When do I start?

AllanRandall(z7 OKC)November 23, 2011

Hey everyone, I was hoping to get some advice for some of you experienced pepper growers. For the last couple of years I have purchased a few different pepper plants in spring from a nursery. The problem I have run into is that, here in Oklahoma, we have very few days of the right temperatures. I bought a Habenero plant this year and literally did not get a single pepper to start until October. So, this year I want to try having the plant ready and blooming for what little spring we do have. I'll have to grow seeds to do so and I was thinking of trying ghost chili seeds. My question is, taking germination time and growth rate into account, when should I start the seeds to have the plant nice and big by the last frost. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

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I live in the Chicago area and started my peppers (several Ghost and a lone Hab) the middle of March.

If I start from seed again I will start earlier, probably mid-February, since I didn't get any peppers until almost August.

I may not have to do seeds since I'm (trying to) overwinter three of the Ghost pepper plants. If they die before February I've got a decent pile of seeds from this year's crop to fall back on.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 2:11PM
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esox07 (4b)

I live in central Wisconsin, a little further north than mbellot. I started late January last year with planting my seeds. I am going to start a bit later this year, early to mid February probably. My last frost is usually mid May but pepper plants are probably best kept protected until the end of May up here. I start hardening mine off in April and leave them out as much as possible until late May when I can finally leave them out continuous through the summer. I had good production last year and even got some second crops off most of my plants. I could have used another two weeks though. Hope this helps you but I would think you can get your plants out for the year a good month or so earlier than us up here. And have quite a bit more time in t he fall too. You should easily get a full crop in before things get too cold.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 2:48PM
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Most the chiliheads up North start germinating inside in January. They begin getting them acclimated( outside) right after the last freeze.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I also start the slower growing ones in mid Feb. and the faster growing ones in mid March. Basically, 8 weeks before I plan to plant outside, or 12 weeks for the c. Chinese varieties. I end up planting out around Labor day give or take a week.

Also, as mbellot mentions, if you overwinter them, then they are already more mature with a head start on a good root system. So, I guess I started some of mine 40 some odd weeks early. ;-)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 3:08PM
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I'm a bit more conservative than some of the other growers here; I live in central/southern CT and usually don't put my peppers outside until mid may and in the ground on Memorial Day weekend (I think thats what tsheets meant to say). I start my chinense seeds in early to mid March and my annuum seeds on April 1. Most my plants are about a foot tall (in 4 inch round pots) when I transplant in late May. I usually start getting ripe peppers in July, with the chinense coming in August through October.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 3:42PM
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oops, yes, I meant Memorial day. Good catch! :-)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 4:08PM
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Most peppers take around 90 days to grow from seed to fruit (some can take as little as 60 days, others can be up to 120 days), but generally 3-4 months is what you can expect. So, pick when you want to be harvesting your peppers and count back 3-4 months. If you want fresh hot peppers for your 4th of July party, plant the seeds in late February or early March (just remember to start them inside and harden them off before setting them out in full sun once it warms up).

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 4:40PM
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AllanRandall(z7 OKC)

The problem is that we almost jump from winter straight into one hundred degree weather, so the pollen becomes sterile. We just don't seem to have much spring to speak of. I'm thinking to get any peppers in spring, I may have to have them pretty much blooming by last frost which I think is usually around mid April. Would it be a good idea to start them soon under a grow light, or would it bad to have them growing inside for too long

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 4:43PM
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Well, the problem with growing them that large indoors is that you'll need a box fan running on them for at least a couple hours a day.

The reason is because, much like people, plants are lazy. They won't do more than they have to in order to get by. Indoors, there is no wind, so there is no need for the stems to tough up to withstand it. You grow them great indoors, you set them outside, first good gust of wind and every last branch snaps in two.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 7:36PM
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esox07 (4b)

I started mine in mid/late January last year and by April, they were already blooming and even setting some fruit indoors. I would think that if you started about that time, you could get them outside mid April and hopefully have them setting fruit by the end of May. That should be well before the 90+ heat starts for real. One suggestion I might make for you is to grow them in containers this year and when the heat gets much above 90, you can move them to a spot they will get a good deal more shade during the afternoon for the two or three months of high heat.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 9:29PM
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AllanRandall(z7 OKC)

Sound like January would be ideal, now I just have to resist the urge to start them earlier. Thanks for the advice everyone.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 9:45PM
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I had a fan running on (not directly though) my seedlings starting around the third or fourth week, generally 7 hours/day, precisely because I had read a lot about weak stems.

I also kept them in containers all summer long, early on because the ground was much colder than the soil in the pots, later for mobility (we had some nasty storms and a couple freaky col snaps).

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 12:02AM
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esox07 (4b)

mbellot: yes, I run a fan on my seedlings once they get 4 or 5 inches tall. I usually just run it when the lights are on. Which is about 12-16 hrs per day. I have a timer on the lights and just patch the fan into the circuit so they both are automatic. I like easy. I think the fan helps with some of the fungus's and other problems that hit seedlings indoors as well as helping them grow stronger stems.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 2:00PM
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I had mine on 24/7 light until shortly before moving them outside, then I started cycling 16/8 to get them used to a day/night cycle.

I really think it (the 24/7 light) helped "catch them up" after starting a month late.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 4:14PM
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I start my Chinenses on December 26th, and once they sprout, put them directly into 4" pots. They stay under the lights (12 hours/day) with a fan blowing on them 24/7 until I plant them outside, usually around May 19th. Since you are further South, you can probably set yours out sooner. I start my annuums in Mid February, and usually get a harvest from them by late June, early July. The Chinenses don't really produce much until it cools down in late August or early September, and I hope the pods get ripe before the first freeze. YMMV.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 2:48AM
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