Sunday, March 1, 2015

Starting Peppers


I do love peppers – hot peppers, sweet peppers – Yum!  Last year I only grew two varieties, a hot (Hungarian Hot Wax) and a sweet (King of the North).   One thing is for sure – I grew FAR too few varieties.  I’ll be fixing that issue this year.

Pepper Seeds for 2015
 
And now for the specifics on the varieties that I chose to grow this year - and let me tell you, with all of the incredible varieties out there, choosing was no easy task.

In brackets, I’ve indicated the days to harvest, the source & date of purchase (if not purchased this year).  We are talking peppers, so days to harvest indicates days from transplanting outdoors to a full sized green pepper; you'd have to add another 3-4 weeks for the red-ripe stage.  New varieties are marked with an asterisk (*).


Sweet Peppers


*Jimmy Nardello Italian (75 days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
This heirloom variety was originally brought to the US by Italian immigrants in the late 1800’s.  Plants are supposed to produce an abundant crop of long, thin peppers that ripen early.  Both Daves (Our Happy Acres and Dave’s Square Foot Garden) recommend this variety.


Stocky Red Roaster (65 days green/85 days red, High Mowing) 

Photo Source:  High Mowing
 
An Italian frying pepper with thick walls & 4-6” long fruits.  Michelle grew this one last year – her gorgeous harvest & subsequent comments that they were in fact delicious as a roasted pepper inspired me to include them in this year’s lineup.


Melrose (?? days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
Baker Creek describes this pepper as being rich, flavourful & very sweet.  Fruit is about 4” long & 2” wide.  Melrose peppers are practically an institution in Chicago & those who have moved away from the area often lament that they can't find their beloved pepper in their new location.  Since Chicago has a similar climate to ours, I’m hoping that this one grows well here.   I find that Baker Creek often does not include days to maturity for their seeds & a quick internet search didn’t give me anything definitive, so I have no idea if this is an early, mid or late maturing pepper.


Hot Peppers


Hungarian Hot Wax  (58 days yellow/83 days red, Baker Creek, 2014)

Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers
 
These are fairly mild (for a hot pepper) & they were a huge hit last year as both a fresh and pickled pepper.  Our first harvest was relatively early (mid-July) and the plants kept producing until mid-September.  I also harvested a few more peppers in November from a potted up plant that eventually succumbed to aphids.


Anaheim (80 days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
Mildly hot, large peppers that are good for roasting & frying.  These peppers are often used in their green stage, so that is definitely a plus.


Tam Jalapeno (70-80 days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
This is supposed to be a very mild jalapeno pepper with all the flavour but 1/3 the bite of traditional jalapenos – I’m thinking that this one may be a good introduction to jalapenos for the kids.


Corne de Chevre (90 days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
A hot pepper from Spain’s Basque region that is great for drying.  I'm picturing a gorgeous bunch of strung dried peppers hanging in the kitchen...maybe too much to ask for but a girl can dream, can't she ;)


Ostra-Cyklon (80 days, Baker Creek)

Photo Source:  Baker Creek
 
This one is great for drying & making Polish paprika.  According to Baker Creek, it only has a “bit of heat”, but when I looked it up online all other sources referred to this pepper as simply “Cyklon” and most stated that it had a good amount of heat or that it was “HOT”.  I’m not sure if the “Ostra-Cyklon” Baker Creek sells is a milder variety of “Cyklon” or if the catalogue is mistaken when it comes to the level of heat.


Italian Pepperoncino (75 days, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
These are the peppers that we often see pickled & included in Italian type salads & antipasto.  Both my husband and I are quite fond of them, so it was a no brainer to add these to the list when I came across them on the Pinetree website.  I would consider most of the ones that we have eaten to be mildy hot.


Spanish Padron (80-85 days, Renee’s)

Photo Source:  Renee's
 
Last year, Michelle harvested a ton of these & her descriptions got me sufficiently intrigued to give them a try.  The seed packet indicates that these should be harvested when no more than 2” long otherwise they get very spicy – I’m thinking that the continuous harvest of smaller fruits will mean a larger harvest overall.

As a side note, I’m VERY impressed with the information that Renee’s provides on its seed packets.  All of the info on the Padron packet was specific to that particular variety, including how to prepare them (vs. many other companies that only provide generic instructions & info).


Seed Starting

Pepper seeds, specifically hot pepper seeds, can take a long time to germinate.  Last year, I initially sowed my hot pepper seeds directly in cell packs.  I started to get nervous when there was no sign of life after almost 2 weeks, so I decided to pre-germinate some more seeds.  This turned out to be a much better method of starting the seeds.  Most germinated in 8-10 days, at which point I sowed them in the cell packs.  The first of the hot peppers that were directly sown in the soil took almost one month to emerge.  The overall time-frame doesn’t really change when you pre-germinate vs. direct sow, but if the seeds are no longer viable, at least I only lose 10 days or so instead of 4 weeks.

Just as a side note, the sweet pepper seeds took no time at all to germinate - these were started a few weeks after the hot peppers & I went directly to pre-germinating them, which only took 3 days.

There is one other benefit to pre-germinating the seeds (can you tell I'm a pre-germinating fan yet?) – it allows me to sow one viable seed per cell instead of having some cells with 2 starts and others with none.  I would either have to disturb their delicate, new root system if I were to transplant them or I would waste seeds if I thinned – an important consideration especially when a packet doesn’t contain many seeds (my Stocky Red Roaster only had 10 seeds in the packet).

Now comes what could potentially have been very bad news.  The first step I take when pre-germinating pepper seeds is to soak them for 8 hours.  So last Saturday morning, I placed each variety into a little cup and added a bit of water.  At around 6pm, I looked at the clock and thought – only 1 hour left.   And then I promptly forgot all about them until the next morning as I was driving my son to soccer.  So my 8 hour soak turned into a 24 hour soak.
 
Soaking Pepper Seeds
 
I still went ahead with pre-germinating them, keeping my fingers crossed that the extra-long soak didn’t drown them.  And only 2 days later, I was re-assured that everything might be ok when one of the Corne de Chevre seeds germinated.  On day 3, one or two seeds from several other varieties also germinated (Padron, Ostra-Cyklon, Stocky Red Roaster, Anaheim, Jimmy Nardello).  Based on my experience last year, I was quite surprised that several of the hot peppers germinated so quickly.  I had, however, read that a lot of germination issues with hot peppers comes down to variety - some varieties are just more fickle than others and I guess the Hungarian Hot Wax pepper is one of them.  This, of course, tainted my overall impression.

I sowed the germinated seeds into cell packs that I cut into individual cells.  This allows me to move each plant out of the covered, heated tray to the grow lights as soon as it emerges.  Last year I sowing the seeds in non-separated 4-cell packs and then, of course, had issues with some seeds germinating & needing to get out of the too moist/warm environment of the covered trays, while other seeds in the same pack had not yet come up and would have benefited from more time on the heat mat.  I like using the 2.5" square cells as they are small enough to allow for lots of transplants in one tray, but still large enough that I won't have to pot up the peppers until mid-April.

Cells Newly Sown with Pepper Seeds
 
It has now been 8 days since that initial soak & out of the 10 varieties I started, only one has not had any germination yet - take a wild guess which one....it begins with an H.

Till next time...


“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

30 comments:

  1. When I grew peppers I liked prsprouting them too. Whenever I didn't I was always worried they wouldn't come up. Some didn't. Soaking really gets them started better in addition to letting you know earlier. I always did it in a paper towel that was put in a plastic baggie. Of course if you don't check often enough you can get in trouble that way too.

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    1. That's so true. Every once in a while last year I would forget to check for only a day or so & next thing you know I had seeds with roots that were growing into the paper towel, not to mention it's much easier to damage them when they get too long.

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  2. Good selection of peppers. You will enjoy the Jimmy Nardello and Padron. We will find out together about Stocky Red Roaster. I didn't realize there is only 10 seeds in a packet.

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    1. I can't wait to try them all out! And it does sometimes seem that these seed packets are either feast or famine, doesn't it?

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  3. Great varieties! I never soaked my pepper seeds before, I will have to give it a try next year.

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    1. I think that soaking speeds up germination by at least a few days - a good thing for me as I'm usually impatient when it comes to seeing that first sign of life!

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  4. I grew both Jimmy Nardello and Melrose back in 2012. They ripened about the same time and even produced about the same amount. Both are really good sweet peppers and I would be hard pressed to have to choose one over the other.

    That's one thing I don't like about Baker Creek, their seed packets tend to be rather skimpy, but they do have some interesting varieties that aren't available elsewhere. So I do order from them, but if the same variety is available from another company I buy elsewhere. And when it comes to peppers, a lot of seed companies are stingy with the seeds. And another thing about pepper seeds is that OP varieties do seem to be variable, the same variety from different sources can vary from vendor to vendor. I found that I prefer the Padrons from Franchi seeds to the ones from Renee's so it will be interesting to see how the Renee's Padrons do for you.

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    1. That is great to hear about the Jimmy Nardello & Melrose. I was quite disappointed with the King of the North that I grew last year so am looking forward to trying out other, hopefully more productive varieties.

      Until I read your comments on the variability of the "same" seeds from different suppliers, I never would have guessed that this would be an issue. Sometimes it's hard to keep this in mind unless you try the winner first & then try a source where that variety doesn't perform as well. When you try the loser first (like my "King of the North" experience) it's hard to make a case for trying a different source unless you hear about others having a different experience.

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    2. I don't know where your King of the North seeds came from, but I grew them one year and wasn't impressed with them either. I don't remember where my seeds came from, maybe Seed Savers Exchange.

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  5. Will you get an HHW peppers at all? They make such a great mix colour for pickling; I always have a few plants. I have never presoaked before, but I know what you mean about wanting to see results sooner. You are ahead of me - I can't wait to get mine started but I'm not quite ready yet.

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    1. Well, I had one of them sprout today - finally! We loved them so much last year that I've included 6 plants in the layout this year (whereas I'm only growing 2-3 of all the other varieties I'm trying). I'm pre-germinating 12 seeds - if I still don't get 6 to sprout I guess I'll have to pick from one of the others to take it's place. The question that I will likely struggle with is how long should I wait before giving up and going to Plan B.

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  6. I've never thought to presoak pepper seeds and I will be doing that. I do that with a lot of notoriously hard seeds, like morning glory. You've given me a wake up here---thanks!
    I love to see your varieties---you will have one interesting vegetable garden this year. Can't wait to see it in full swing!

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    1. Thanks Sue! I must have read that soaking was a good idea somewhere & made a note of it - you know how it is, every other source will tell you to do this and that differently when it comes to sowing your seeds. Whether it actually makes a difference....that would be an interesting little experiment to do someday.

      Let's hope that most of the "interesting" things in the garden this year for BOTH of us are good things...after this past winter we darn well deserve it!

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  7. That is sure a lot of peppers! Your family must really like them. We just like sweet. We don't do hot and spicy things too much. I hope they all do well for you! Nancy

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    1. My husband and I love both, but especially hot peppers and my son is into sweet peppers...we are still working on my daughter. I'm growing a lot of varieties - we'll see if that results in a lot of actual peppers.

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  8. I always presoak difficult to germinate seeds (sometimes for days) on heating mat, the method works for me.

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    1. Interesting. I soak them just at room temperature. I'm wondering if placing the cups on the heat mat would speed up the process.

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  9. Looks like at least two Daves are growing Stocky Red Roaster this year! ;-) You know I am a fan of JimmyN, and I hope it does well for you. I can't believe I didn't know about it years earlier. In my garden, Padrons were always hot, no matter when I harvested them, but it could be some of that variability in o/p seed that Michelle is talking about. It also could be our hot summers make them hotter, who knows.

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    1. Looks like the Red Roaster is making the rounds this year! Thanks for the warning on the Padrons - I guess I'll have to do a bit of a taste test before I unleash them on my family.

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  10. Hi, Margaret! It's nice to find your blog. I love pepper, especially hot pepper. I grow so many varieties of peppers all year round. And I love to follow your posts. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Endah and welcome! Boy - wish I could grow peppers year round (or anything else, for that matter). Everyone around here is just itching for spring (and some green!) to finally arrive.

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  11. oh such fun varieties! I can't wait to see how they taste. I prefer sweet peppers but will have some hot to dry into chilli powder. I wouldn't worry about keeping them in water 24 hours, it shouldn't hurt them at all.

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    1. It looks like you were right as all of the seeds that sprouted are up and growing as they should. Only one of those darned Hot Waxes has germinated so far...I think I had better get some fallback seeds happening, just in case.

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  12. I pre-soak some seeds but never peppers, will try doing so this year.

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    1. I think it really helps get them going quickly - or at least quicker than they otherwise would - which is great for us impatient types ;)

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  13. That's a good tip to pre-soak. None of my sweet peppers have germinated yet so maybe I should try another batch using this method.

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    1. Peppers can be tricky - I've learned that the hard way. Last year I had one that didn't come up until 2 months later!

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  14. I am so utterly charmed by the prettiness of those seed packets! And good on you for the peppers, I'm similarly stocking up.

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  15. Ps I find the trickiest thing with sweet peppers is support so that the stems don't snap. Tricky, because the plants are a bit puny for proper stakes. I usually use cut down canes, how about you?

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    1. Hi Catherine! The two varieties I grew last year didn't need support so I have yet to use any type of stake for peppers. I'm thinking if I had this issue I would probably use bamboo stakes to support them - one on either side. Bamboo stakes come in shorter 90cm & 120cm sizes, are fairly inexpensive & are easy to find here.

      I would be nice to have such a large load of peppers on the plants that stakes become a necessity - hopefully this year I'll have this problem!

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