Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen: We Have Liftoff!

The super hot chile seeds are off and running. I'm not sure what went wrong last year, but this year I must have done something right. I have almost 100% germination of the seeds on the paper towels and some sprouts pushing up in the peat plugs. These are 2013 seeds, and have been living in my refrigerator for 9 months, too.

Here is what the seeds that germinated on the paper towels look like:

As soon as your seeds sprout, plant them into seed starting mix. Any type of pot will do; I use 20 ounce red plastic cups with holes punched into the bottom or purchased seed starting cells. Remember not to simply pull the germinated seeds off the paper towels. There are very fine root hairs on these new roots that are clinging to the paper towel, and it will harm the young plant if you pull the seeds off and break off the hairs. Instead, use a pair of scissors to carefully cut around the seed, leaving enough towel so you have a place to hold it.

Next, make a hole in the middle of the potting soil that's larger than your seed and deep enough so the seed will be covered with 1/8" of soil.

Using the paper towel to hold your seed, suspend it in the middle of the hole with the seed 1/8" from the top of the soil and the roots pointing down. It's OK if the part of the sprout that will form the stem is curved down a bit--just make sure the root is down and it will be fine. Gently push the dirt against the seed and fill in your hole. Give your newly-planted seed a drink of water to help settle the soil around the new root, and you're finished.

If you've used plugs to start your seeds, there's nothing that needs to be done with your sprouts until they start to outgrow the plugs. In the meantime, keep them warm, never let them dry out, make sure they have lots of bright light, and use a fan to make sure that the air around them keeps moving to prevent damping off and to increase stem strength. Super hot peppers like it hot and humid and will grow best around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest downside to using plugs for me is that you can't tell what the seed is doing inside the peat. When using paper towels, you can see exactly which seeds have germinated, and even which have germinated but are just a little slow. This is invaluable when you're paying up to $1/seed for some of these record-winning peppers.

Speaking of record-winning peppers, look what poked out of the soil this morning--the first Carolina Reaper to germinate! I'm really excited. I can't wait to taste this baby! (The "6," by the way, is to let me know that I planted six total plugs with Reaper seeds. I used this method to keep track of which pepper cultivar was in each plug.)

I'm hoping that next week I'll have a whole row of Carolina Reaper seedlings to show you.

Stay warm until then!