Main : 1999 : Plan

Mike's Pepper Garden

Plan for 1999

When to start seeds
Starting seeds
Early Lighting
Early fertilization and watering
Indoor transplanting (re-potting)
Fertilization and watering
When to transplant to garden
Garden preparation
Hardening plants
Transplanting to the garden
Ongoing fertilization

When to start seeds:(Notes)

Date Day Phase Sign
28 Jan Thursday 2nd Quarter Cancer
29 Jan Friday 2nd Quarter Cancer
17 Feb Wednesday 1st Quarter Pisces
20 Feb Saturday 1st Quarter Taurus
21 Feb Sunday 1st Quarter Taurus
24 Feb Wednesday 2nd Quarter Cancer
25 Feb Thursday 2nd Quarter Cancer

Starting seeds:(Notes)
Use 1:1:1:1 potting soil/moss/vermiculite/pearlite mix- 4 fluid ounces in a 5 ounce plastic cup. Dampen soil with 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) of water. Plant 3 seeds per cup, 1/4" deep. Cover with 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" pieces of cut-up Ziploc Vegetable Bag and keep warm directly under fluorescent light rig.

When seeds sprout, remove plastic covering.

Thin to one seedling per pot when seedlings are about 1" tall.

Early Lighting:(Notes)
Use banks of two circular 30 watt fluorescent bulbs each, with the lights clamp-mounted on a piece of 1x2 that is suspended via two pieces of parachute cord from a convenient overhead horizontal surface (like the underside of a closet shelf).

Use aluminum foil, a reflective "survival blanket", or some other reflective substance to line the walls of the grow enclosure to reflect light back onto the plants and thus maximize the effectiveness of the wattage.

Keep the lights within 1.5" of the tops of the plants by raising the lighting rigs with the strings as necessary. This will prevent the plants from growing quickly up toward the light, resulting in much bushier plants. Do not allow the tops of the plants to touch the bulbs, as this may burn them. This may require checking the plants several times per day.

Use a 16 hour light cycle once all of the seeds have sprouted. Rotate plants as needed to prevent leaning.

Early fertilization and watering:(Notes)
When secondary leaves appear (4 leaves total on plant), fertilize with 1 Tbsp half-strength Miracle-Gro Quick Start (1/2 Tbsp per 8 oz or 2 drops per 1 Tbsp). Use half-strength Miracle-Gro Plant Food three days later, and weekly thereafter.

Water as needed when the top of the soil is dry, using 1 Tbsp per watering until plants are big enough that 1 Tbsp per day is not enough water. Increase water ration to 2 Tbsp at this point.

Indoor transplanting (re-potting):(Notes)
Re-pot plants whenever their size, and the size of the pot that they are in, dictate. In a 4 ounce cup, this will be when the plants are 2 1/2" to 3" tall. Repot into 16 ounce plastic cups. Use high-grade potting soil. Water the plants well several hours before transplanting. After re-potting, fertilize with Miracle-Gro Quick Start.

Once I have repotted the plants into 16 ounce cups, I keep an oscillating fan set to 'low' on them to start getting them acclimated to a breeze. As they get used to the fan, I move it closer and eventually turn it up to 'medium', then to 'high'.

Fertilization and watering:
Most pepper plants do not seem to like really wet soil, so I try to give them enough water for a day at a time, rather than watering them heavily every few days. In a 16 ounce cup under cool fluorescents, and under my grow room conditions, this is about 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup). Once a high-output grow light is introduced, the daily ration increases to about 1/3 cup per day. Your mileage may vary.

Fertilize plants weekly with Miracle-Gro Plant Food.

Once I have repotted the plants for the first time, I start water stressing them about once every week or two. I do this by withholding water until the plants start to show signs of distress (drooping leaves), then giving the plants a normal ration of water. This forces the root systems to develop thoroughly, and also helps prepare the plants for the harsh realities of the garden. At first, a day is about as long as they will go, but by the time they are transplanted outdoors, three to four days without water will not even bother them.

When the plants start to bud (if they are kept indoors this long), broaden the light spectrum by adding grow lights to supplement the fluorescent lights.

I use a single 250 watt metal halide for this purpose, setting it on a low stand pointing into the grow area (i.e. lighting the plants from the sides). The proximity of the fluorescent lights directly above the plants keeps them from growing sideways toward the metal halide.

When to transplant to garden:(Notes)

Date Day Phase Sign
17 April Saturday 1st Quarter Taurus
20 April Tuesday 1st Quarter Cancer
21 April Wednesday 1st Quarter Cancer
27 April Tuesday 2nd Quarter Libra
28 April Wednesday 2nd Quarter Libra
29 April Thursday 2nd Quarter Scorpio

Garden preparation:(Notes)
Use northernmost end of easternmost vegetable plot.

Till soil deeply three weeks before expected transplant date. Broadcast fertilize and lime per soil test results, with a target pH of 6.0-6.5, about two weeks before expected transplant date. Rake fertilizer into soil.

A week before expected transplant date, form rows with 3' center-to-center spacing.

Hardening plants:(Notes)
Begin hardening a week before transplanting. Use side screening as necessary to limit exposure to wind early on.

Day Time Sun
1 1 hour Shade
2 3 hours Shade
3 3 hours Partial sun
4 5 hours Partial sun
5 4 hours Full sun
6 6 hours Full sun
7 8 hours Full sun

Transplanting to the garden:(Notes)
Transplant in the late afternoon. Water the plants well several hours before transplanting.

Transplant to rows with 2' plant spacing. Collar with paper cups, sans bottoms, pressing cups 1" into ground.

After transplanting, fertilize with Miracle-Gro Quick Start.

Ongoing fertilization:(Notes)
Side dress three times with 5-10-5 at 5 oz / 10' of row: when plants are 1' tall, and the first two times the plants flower.

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