Tomorrow will be the fourth week since attempting my garden this year. All I have going so far are peppers, but I plan to get a few other things going here in the future. During my first gardening attempt  last year, I bought 99% of my plants already as seedlings and while that worked out pretty well, I had a problem doing that this year. You see, while Omaha had a ton of plant nurseries, this area of Florida doesn’t. Really… I’ve looked. This means I get to really garden this year, meaning that most everything I grow will be from seed. The main issue with that is simply that I have absolutely no idea how to grow things from seed. Oh well, guess it’s time to learn, huh?
The first thing I need to do is just decide what I wanted to grow. After some thought, I decided I really wanted peppers… hot peppers and I have become very close friends. The second thing I needed were the seeds themselves. I took a drive out to a few stores and found very little in terms of seed selection, which was very sad. Then I suddenly had an epiphany! I have a ton of dried peppers I use when cooking… perhaps the seeds from these will germinate if I plant them! I started going through the dried peppers I had along with a couple seeds I purchased. In the end I ended up with:
- Bell Peppers – Seeds purchased from store, colors unknown.
- Jalepenos – Peppers were smoked, test to see if the seeds will still germinate.
- Naga Jolokia – Leftover seeds from peppers I purchased at the Omaha Farmer’s Market last year.
- Chocolate Habanero – Same with Naga… leftover from Farmer’s Market.
- Poblano – Seeds taken from dried ancho chiles.
- Bird’s Eye – Seeds taken from dried peppers simply marked “Thai.”
So, now that I have my seeds, what do I do with them? I’ll tell you what I should have done: I should have asked someone. Instead of asking, I decided I’d figure it out I went along. Another trip down to my local garden center and I grabbed a little seedling starter kit, planted the seeds (on 01/30/10), put the whole thing high up on a shelf near a light. Perfect, right? Not quite.
After the first week the first seedlings began sprouting and I was very excited. By day 16 I had quite a few little seedlings, but a slight problem. It turns out a normal light, placed about 3 feet above seedling, is just not enough light. My little plants were all growing very tall, but didn’t really have any leaves. I started worrying that they would fall over, so I ran to my local Internet and started searching. Turns out the peppers were becoming “leggy” due to the lack of light. Also, I was beginning to notice some while mold/fungus growing on the soil. Seems this is due (usually) to lack of air movement. Of course the room I put these guys in had no ventilation… talk about good planning on my part. I was beginning to panic and started researching lighting until Jess reminded me that I had an AeroGarden  in storage. Now, I didn’t want to make these peppers grow in the AeroGarden as I had way more peppers than it’d support (also, they’d had already started growing), so I decided to tinker a bit.
Behold… the PepperDome:
What you see is my AeroGarden unit rigged with some tape so the water doesn’t run, but the lights work. I have the plants sitting right on top, with foil on the sides to reflect any light (as the tray is a little bigger than the opening for the aerogarden). The fan over on the right is used in the mornings to move air over the soil so the white stuff goes away (it has worked, believe it or not). You can see what I meant about the plants, though… very long and skinny. Jess made fun of my setup, saying that I made a “fort for [my] plants,” and while I disagree on the “fort” part, I do hafta say it looks a little weird. If this works out this year, perhaps next year I’ll have a better looking setup. Either way, after 8 days in this new setup you can see how much better the little guys look:
That was taken this morning, now 27 days into my gardening for this year… not too bad! You will also notice that the smoked seeds failed to germinate. This is what I thought, but I had wanted to try and see as some seeds actually will grow better after being smoked  (a long shot, but SCIENCE!!). From the left to the right we have the Naga, Habanero, Thai, Non-Existent Jalapenos, Poblano and Bell.
My watering schedule is about a squeeze from my water bottle every morning. The water is room temp and has about a capful of plant food added. The little cloth under the plants catches any excess water (of which there shouldn’t be any), just in case. The lights are on from around 6:00am to around 9:00pm, giving them a decent 14 – 16 hours of light. I’ve positioned the lights around 2″ above the plants as instructed by many and now we just wait! The temperatures outside are still very cold (highs still in the 50’s with lows in the 30’s) and I can’t put these guys outside until the low temps are over 60° F, so they’ll be inside for at least another few weeks. The hardest part is the waiting, I tells ya!
Wish me luck and stay tuned for updates!! So what are you guys all growing this season?