We Are Eli And Kate...

and this is our garden

Getting my peppers and tomatoes started early: update

There is still a level of excitement in the house over the fact that we have things growing. Helped I think, by the fact that they are in my office, so I see them every day. It’s pretty cool actually. And I do chuckle a bit at the fact that I am participating in all the online meetings and lessons via the light of my grow lights. No one knows, except us… shhh our secret. So for those of you just catching up on this new development in our lives, let me give you the back story.

It’s pretty much too cold and horrible to get anything going outdoors here until March, usually later in March. Which can be pretty frustrating, especially when you are seeing folk posting pictures to social media of their seedlings and plants. So this year, we thought we’d try getting a jump start on things by getting our seeds sown indoors and we’ve set up an area with grow lights to provide the best environment for when those little seeds grow and become plants.

It’s only been a few weeks but seeing the little seedlings every day has been fantastic as I’m now learning so much more about how they grow, for example. The tomato seedlings sprouted about a week earlier than the pepper seeds and generally were quicker to get growing too. We sowed the seeds on the 18th Jan, indoors with a heat mat under the propagator and the first little seedling started poking through on the 22nd. It was a tomato. As that week went on, all the tomatoes had appeared, but still no peppers.

So I had a wee bit of time watching all the little tomato seedlings grow. You know the usual, they all look the same at first, just two little pointy leaves. But the tomatoes actually came on so fast and by the time the first peppers seedling was up, the tomatoes all had the true leaves and really needed to be pricked out and potted on. The peppers didn’t start appearing until the 27th Jan.

I make it sound like a lovely idyllic relaxing time of watching nature… no… Let me tell you the truth. By the time that first pepper seedling appeared, I was exhausted from the sheer will of trying to telepathically encourage them to appear.

Oh ok, what actually happened was…

We are bringing the plants on early, it isn’t normal or natural for them to be growing here in Scotland at this time. Let’s be honest. We sowed them indoors on a heat mat as these seeds need between 15C and 20C to germinate. The heat mat allows the soil to heat up to that temperature. Now the benefit to the heat mat versus putting them above a radiator or something similar, is that the heat mat is controlled, so it shuts off if the soil gets too warm. And surprisingly, it has actually hardly been on since that initial burst of heat was needed. Once we got the soil to temperature, the temperature of the house has mostly kept it there. I mention this just because it can actually be harmful to the delicate little seedlings if you let the soil get too hot, remember the roots structures of these tiny plant are super delicate. So a wee bit of control has been nice.

The other part of the equation and the most difficult for us is the light. It’s great that we can bring the plants indoors so they can have the warmth they need, but we struggle to provide enough light for the plants. Even though our house is quite bright, there really isn’t anywhere we could put all the seedlings that was bright enough for them. So we added some grow lights to their little space in my office. And I have to say, I am really impressed with how well this is working out. The seedlings are sowing on really quickly and they look really healthy, straight and strong. But I’ve gone completely off topic as usually, so lets get back to things.

I mentioned that the wee seedlings were all now coming up, but the were growing at very different speeds. The tomatoes were turning into strong little “teenagers” with their true leaves and tall stems, while the peppers were still tiny little things waiting their first true leaves. however, again for perspective, we are talking about a week, in terms of time. Yup the difference of a week makes a crazy difference to the plants. So, last week, I pricked out the seedlings and gave them all their own larger pots.

Even though we might look at those tiny little guys and think they are still babies, we have to be aware that under the soil, those root structures are growing fast and we need to move them into their own little pots before things get all tangled up, so that’s what I did this week. And I am please to report that I have a huge bundle of healthy, happy little seedlings, all with their own little pots and those little peppers have just developed their true leaves – awwwwww the tomatoes have the next set again, so I imagine it isn’t going to be long before I have to pot them on again to yet bigger pots… but that is also when the worst bit happens.

At the minute I have lots of plants, I only need one or two of each… so at some point I have to do the cull and decide which ones I keep and which ones go. I hate that bit.

As usual, I had the camera running while I was in the greenhouse and I’ve put together a very simple video showing you how to prick out and pot on your seedlings. So if this is all new to you, it should be a great little guide for you, telling you everything you need.

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