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New to growing your own tomatoes? This is the forum to learn the successful techniques used by seasoned tomato growers. Questions are welcome, too.

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Old January 13, 2012   #1
lakelady
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Default When to start seeds in Zone 6

I normally start my tomato seeds in March here in NJ. I've never grown peppers from seeds, just bought plants in the past, but I've gotten a nice little collection of hot peppers this year thanks to some Tomatovillians, and I'd like to know when a good time to start them would be. I know they need a lot of heat, and understand they can take a long time to fruiting, so I was thinking late January or early February, then tomatoes in March. My house is usually at 68-70 so I'd put them on a heatmat.

Is January too early here?
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Old January 13, 2012   #2
guruofgardens
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I'm going to start my hot peppers the last week in January/first week in February when all the supplies are organized. Tomatoes I usually start the first or second week in March.

Last year the weather was w-a-y too cold to plant until the end of May, so the plants got a bit leggy.

Don't have a heat mat, so I use an old electric blanket that works just fine.

Many of the hot peppers may take weeks to germinate so don't get discouraged.

Best of luck!
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Old January 13, 2012   #3
Father'sDaughter
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I'm a bit further north than you and I started my peppers on Valentine's day last year. They went into the garden near the end of May--the same time as the tomatoes which were started in mid-March.
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Old January 14, 2012   #4
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Last year I started planting hot peppers on Feb. 14th. It was WAY too early for the Capsicum annum varieties (Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano, etc.). They became leggy, rootbound and just did not thrive. I think I would have been fine to wait until April 1st to start those, and they probably would have been more productive overall.

Mid to late February seems to be just about right for the C. chinese varieties (Scotch Bonnet, Bhut Jolokia, Habanero). My experience is that these are slower to germinate and slower to grow - more hard-core tropical than C. annum. January might be a little early for these.

I started planting bell and other sweet peppers (C. annum) on March 1st. That also was too early. April 1st would have been fine.

This is a generalization, obviously. If you plan to grow in larger pots (I used 3-1/2" pots), you could probably get away with an early start. I expended a LOT of unnecessary time and energy moving pepper seedlings in and out of the weather.

We did have an unusally cold and record wet Spring in 2011, however, which caused about a three week delay in planting for most growers in the area.

Perhaps counting back 7 weeks or so from when you plan to tranplant into the garden would be the way to go. It seems that every year I transplant my peppers way too early and they just sit there doing nothing for a month or more. I just might plan to transplant peppers on or after Memorial Day - that's a full month after our average last frost. That again yields an early April sowing date.

Early to mid April for starting tomatoes seems best around here. I can still get good, stocky seedlings by mid to late May. Again I've found that for most varieties, an extra early start just is not worth the time, energy and money.

Of course if you're just growing for a backyard garden, you can pamper the seedlings more, and the headstart might be worthwhile.
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Old January 14, 2012   #5
Tania
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my peppers go to their final location in the garden in late April/early May. I grow them in cold frames.

I start my peppers seeds in January and transplant into individual pots in early March. This is when I start taking them out into a cold frame for a day to enjoy some natural light. They grow very slowly in my unheated laundry room, so I have to start them so early.

C. Chinense peppers grow very slowly and like lots of warmth which we are lacking here in PNW. So every second year I have to bring the potted plants inside the house to overwinter, and they continue to grow and produce happily the next year. Even when I start them in January, they may not mature in one season, depending on the year and the variety.
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Old January 14, 2012   #6
lakelady
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ah okay. I have read on TV that some peppers take a very long time to germinate so I was concerned if I did them same as tomatoes I wouldn't have much of a plant for planting time. So maybe I'll try the hot tropical ones first and leave the others like Jimmy Nardello for tomato time. I'm not planning a lot of them since I don't have a lot of seeds, but I do have datil, and lemon drop I really want to grow this year and give some plants to a neighbor who is a hot pepper head, I think he'd love them and he's always sending food over to my house when he cooks in mass quantities
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Old January 14, 2012   #7
mysidx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guruofgardens View Post
I'm going to start my hot peppers the last week in January/first week in February when all the supplies are organized. Tomatoes I usually start the first or second week in March.

Last year the weather was w-a-y too cold to plant until the end of May, so the plants got a bit leggy.

Don't have a heat mat, so I use an old electric blanket that works just fine.

Many of the hot peppers may take weeks to germinate so don't get discouraged.

Best of luck!

I was curious, what do you set your electric blanket on? I am using one as well, and I wasn't sure where to set it.
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Old January 14, 2012   #8
guruofgardens
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mysidx,
I usually put the electric blanket on a lower number, say 3, but first check with a thermometer before putting anything on the blanket. I will be putting the planted seeds in plastic bus boxes and then covering them with plastic or even the blanket since the sides of the boxes are so high. Then when they're sprouted, one by one I'll put them in another bus box with lights balanced on the top - in my cooler basement so they will indeed grow much slower.

I'd say the temp to sprout the seeds should be at least 80 degrees.

I do start early as most of my peppers are c.chinense - bhut jolokia, trinidad scorpion, 7 pots, etc. I do plan on trying lemon drop and a few others this year because I want to make great jelly! (got most of the recipes online)

I've found the hot peppers love the heat/sunshine that the pots can provide and will be planting more of them this way. Much easier to transport, too, especially when the hail starts a-falling.
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