During the seedling stage of pepper development, the stage is set for the season. The following tips can help ensure a good start.
First, growers should be sure to seed in a cool and clean environment, and make sure that all personnel washes their hands with a bleach/water solution or other sanitizer and dry them well. There are a few more important factors to consider.
- Growing media: Use a high-quality growing media because a lower-quality one can negatively affect germination.
- Trays: Units with large and numerous cells are recommended. In Florida, this is an economic decision because larger cells are more expensive. Since peppers use a lot of plants per acre, many growers seek a middle ground.
- Seeding: The seed should not surpass a depth of 1/6 of an inch in the cell cavity. Be sure to plant seed in the middle of the mixture. When covering the seed, vermiculite or a mixture that contains vermiculite is highly recommended, but any substrate will do.
Keep It Moist
It’s important to keep all planting cells moist, being careful not to overwater them. The first day the seedlings are in the seed bed or nursery (after they’ve left the germination room) make sure that all of the cells are watered adequately. You should irrigate them with water only for the first 10 days, or until each plant has at least two well defined green leaves. It’s recommended to use water from a clean source because otherwise you create an ideal environment for Pythium and other diseases.
After fertilizer is applied, rinse the foliage to prevent the fertilizer from burning the leaves. If seedlings are weak, check how much light plants are receiving. If they’re receiving too little, remove any shading and separate the cells so the seedlings aren’t competing for light.
During the plant’s development, maintain a temperature of about 68°F to 82°F and use shade if the temperature gets any higher. Pay very close attention to the relative humidity because when it gets any lower than 50%, the plants become stressed. Before taking plants to the field, adjust temperatures to prepare them for the conditions outside.
Pest And Disease
With peppers, it’s important to be aware of the following pests:
- Armyworm: Some outbreaks may appear
- Thrips: This is a major pest to watch out for; it transmits tomato spotted wilt virus
- Broad mites: A very dangerous pest; when you see the mites, the damage has already been done.
Pythium is the most notable disease in the nursery to scout for. It is normally provoked by excess humidity, a bad quality substrate, or contaminated water. Apply preventative fungicide applications to avoid the disease. If Pythium is not addressed right away, it can become a major headache for growers.