Planting pepper and tomato seeds | Healthy at Home gardening tips

The first half of the weekend was gorgeous. I hope you got to get outside to at least ponder what you’re going to grow and where you’re going to grow it. 

This week, we really need to get our seeds working for us if we are going to attempt some popular summer treats like tomatoes and peppers. 

Let’s look at a few popular, easy and inexpensive ways to get growing.

A reminder, I’m not a master gardener…far from it. But my wife and I have had success growing veggies and animals for food and self-reliance. Our motto at Chestnut Hill Homestead is, “Learning By Living.” We make lots of mistakes, but we also try to learn from them and have enjoyed the journey. Hopefully, we can help lead you down a delicious path towards feeding your belly, your loved ones and your soul during these crazy times.

First, I hoped to give you something to look forward to if you took action after last week’s blog

RELATED: Healthy at Home Gardening Tips from WHAS11’s Chris Williams

Did you plant some potatoes and onions? It’ll take you about 2 weeks to really see some action. I hope these pics from our homestead give you something to look forward to. Onions have really begun to emerge from the soil, their green tips now about 4 to 6 inches long 2 weeks after planting.

Onion growing

Onion growing

Chris Williams

We started seeing them pop about 10 days in. If you jumped in last week, hopefully you’ll start seeing some activity by next weekend.

Our potatoes are starting to show as well.

Potato sprouting

Potato sprouting

Chris Williams

Now to this week’s adventure.

We’re a few weeks behind getting our tomatoes and peppers started, but you’re still doing fine if you get started from seed now. I know a lot of people who plant by the theory that you want both of those warm-weather crops in the ground after Derby weekend. If you get your seeds going now, you’re not that far behind and you should have something to put outside in the ground the first weekend of May.

If you are not going to start from seed, you can find these plants now at farm, hardware and grocery stores – but don’t put them in the ground just yet. It’s still too cold and you’ll likely find yourself out there covering them if we have a frost.

This weekend I put together a few options for you to consider. Egg cartons are useful to get seeds started, as are milk cartons or you can use the old wet paper towel trick.

Here’s what you might need depending on the technique: 

  • Empty egg cartons
  • Milk cartons
  • Paper towels
  • Sealable plastic bags (gallon size and/or sandwich size)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds

Egg Carton Method

To get your seeds started in egg cartons: Cut the top off of the egg carton.

Egg cartons

Egg cartons

Chris Williams

From here you have a couple more options. You can cut that remaining carton across the middle. The point of this is to have two halves that will fit inside a gallon sized sealable plastic bag. 

Egg carton grow start

Egg carton grow start

Chris Williams

The second option is to leave that 12-pack alone now that you’ve removed the top.

Either way you go, take some potting soil and fill the cartons where the bottom of the egg normally sits. Sprinkle water onto the potting soil to dampen it.

Egg carton potting soil

Egg carton potting soil

Chris Williams

Sometimes the water will bead off the top of that potting soil, so go slowly. You may want to gently knead the soil so the water soaks in.

Take a seed and press it about halfway down into the soil pocket. One seed per pocket means you can get 12 plants started with a typical egg carton.

If you cut the egg carton in half a second time, insert each half into a gallon-sized sealable bag. 

Egg carton grow, sealed bag

Egg carton grow, sealed bag

Chris Williams

If you kept the egg carton whole after cutting off the top, once you’ve placed potting soil in the egg pockets, moistened the potting soil and planted seeds, wrap the egg carton with plastic wrap.

Egg carton unsealed

Egg carton unsealed

Chris Williams

It doesn’t have to be overly tight, but it does need to be secured to the egg carton. You may find yourself taping the plastic wrap to itself just to secure it. 

Whichever method you choose, this is going to create a greenhouse effect by trapping in moisture and heat and you’ll see the plant start to pop in just a few days. Keep this inside a warm room that gets plenty of sunlight. On mild, sunny days, take it outside so your budding plants can take advantage of the power of the sun. You’ll see the bag or plastic wrap fill with condensation as nature does its work. 

Sealed soil in egg carton

Sealed soil in egg carton

Chris Williams

Eventually, we’ll get these plants out of the bag and ready to transplant.

Milk Gallon Method

How about an old milk carton (or pop bottle)? We’ve found that we can start up to 4 plants in a gallon-sized milk carton. Cut the top off of the empty milk container. Fill the bottom of that container with about 2 inches of potting soil. Moisten the potting soil, then plant your seed about a half-inch down. 

If you’re planting multiple seeds in one milk carton, imagine dividing it like a foursquare court. Plant one seed per square. Now, cover the top of the carton with plastic wrap and let the greenhouse effect get things going.

Reusing milk carton

Reusing milk carton

Chris Williams

You can keep this inside a room with sunlight and take it outside during sunny, mild, days. Beware that you may find yourself taping down that plastic wrap so it doesn’t blow off.

Here’s a look at a Beefsteak tomato starting to pop in a milk carton that we planted a week ago.

Beefsteak tomato sprout

Beefsteak tomato sprout

Chris Williams

Paper Towel Method

If you’d like to get those seeds started, before putting them in soil, you may want to try the old wet paper towel trick.

Fold a paper towel until it’s about the size of a playing card. Thoroughly soak the paper towel then wring out some of the moisture. Place up to 3 seeds in the middle of the towel. 

Cowhorn pepper seeds

Cowhorn pepper seeds

Cowhorn pepper seeds

Chris Williams

Fold the paper towel again, covering the seed, then place the folded paper towel inside a sealable sandwich-size plastic bag. Place this in a warm place that gets some sunlight but be careful not to “cook” the seeds. As the plants begin to emerge you’ll want to consider transplanting into a container with potting soil before the plants get too stringy.

Paper towel for seeds

Paper towel for seeds

Chris Williams

Cowhorn seeds in plastic bag

Cowhorn seeds in plastic bag

Chris Williams

In each blog, I want to also give you a couple of other things to grow on:

First, how about a project that requires you to grow nothing, but feast on an amazing jelly? Check out this recipe for “Wild Violet Jelly.” Chances are that you have these flowers growing in your yard right now and you may think they’re “just a weed”. My wife won a 2nd place ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair a couple of years ago for this recipe. If you haven’t used pesticides on your yard, and you have wild violets, consider giving it a try.

Also, here’s some interesting reading that ties into the mindset many find themselves in right now. During WWI and WWII, the Victory Garden movement swept across America as everyday citizens looked to do their part for the war effort. “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of WWI” is a well-respected book by a family friend named Rose Hayden-Smith. It’s an interesting read, especially now.

I hope this information was helpful to you as you look to grow beyond this crisis. Let’s connect on Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to hearing what you’re up to and any ideas and tips you might have that can help others looking to begin Healthy at Home Gardening.

About the author:

When Chris Williams is not holding the powerful accountable as WHAS 11’s Political Editor, he and his wife Amy spend time raising their family on their small slice of heaven known as Chestnut Hill Homestead. They’ve been blogging about their experiences for the past few years and their “Learning By Living” lifestyle of raising plants and animals for food and self-reliance.

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