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Chile Gardening Gadgets PDF Print E-mail
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Chile Gardening Gadgets
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Story and Photos by Harald Zoschke

SuperSite Recommendations

Chile Pepper Bedding Plants... over 500 varieties from Cross Country Nurseries, shipping April to early June.
Fresh pods ship September and early October. Go

Chile Pepper Seeds... from all over the world from the Chile Pepper Institute. Go here


Chile Gardening Gadgets

Story & photos by Harald Zoschke

Cultivating capsicum in your backyard is a lot of fun. My wife Renate and I have been growing peppers for more than 15 years. Every now and then, we discovered something helpful -- tools that would make chile gardening easier, help prevent damage to the precious plants, speed up the growth process or improve results. While some of these cost money, others utilize cheap household articles, or even stuff that would otherwise go to the trash can. So here's a selection of our gardening gadgets, from seed to harvest. Enjoy!

Preparing the Seed

The Saucer Germination Test

It makes sense to know the expected germination percentage for each chile variety, so you want to conduct a germination test first. Plan to do this at least four weeks before actually starting your seed. We like to use a damp paper tissue on a plate or saucer, covered with plastic wrap with some ventilation holes poked into it. This creates a similar environment as later in a grow box.

Germination test

The saucer of truth:
Germination test.

Be sure to always moisten the paper before it goes dry, as this would ruin the test. Divide the number of sprouted seeds by the total number of seeds used to arrive at the approximate germination percentage.

Icecube Tray for Soaking Seeds

To increase germination, soak the seeds for 5 minutes in a 10 percent bleach solution, rinse well, and then plant. An alternative that we like is to use chamomille tea rather than bleach. The chamomille's germ-killing properties seem to fight "damping off", a disease that kills small seedlings, and it speeds up germination, too. Either way, if you have a bunch of pepper varieties, that soaking procedure can become quite tedious. Doing this sequentially, variety for variety, it would take forever. Doing it for all at once would require many containers. We found our solution at a pharmacy chain store: An icecube tray with molds for 60 tiny "cubes"! With a permanent Sharpie pen, we wrote numbers next to each compartment, so we can soak small amounts of seeds for 60 varieties at once.

Icecube Tray for Soaking Seeds

Economically soaking a large number of different chile seeds.

Growing Seedlings

Cheap Signage

Pepper seeds are like luggage on the airport - many look alike, so it is important to but markers next to each variety right after starting the seeds. If you are like us and grow many varieties each year, signage is also a cost factor. Also, if your seeds are planted tightly, many store-bought markers are just too big.

Cheap Signage Cheap Signage

Making your own signs - cheap.

The solution: Get some light-colored plastic binders or plastic index divider sheets from your office supply store. Be sure to pick sturdy ones, i.e. not too thin. Using scissors, cut them in to 1/3 "to 1/4" (6 to 8 mm) strips and the desired length, cutting the bottom arrow-shaped.(see left picture above). Put names or numbers on with a waterproof felt pen like a thin-lined Sharpie®. Once you transplant your seedlings outside, use sturdier markers and save our seedling markers for next year (numbers make them more universal to re-use).

Heating Mats and Grow Boxes

Chile pepper seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate and to start growing - see "Planting the Pepper Garden, Part 1: Selecting and Germinating Seeds. If you already own a grow box, a heating mat will help to keep a constistently high temperature. Don't use grandma's heating pad. She still needs it, it gets too hot, and it is probably not electrically safe for such long periods of operation.

Heating Mat

Hi, I'm Mat.

If you don't have a grow box yet, consider buying an electrically heated one, also called electric propagator. We got a unit from manufacturer Parasene, see here, with more (UK) sources here . We got ours from a German gardener supply store named Beckmann, see here, but similar products should be available in the USA or elsewhere as well. Wherever you happen to live, be  sure to check for correct voltage for use in your country).

Heated Grow Box

"Pepper growing de Luxe"
in a heated grow box.

This grow box includes a heated, thermostate-controlled bottom and an aluminium framed top, so plants won't hit the "roof" too quickly. The lid, which can be lifted off for easy access, incorporates two adjustable vents.

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