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-   FRUITMAN FARMS 2012  -

a farmer's seed pod: organic peat pots
& loosely-packed potting mix

       Now that it's mid-winter, it's time to shake off that winter chill and fire up Fruitman's Chili Farm again. Just because it's February doesn't mean a farmer doesn't have work to do. That is, if you are starting your crop from seed. Seeds need time to grow into seedlings which can withstand spring's wavering weather of wind, cold, and rain. In the midwest, mid-winter is the best time to get those chili seeds started. A little bit of work now will give your seed crops the best chance at surviving the tumultuous spring, not to mention that it will also give them a better chancing at blossoming earlier, leading to an earlier (and longer) harvesting season. So now it's time to gather up everything a farmer needs for an indoor seed-starting greenhouse, and GET THOSE SEEDS DIRTY!

       You might think that starting your own chili plants from seed is both a waste of time and requires too much farming know-how/equipment. But you couldn't be further from the truth. As long as you have a window that receives a good amount of direct sunlight (south-facing window is best), you can get your very own plants started with very little time, effort or cost. But why would you waste your time starting plants from seed when you could just wait until spring and purchase seedlings at your local nursery or home improvement center? The fact is; while for your average Jalapeno, Cayenne, Banana, and Bell peppers it makes most sense to purchase actual seedlings in the spring, but if you want to grow something a little more exotic, say Jamaican Chocolate Habanero or Lemon Drop, starting from seed in mid-winter is likely going to be the only option. But luckily, it's easy and requires almost no maintenance.



Glass Aquarium (no lid, I used a 10 gallon tank, link)


Heating Mat (link)



Clear Plastic Painting Tarp or plastic wrap (enough to cover aquarium, link)



Peat Seed-Staring Pots (link)



Seed-Starting Mix/Potting Mix (room temperature, link)



Chili Seeds (link)



Fill peat seed pots with either seed-starting mix or regular potting mix 3/4 full. Each of these pots will produce one plant.



Place 3-4 seeds in the middle of each pot. It helps to mark which seeds are in which pot with a popsicle stick or anything that won't be ruined when wet.



Top off each pot with just a little more potting mix, but not to the top. The pots shouldn't be entirely full. Seeds should be covered with 1/2 - 3/4 inches of mix.



Place seed pots into the aquarium and move to a sunny window (south-facing/full-sun).



Place heating mat underneath aquarium. This will raise the temperature in the aquarium to about 80-85°, optimal for seed germination.



Pour just a little amount of water into the aquarium, just such that the bottom of the seed pots are submerged. The goal is that the seed pots will absorb the water from the base upward until entirely moist, with just a slight bit of water at the bottom of the aquarium remaining. Over-watering will be devastating to your seed pots, so remember you can always add more water later, but those seed pots need to remain damp and moist. Remember to never pour water directly onto the seed pots, always pour water directly to the bottom of the aquarium.



Place a piece of clear plastic painting tarp over the top of the aquarium (you can use plastic wrap instead, but you'll learn to hate it before long). The plastic sheet should be slightly larger than the opening of the aquarium. Use a little bit of tape to keep it from falling off remembering that you'll be removing it often to add water.



Before too long you should notice condensation on the underside of the plastic sheet. This is due to the heating mat, water and sunlight creating a humid micro-climate within the aquarium. The perfect conditions for your seeds to start growing. Congratulations, you now have your very own indoor greenhouse. Once your seedlings have sprouted, the plastic tarp is no longer necessary and you can begin to let your seed pots become dry for a day between replenishing a small layer of water to the bottom of the greenhouse.




A glass aquarium, a heating mat, and a sunny window provide a simple & effective greenhouse.
(seed pots on lower left begin to absorb water)


mid-winter is the best time to start chili seed pots indoors, this allows 8-10 weeks
of growth before transplanting outdoors.


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