First attempt to grow NuMex Twilight

whatever6441July 24, 2014

Last month I got interested in NuMex Twilight and Bruce (esox07) kindly sent me some seeds. So I'm having my first go at growing it (or just about anything). I really have no idea what I'm doing and I'm learning as I go along.

I started off with trying to germinate a dozen seeds using the baggie method with coffee filters, with a solution of 5% hydrogen peroxide (which is itself a 3% solution in the bottle) in filtered water. The baggie method didn't end up working well for me. Midway, I removed 4 seeds and put them on cotton wool inside a clear plastic clamshell from grocery store salad. I gave them about half a dozen spritzes from a small spray bottle once or twice a day. Most of the baggie method seeds got moldy. There are still a couple that maybe haven't succumbed to mold and are still ungerminated.

I started the seeds with the baggie method on 6/28 and as of 7/17 one of the seeds I'd switched to cotton wool had germinated. Between then and 7/20 two more on the cotton wool had germinated. On 7/21 I planted the four seeds from the cotton wool in organic potting soil in fiber seed starter pots.

I attached some photos of the germinated seeds from 7/21 and the seedlings from today.

I'm going to be growing this in a container. I got a couple of nice decorative pots that don't have drainage holes, and are otherwise unsuitable for growing edibles. So I want to get some food safe containers to put inside. By "food safe" I mean I think I'll have to use plastic, so I'd like to find some made-in-the-US containers made from food grade plastic, like #5, and not otherwise rendered unsuitable for food (e.g. having stored a toxic chemical or something). These Gro Pro nursery pots look promising, but they don't even say what they're made of (and I only know of one local place that sells that brand, and they only had one size). I'm planning to try some local bakeries to see if they have stuff like #5 frosting buckets I can get. But if anyone has suggestions, please let me know.

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kentishman

You're off to a good start, but I'm not sure about your soil mix. It looks very wet, but maybe you had just watered them. Anyhow, have fun with them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:09AM
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scorion1

I was thinking the same thing as kentishman was about the soil mix being to wet.Damp-off will kill your peppers.I lost some because of all the rain we been having here.I hope am wrong about your soil.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:20PM
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esox07 (4b)

+1 on the soil looking overly wet. If it stays that way too long, you will likely loose those little fellas. They need moisture but not too much. Seedlings are fragile and letting them completely dry out with their small root systems will kill them quickly as well so you have to find that balance. Once they get bigger, they are a bit more tolerant.
Also, I really don't like those fiber pots. First off, too many people think they can just transplant them, pot and all into a larger container or the ground and the fiber pot will soon disintegrate. That isn't usually the case and you wind up with the root system staying inside that little container for months. The other extreme is that the pots start falling apart before you are ready to transplant them. But if you do wish to use them, I suggest you plan on removing the fiber pot before transplanting.
I have never worried too much about the type of plastic that I grow my peppers in. I use 5 gallon buckets for my summer containers. I buy inexpensive starter containers for starting my peppers. I wouldn't think the plastic would leech any toxins into the peppers, but I may be wrong. Many people use Solo drink cups to start peppers. And yes, you ALWAYS want drain holes in your containers.
Good luck and you should have some cool looking Twilights later on this fall.
Oh, and I have always had a rough time with the baggy and paper towel method of germinating as well. Just plunking them down in some soil in a container seems to work great for me and it also cuts out a step in the process.
Bruce

This post was edited by esox07 on Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 14:34

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:30PM
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whatever6441

Thanks for the replies everybody. I'd heard of damp-off, but didn't look into it until today. I guess it would've been smarter to use a soil-less medium. I was just winging it and I guess I did overwater them. After reading your posts I improved drainage beneath the fiber pots, created more separation between them, and I put a fan on them. They were put in the dirt on Monday -- do you think they're saveable?

If it stays that way too long, you will likely loose those little fellas. They need moisture but not too much. Seedlings are fragile and letting them completely dry out with their small root systems will kill them quickly as well so you have to find that balance.

Ok, thanks, I guess I need to look up some watering info.
Also, I really don't like those fiber pots. First off, too many people think they can just transplant them, pot and all into a larger container or the ground and the fiber pot will soon disintegrate. That isn't usually the case and you wind up with the root system staying inside that little container for months.

Oh, ok. That is indeed what the package says you can do. In my inexperience that sounded good, especially since I didn't yet have other containers I wanted to plant them in.
The other extreme is that the pots start falling apart before you are ready to transplant them. But if you do wish to use them, I suggest you plan on removing the fiber pot before transplanting.

I can imagine that happening, especially as I've overwatered them. I'll do that -- plan to remove them. I cleaned some stuff out of the refrigerator and saved a couple of #5 plastic containers that are about the same size as the fiber pots. So if the fiber pots are falling apart I could punch some holes in these and put the seedlings in them for now.
I have never worried too much about the type of plastic that I grow my peppers in. I use 5 gallon buckets for my summer containers. I buy inexpensive starter containers for starting my peppers. I wouldn't think the plastic would leech any toxins into the peppers, but I may be wrong.

I really can't say for sure, but it is discussed online. I believe plastics are known to leach chemicals in certain conditions (hence the whole BPA issue, for example) and there is discussion about the idea of that happening with gardening containers, and the suggestion that some types of plastic are safer than others. Here are some examples (also interesting is the discussion about ceramics):

Plastic Containers as Planters: Safe or Not?

Choosing a Pot Plant Container - The Pros and Cons

Choose Safe Containers for Growing Food
Good luck and you should have some cool looking Twilights later on this fall.

Thanks. Hopefully they survive my mistakes that long.
Oh, and I have always had a rough time with the baggy and paper towel method of germinating as well. Just plunking them down in some soil in a container seems to work great for me and it also cuts out a step in the process.

The cotton wool inside the clear plastic container seemed to work good. If there's a good reason to germinate them before planting, I'd try that again. But maybe next time I should just plant them straightaway. I guess at this point it's helpful to me to germinate them first so I can see what's happening, e.g. since I'm inexperienced with how long it should take.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:19PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

I do use the paper towel method. I want to be able to see that the seed is viable before putting it in the ground.

Dennis

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:16PM
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whatever6441

Thanks Dennis.

Ok. well those promptly withered and died. I assume it was damp-off, but I don't know for sure. I'm now attempting to germinate 1 dozen more seeds (all on cotton wool inside the clear plastic clamshell this time). I will attempt to obtain a sterile soil-less medium to plant them in this time and I'll plan to water less (although I have to look up some more specific instructions for that.

Can anyone recommend a specific sterile soil-less medium that's likely to be readily available at a national retailer like Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, etc? I want something suitable for growing edibles (I guess organic would be ideal?). I'd prefer not to have to mix my own, and that may not be cost effective either as I only require a small quantity right now (although, would that product be difficult to find in the dead of winter?).

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 6:16PM
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woohooman

For starting seeds, I use Miracle Gro Orchid mix(the small stuff) with a bit of extra perlite. I've also used MG Organic Choice potting MIX.

Note the word MIX, not SOIL.

And yes. Home Depot will have bags in the dead of winter.

I make my own to GROW my plants in, but I did pick up a bag bale of ProMix HP at home Depot this year. It's a superior ready made grower's mix.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 6:53PM
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whatever6441

Thanks for the reply Kevin. Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is what I got from Home Depot and planted these seeds in. But is that or the orchid mix sterile? That's important for preventing damp-off, right?

And yes. Home Depot will have bags in the dead of winter.

Ok, thanks.
I make my own to GROW my plants in, but I did pick up a bag bale of ProMix HP at home Depot this year. It's a superior ready made grower's mix.

Ok, thanks. Something ready made that can be gotten in small quantities is probably going to be the best bet for me for the foreseeable future. Once the plants get past a certain size they're a bit less vulnerable and it's not as critical (at least for their surviving if not thriving) what medium they're in, right?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:57PM
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esox07 (4b)

Damping off is usually caused by over watering. Nothing is really sterile. It might have been "sterilized" at some point, but once it is exposed to air, it is no longer sterile. That being said, some people go to the extent of baking their soils in the oven before using them to "sterilize" them. Don't over think the whole process. Too much love is a lot of times just as bad.

The MG Orchid mix is a good soil for starting peppers.
Bruce

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:23PM
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woohooman

Yes. Both are sterile upon opening the bag and should remain good for quite awhile. You can always make sure by sterilizing it yourself on say a bag that's been sitting open all year. And yes, sterile soil is important to prevent damping off.

http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/CoopExt/4DMG/Soil/sterile.htm

Well, you still want good, sterile, well-draining potting mix(if grown in containers) to grow in, but yes. After a couple months, damping off fungus isn't nearly as detrimental.

Some key techniques for preventing damping off are:

1) Don't overwater
2) Bottom water for the 1st couple months -- set container in a larger container with about an inch of water for 15 minutes
3) Let dry out completely between waterings
4) Set up a small fan
5) And if you really want to nip it in the bud -- TOP water with a solution of 1 part Hydrogen peroxide(3%) to 4 parts water every 2 weeks

Good luck.

Kevin

This post was edited by woohooman on Wed, Jul 30, 14 at 22:40

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:38PM
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whatever6441

Thanks guys.

esox07 wrote:

Damping off is usually caused by over watering. Nothing is really sterile. It might have been "sterilized" at some point, but once it is exposed to air, it is no longer sterile.

Oh, ok. When I read about it, I got the impression that starting with a sterile medium was the most important factor in preventing it, followed by not over watering. Clearly I was over watering and that's the number one thing I'll plan to correct.
That being said, some people go to the extent of baking their soils in the oven before using them to "sterilize" them. Don't over think the whole process. Too much love is a lot of times just as bad.

Ok. I did read about that, and it sounded like microwaving was the preferred method, but I don't even have a microwave.
The MG Orchid mix is a good soil for starting peppers.

Ok. If they survive long enough to be transferred to larger containers I'll need a mix for that anyway, so maybe I'll save the rest of the MG Organic Choice I have for that and get some orchid mix to start them in. Or, maybe not. I just looked at Miracle-Gro's website to find out something about their orchid mix and noticed that the Organic Choice mix has a 2.3 / 5 rating on their own site. It's only slightly better on Amazon.

The only MG orchid mixes I see are described as coarse -- that's ok for starting seeds, and better than their Seed Starting Potting Mix? And it's suitable for edibles?

woohooman wrote:

Yes. Both are sterile upon opening the bag and should remain good for quite awhile. You can always make sure by sterilizing it yourself on say a bag that's been sitting open all year. And yes, sterile soil is important to prevent damping off.

Like I said I was just on Miracle-Gro's website and took a peek at the reviews for the Organic Choice mix that I used last time. I noticed that Scotts' response to the first review that's displayed mentions that "We do not sterilize the soil".

Thanks for the link. At this point I'd definitely prefer to buy a sterile mix than try baking it in the oven.
Well, you still want good, sterile, well-draining potting mix(if grown in containers) to grow in, but yes. After a couple months, damping off fungus isn't nearly as detrimental.

Ok.
Some key techniques for preventing damping off are:

1) Don't overwater
2) Bottom water for the 1st couple months -- set container in a larger container with about an inch of water for 15 minutes
3) Let dry out completely between waterings
4) Set up a small fan
5) And if you really want to nip it in the bud -- TOP water with a solution of 1 part Hydrogen peroxide(3%) to 4 parts water every 2 weeks

Good luck.

Thanks for all of that, especially the specific instructions for doing the bottom watering. I will try that this time. I'll look up some more info on how to apply the fan. The hydrogen peroxide sounds good to me as long as it's fine for edibles.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:23AM
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woohooman

No. Not the coarse blend. This is what you want. I have no idea why Home Depot doesn't have it on their website any longer.

http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2783783&KPID=3850369&pla=pla_3850369

Peroxide is completely safe. It's used for mouthwash even.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:33AM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

Well, I don't want to start a controversy, but I don't bottom-water except the rare instance when I really want to be sure the pot is soaked, such as when re-potting. Partly that is because I start in a multi-cell starter tray that isn't conducive to bottom-watering.

Partly it is because I feel that bottom-watering puts too much water into the pot. Yes it takes some skill and vigilance to top-water, but I'd rather err on the side of too-dry than too wet. A wilty seedling is recoverable. A damped-off seedling isn't.

My point is that one shouldn't be dogmatic about bottom-watering as if it will prevent damping off. One can do just as well, possible better, with top-watering. Which one to use depends on container form, soil attributes, air movement, and grower skill. (Feel free to add to the list.)

Dennis

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:30PM
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esox07 (4b)

You can get that MG Orchid mix at Home Depot and Walmart as well.
Bruce

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:11PM
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woohooman

See, I feel as long as you have well draining soil and you let the soil dry out completely between waterings that it's time for a deep soak anyhow.

All different ways to skin a cat. I believe that bottom watering works well for beginners. The wooden skewer trick takes out a lot of guessing.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:16PM
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whatever6441

woohooman wrote:

No. Not the coarse blend. This is what you want. I have no idea why Home Depot doesn't have it on their website any longer.

esox07 wrote:

You can get that MG Orchid mix at Home Depot and Walmart as well.

Ok, thanks guys.

DMForcier wrote:

My point is that one shouldn't be dogmatic about bottom-watering as if it will prevent damping off. One can do just as well, possible better, with top-watering. Which one to use depends on container form, soil attributes, air movement, and grower skill. (Feel free to add to the list.)

This time I'm planning to plant them in plastic containers that are about 3" diameter and 2-1/4" - 4-1/4" deep. I don't know what soil yet -- maybe an orchid mix as has been suggested. I could put a fan on them. And grower skill is pretty much nonexistent.

woohooman wrote:

All different ways to skin a cat. I believe that bottom watering works well for beginners. The wooden skewer trick takes out a lot of guessing.

Whatever method gives a beginner the best shot at avoiding death from damp-off is the best bet for me. If enough of these seeds germinate, I could try more than one method.

I tried to look up this wooden skewer trick, but couldn't find a real clear explanation.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:39PM
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woohooman

To prevent overwatering--- After planting seeds and watering, take a bamboo skewer/chopstick, stick it in the soil. When you THINK it needs watering, pull the skewer out. If there's soil attached to it, don't water. Water when you can pull the chopstick out and there's no soil attached to it or the skewer is void of any moisture.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:54PM
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esox07 (4b)

What Woohooman said. You can buy a large pack of those wooden skewers at walmart for a buck. They are a 1 to 1.5 feet long. You can buy them at a lot of places but I know walmart has them. I think they are in in the craft section as well as the kitchen section. The wooden stick method is the easiest, simplest and most fool proof way to determine soil moisture content.

I also use the skewers as garden stakes to support young plants.
Bruce

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:39PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

> "And grower skill is pretty much nonexistent. "

Not so, grasshopper. All growers are allotted a modicum of f=%&g up. You have used up some of your modicum, thus you are now partly skilled.

Look at it this way. Now you know some of the things not to do - a firm foundation for any skill.

Peppers for everyone!
Dennis

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 3:12PM
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whatever6441

@woohooman @esox07, ok, thanks guys. I actually have some 10" long wooden shish kebab skewers already. When I took a look the other day to find a description of the wooden skewer method I think I noticed a couple of people complaining that they thought plants they did that with developed problems (fungus maybe?). Obviously you guys must not think there's any such issue with it though. Maybe I'll boil them first to be on the safe side.

DMForcier wrote:

Not so, grasshopper. All growers are allotted a modicum of f=%&g up. You have used up some of your modicum, thus you are now partly skilled.

Haha, yeah I guess that's true.
Look at it this way. Now you know some of the things not to do - a firm foundation for any skill.

That's true. I can really only go up from here.

I looked yesterday at a local garden center, Lowe's, and Home Depot and none of them had a fine orchid mix -- only coarse.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:32AM
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