After my last post, I was quite eagerly awaiting germination, but I got heavily disappointed. Out of the 20 varieties that I had sowed out, only two had germinated after four weeks. I was surprised, and quite worried, since I had done things just like I had been doing them in 2012 when all was going fine.
When I gave the propagators a closer look, I discovered that the jiffy-pellets (compressed, rehydrated coco-fibre tabs I sowed the seeds in) placed in the centre of the box had gone bone-dry, while the ones towards the sides were soaking wet. Obviously, the heat from the heatmat evaporated the water from the pellets, which then condensed on the propagator’s walls and ran them down to continuously re-hydrate the pellets placed closest to the walls. The result were dried out seeds in the centre pellets and mouldy ones in the peripherals.
So measures needed to be taken urgently. In order to make things safe, I tried a number of different methods of germination side-by-side. First off, I did away with the jiffy pellets completely. Instead, I put a layer of soil into a heated propagator and some seeds into the soil. Parallel to that, I sowed seeds into little 3-inch starter pots with a bit of moist soil, and wrapped the pots up in plastic cling-film. Some of these pots I then placed onto a heatmat, others I placed directly under the lights of my grow-box.
The germination-rate in the propagator was very poor, only two out of 16 varieties popped. But in the starter-pots, germination was overwhelming. After three to seven days I’ve actually had a 100% germination rate with all the varieties in the pots. Surprisingly, the pots that were placed under the lights in my grow-box were even a little bit faster than the ones on the heatmat. That’s odd because pepper-seeds do not need light in order to germinate, rather warmth and moisture. Maybe it has got something to do with where the heat-source is located – after all in nature the sun is shining onto the soil from above, not from underneath.
So the cling-film wrapped pots under lights are the glorious winners, and I’ll be handling germination with them in the future. On tops, this method comes with a couple of other nice-to-have advantages: it’s cheaper than the propagator/jiffy combo, and I can grow the seeds in the same pots that they will be staying in for a while after germination. Plus, I can now use my grow-box side-by-side for germinating the seeds and for raising the seedlings. You can’t beat synergy, can you?