off the plant itself.
Just my observations from using wood based soil mixes.
I don't like peat based ones.Too many critters love laying eggs in it and the babies like roots for dinner...

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 8:25PM
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kosherbaker(LA CA-10)

Thanks Smoke. Yeah no question I've been overwatering all of my plants. That's just being a noob. :) Luckily, with the help of this forum I figured it out. So maybe that's all it was.

Thanks for your tips.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 1:08AM
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smokemaster, I did as you suggested and am using small zips for germination. I started with a barely damp paper towel, each bags has 6 seeds, a different bag for each variety. These are placed on top of the cable box where temps are 80-90 degrees. I'll also start some in the pots you suggested and compare results.
My question is:
Do you close the zip bags or leave it open?

my son came back from Iraq with a dream of growing super hots in my garden this summer. He will likely be transfered by the end of the year so I'm hoping for a good harvest he can bottle or dry and take with him to his new duty station. Through trades and gracious donors we have a nice selection of superhots. Now I just hafta get them germinated and growing :)

I read alot of your posts and respect your opinion (love your photos too!)
Thank you in advance.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 12:57AM
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I used to leave them closed.
Since I have my grow shelves I just plant the seeds in soil and don't mess with zips anymore.
I used zips to save space because I didn't have room for all the germinators set up.
I only grow a couple hundred plants at a time now and have plenty of room.
I used to start 400+ varieties at a time.
I don't have as much growing space now so I cut down.
I don't think I get any better or less sprouts either way.
If I had the room I'd start everything in 4 inch pots and not have to do any transplanting except into the final pots.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:53AM
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Thanks for the info smokemaster. Space is my issue so zips will help. I checked them today and some are looking nice and plump. No germination yet though. Need to get the 4 inch pots ready and light set up. Maybe I'm a bit late but at least we're on our way :)
WOW, 400 varieties! We have 15 but I think thats plenty for our circumstances. I think they are all what you would consider superhots.
I think I noticed some of your pictures where you're growing in pots. Do you also grow in the ground or strictly in pots? I was thinking about doing some of each. That way if we dont get a harvest by frost, we can bring some pots inside. I dont know what zone you're in but, do you ever bring pots inside for the winter? I've noticed people having problems with pests. One step at a time I guess.
Thanks for sharing your time and wisdom.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 4:24PM
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I live in S. California.
No winter.
Plants grow pretty much year round outside.
Only grow in pots-no dirt for a garden.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 8:06PM
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and you have amazing results!
guess its a trade off...Plenty of soil here but short season.
Hope I get a fraction the harvest you achieve.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 12:29AM
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You might want to read link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Germination experiment

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 4:09AM
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Thanks for the link. Thats a pretty impressive little experiment. Guess I should find some of those little cups..haha.

After reading the link I checked all the baggies (didnt have much hope)

Seeds placed in baggies 3-3
-3 serranos germinated
-all 6 white bullet habs germinated
-numerous other seeds look hopeful
-plenty that dont look close

*now is a good time to say that I said something wrong in a previous post. I believe I said that all our seeds might be considered 'super hots'. I didnt think about the serrano and anaheim. Obviously I knew close to nothing about peppers before my son asked me to grow these for him a few months ago. Most of what I've learned is from reading here :) Sorry for the mistake.

The other seeds I'm attempting to start are:
-bhut jolodia
-chocolate hab
-orange hab
-white bullet hab (he's hoping to make some white salsa so we also are going to grow white tomatoes
-caribbean red hab
-scotch bonnet-big sun
-chocolate bhut jolokia
-7 pod yellow
-7 pod jonah
-7 pod brain strain
-trinidad scorpion morouga blend
-trinidad scorpion yellow cardi

I only have 10 seeds of some of these types so I hate to risk loosing many due to my inexperience.

should I get the little starter cups or just pull the seeds from the baggies and put them right into pots. Not sure which would be best ... hope you have some guidance

Thanks in advance.
greatly appreciate your help

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 1:55AM
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Instead of putting all your eggs in 1 basket maybe separate the ones in zips and put 1/2 of the seeds in cups and leave the other 1/2 in the zips.
Some things work better for some people than others.

It might have nothing to do with zips VS. cups.

It could be the way their conditions are as to which worked better fot the seeds they are germinating.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:14PM
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That sounds like a reasonable, moderate solution.

I now have a small setup for 4 inch pots. Hopefully between the 3 approaches, we'll have some success.

I did move one of the germinated white hab seeds into a pot. I believe I recall you mentioning at this point ~70 deg would be appropriate.

For some silly reason I couldnt bring myself to cover the little germinated seed with the potting mix. I'm not new to gardening, just to peppers (have only grown jal from purchased plants).

The commercial package said 1/4 inch deep. Sound right to you? At this point its just below surface level. I cut a tiny piece of the toweling so as not to disturb the roots. Looks happy so far.

Good grief, I sound like a first time mother!! haha

Thanks for hand-holding me :)
I really do appreciate all your time.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:02AM
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I think putting soil over the seed helps it pull out of the shell.
Holds the shell under the dirt so the plant can pull free.
But I do know people who just set their seeds on top of
a Rockwool or peat plug and do fine.
I guess it can work either way.
I just stick something like the tip of a chopstick or pencil in my soil and drop the seed in.Push soil over it and water.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:45AM
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kosherbaker(LA CA-10)

Thanks for the link smoke. Great read. I use the clear plastic containers that salad greens come in, instead of the plastic sandwich baggies. :)

Good to know that you are from Southern Cal. I'm in Los Angeles, (Santa Monica area). Now that I read your posts I'll know that we should have the same weather and environment.

Nancy, I just wanted to wish you a huge success, and am hoping that all your peppers germinate, and also say Thank You, to you and your boy for serving.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:32AM
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I'm in the Van Nuys area of the Valley.
I used to fish off both the Venice and Santa Monica Piers often along with the breakwall.
Watch the circus at the venice boardwalk in the summer.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 4:16AM
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kosherbaker(LA CA-10)

Oh Wow. So we are really close then. :) My niece lives in Valley Village. :) She, her hubby and their 1 year old come out here to either 3rd street Promenade or the beach bike path.
So then not only do we both live in LA but we are also both apartment dwellers, doing all our gardening in containers. :)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 12:45AM
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well, I checked the zip bagged seeds this evening and 21 seeds had germinated!

With the help of a chopstick, they are now snug in their own private pots under a bit of potting mix.

I'm so pleased..21 in just 5 days :)

Of the 15 types of seeds, 7 have germination and 8 dont. Of the 8 I chose one that I have more seeds of and put 6 seeds into a little plastic cup with moist toweling on the bottom. We'll see how that goes.

Thanks for the well wishes Rudy, I'll tell my son. He isnt a kid (23 actually) that boasts but truely appreciates the kind words of people like you.
I found out today that his unit has orders for afganistan early next year. Not what a mother wants to hear. Who knows, maybe things will change. Thats a long time away.

When I was 19 I spent the summer near where you guys live. Had an apartment a couple blocks from the beach. Great memories :)

Smokemaster, what you said about the dirt helping the plant pull free from the shell makes sense.
Another question:
Once the little sprout is out of the soil, do you leave the lights on 24/7 or is it better to give them a few hours of dark each day?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 1:52AM
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I give my plants 12-18 hrs of light.
I cut it down to 12 if they are getting too big and it's not cool to put them outside yet.
I start my stuff in late Dec. and a lot of them have pods before may/June when it starts getting too hot here for buds to set.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 3:25AM
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I have found that instead of paper towels inside the zip bags it is better to use unbleached coffee filters. Some roots can easily grow into the weave of the paper towel and you risk snapping them off while trying to extricate the seed.

The coffee filter has a much tighter weave and the seeds will remain on top.

Try to use a toothpick to remove the germinated seeds; someone above used a chopstick which seems a lot like a really big stick where a little one will have less potential for damage.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Use the chopstick just to make a hole to drop the seed in,it doesn't touch the seed at all.
Some people use a chopstick dipped in water to transfere seeds.The drip of water picks up the seed.
If a root goes into the paper towel i just cut the paper around the seed and put the whole thing in the pot.
There are usually 3 or 4 seeds in a 3x3in. zip,plenty of space between them.
I never touch the root.I usually plant the seed as soon as I see any root popping out of the shell.

I don't let the root grow very much.
Only reason I sprouted the seeds in zips was to see what seeds were germinated and to save room on my grow area.
Not have pots with seeds that weren't going to grow in them.

In general,if a seed doesn't germinate in 10-14 days it probably won't if conditions are right.
That can change with the variety of pepper and age of the seeds.
Nothing is written in stone except nature made plants and seeds want to grow if they are left alone. LOL

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 4:05PM
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I bring in 2 large pots of herbs each fall (really strawberry pots). About 12 hours under the grow lights at night is what I do for them. I'll now do the same for the peppers :)

The chopstick worked great for planting. Thanks smokemaster
This morning one little plant appeared and a few others look close.

Andy, I understand what you're saying about the coffee filter but I didnt have any in the house (not a coffee drinker). I did what smokemaster said and just cut the toweling.

Of the seed types that have no germination yet...I put 3 seeds of each in little plastic contains with the damp toweling. Maybe I'll get better germ with this method.
seperating the eggs as you suggested smoke :)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 8:49PM
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Smokemaster says "nature made plants and seeds want to grow if they are left alone" Agreed. Flowering plants have survived for hundreds of millions of years, and through several mass extinctions before humans were even around. I'm certain that they will continue to do well long after we're gone.

Great thread. As for me, I usually only grow about 50-100 plants, so space is not much of an issue. I don't germinate, I just plant the seeds in Jiffy peat pellets and they've always done well - even the finicky ones. I find the number one thing is to give them heat.

Still to early for me to start peppers here in CT (5b). I'll start them on April 1. I'll sow peas outdoors next week.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 8:13PM
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I'm in 5b also...planted peas with my 5 year old grandson last weekend. Little guy kept wanting to check them to see if they were growing yet :)

50-100 sounds like a nice size pepper garden. I'm hoping for 5-8 plants of each of the 15 varieties. With all the good advice given here at least we have hope :)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:26AM
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The little seedlings are doing well. None have a true set of leaves yet.
I just did a bit of reading about dampening off. One suggestion was for a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide to spray on the plants.
I'm wondering if I should treat now to avoid this problem or wait and see.
I didnt sterilze the potting mix. Not sure if I should have.
Thanks for suggestions :)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 3:30PM
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Another point to emphasize with zip-lock germination is cleanliness. Clean your hands, clean your implements, use hydrogen peroxide in your water.

Cleanliness improves germination results.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:43AM
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