Seed Starting Tips for Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants

Tips for starting seeds: Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant
It can be hard to think summer garden foods in February but NOW is the time that many gardeners at least start thinking about planting these crops. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants all need to be started about 6-8 weeks before they are planted outside after the last frost date in your region. For most gardeners that date will fall between April and June. 

To start your seeds I recommend using a heat mat set at 75-80 F to accelerate germination. Heat mats usually cost around $30 and do wonders to get heat loving seeds to germinate. I also recommend using a potting mix such as Black Gold to start your seeds or make your own mix using compost, garden soil and sand.The trick is to get a mix that is not too heavy and will drain well. 

We start our seeds in trays with 2 inch cells, but whatever you have will work. Fill the tray with soil and tamp it down slightly. Make small depressions in the soil and place 2-4 seeds per cell. Cover with soil. The trick is to not cover the seeds by more than 1/8-1/4 inch of soil. We shake the soil on using a 1/4 inch screen for even coverage. Place the tray on the heat mat and keep evenly moist. Germination should occur within 5-10 days. Thin each cell to one seedling. 

Some people transplant the seedlings into larger pots. Depending on how large your first cell/pot is, you may need to do this. Allow the seedlings to at least grow their first true leaves before transplanting. Transplant to your garden after the soil has warmed and all danger of frost is past. Usually 18-24 inch spacing is a good rule of thumb for these varieties. 

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