Waukesha Garden Blog

Adventures in a Wisconsin Garden (Zone 5)

   Feb 17

Potted Up

It’s been a little over a month since I planted the Bhut Jolokia seeds, and the time has come for me to move some of the seedlings to pots.

Bhut Jolokia seedling in a 4in peat pot.

I planted 29 seeds and I’ve ended up with 22 seedlings. Out of those 22, 16 are ready for larger pots. The rest are still fairly small, and have just recently set their first true leaves. I’ll leave these in the garden tray under the humidity dome until they are a bit larger.

For the ones that have their second set of true leaves, or more, I’ve gone ahead and put them in 4″ peat pots. The 4″ pots may seem quite large, but I’ve found I get larger seedlings and larger plants with the 4″ than I have with 3″ pots. They do occupy a lot more space, but I think it’s worth it in the end. If space is an issue, I’d recommend the 3″ as you can get quite a few more in a garden tray.

For soil, I’ve just used a basic seed starting mix from the local garden center. I fill each pot about 2/3′s of the way up and then set the plant in. I then fill the pot up to the level of the peat pellet’s top. I don’t bury any of the stem when I’m potting up my peppers, like I do when potting up Tomatoes. I also don’t compact the soil much while planting. It’ll settle a bit over the next day or two, and I’ll top up the pots as needed.

Once all the seedlings are potted up, I place them all in garden trays and add water. I always put the water in the tray and let it soak up rather than watering the individual pots. The seed starting mix is very loose and it’s get moved around a lot if you water directly into it. I will occasionally apply small amounts of water / fertilizer with a spray bottle to the top of the soil, but I primarily bottom water my seedlings at this stage.

I’ve also removed them from a the heat mat. At least for now they are still upstairs in the house, so the air temp is still in the 60′s all day long. I’m not sure if they’d still benefit from heat mat or not, but I don’t have enough mats to keep everything heated at this point. I’ll need the mats for starting more seeds soon!

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  1. Bruce says:

    Very nice Gary, that is about the size of mine right now too. I got two that size and the ones I started a couple weeks later are still single pair leaves right now. They are coming along though. I will only have 4 or 5 Ghost Pepper plants. About a dozen others though of various species. Two or three of each. If even one Bhut produces, I will likely have more than I could use.

  2. Gary says:

    You do get quite a few Bhut Jolokia’s from a single plant, so if your not looking for many peppers you’ll likely have plenty. I’ll be starting my other pepper varieties in the next couple of days.

    • Bruce says:

      As you know, I planted mine (Varieties other than Bhut) a few weeks ago. Some are over 2″ tall already. I hope I am not getting them going too early. :) I put them in front of our large bay window during the day and they get direct sun from about 11am to 4pm. At times, I am wondering if they are getting too hot in the direct sun. Some of my seedlings are growing really tall and not spreading out and at times tend to lean over. I am keeping them watered but still not sure if the direct sun is a bit much for the little fellas. On cloudy days they seem OK. I am just worried they are not going to thicken out and will eventually just keel over at some point. I was a bit worried about that with my Bhut’s at one point also but they eventually started growing sideways and look much like yours pictured from the 17th. The others just keep growing tall with one or two sets of leaves. Of course they tend to lean towards the sun but I have even taken to propping some of them up with a toothpick at times thinking they will eventually be horizontal if I don’t.

      • Gary says:


        It sounds like your plants are not getting enough light. It is very hard to start pepper seedlings in WI with just light from a south facing window. They tend to be tall spindly seedlings, like yours sound. The problem is they grow taller hoping to get more light. I suggest supplementing with an grow light of some sort. I use shop light with florescent tubes, like the ones pictured here. If you don’t have the space or don’t need that much light, you can get CFL grow light bulbs are Menard’s. Then you can use a small reading lamp or something similar. It’s important that the bulb be close to your seedlings (6 to 12 inches) or you’ll continue to get tall weak seedlings. My seedlings are under the lights for 16 hours a day, though they do not receive any natural sunlight.

        • Bruce says:

          Gary, these grow lights are a “special bulb”. I have not seen these in stores but have not looked for them either. I have a Home Depot and Walmart near me and they are just barely starting to ramp up their garden centers. Would I be able to find these bulbs in one of these stores? Do they look like regular bulbs?

        • Bruce says:

          Well, I did a little research on the net. It is pretty convoluted but what I came up with is a 4 foot fluorescent shop light with two 48″ 40W T12 Daylight 6500K bulbs. I have it hung about 6″ above the seedlings. I didn’t find any direct answers but it seems you don’t have to buy a ready made grow light with “special grow light bulbs” for a hundred bucks. I found some info where the 5000K bulbs might be better for seedlings but most seem to have referenced the 6500K bulbs. What do you think?

          • Gary says:

            Bruce, that’s not a very convoluted system at all. You’ll find many gardeners using T12 fixtures, and it’s what I use as well. The very expensive lights you see in the catalogs tend to be T5 systems. Those are more efficient from an light per watt stand point, but I don’t find the increased price to be worth the energy savings. If I was growing year round, like in a fish tank, I’d probably consider it.

            As for bulb type, I’ve never used a ‘Daylight 6500k’ bulb. I’ve used Sylvania GroLux and mix of Sylvania Cool White / GroLux. Personally, I found the GroLux by themselves gave me a better result. I do avoid the GroLux Wide Spectrum though. All my bulbs are 40W T12′s and cost me about 6 or 7 bucks from the hardware store. (Generally Menard’s, though I’ve seem them at Home Depot as well). That said, if you can’t find GroLux (or an equivalent grow bulb from another manufacturer), I’m sure the Daylight bulbs will help immensely. I’d give them a few days and see if they improve.

  3. Bruce says:

    Containers. Gary, I see you planted some of your Bhut’s in containers last year. Will you do that again this year? What size do you need? Is the 12″ big enough? I see that is what you used last year. I can get 12″ containers from Walmart for $5 each. The 15″ pots are pretty darn big and I am hoping I won’t have to go that route. Most of my peppers will be going in pots this year and I am hoping I can get by with the 12″ pots. They are 12 1/4″ diameter at the top, 12″ tall and about 9 or 10″ diameter at the bottom. Would you recommend the bigger 15″ containers or will the 12″ ones suffice?

    • Gary says:

      The containers I used are bigger than that. They about 18″ across, and about that deep. They hold 8 gallons, personally I wouldn’t go smaller than 5 gallons in pot size. That said, you can probably grow you peppers just fine in the containers you mentioned. The smaller the container the more limited the pepper plant will be in size. So while you may not get the largest plant you possibly could from the pot you mentioned, it’s likely big enough to get a fair number of peppers. If you search the web, you’ll notice people actually grow bonzai peppers and still get fruit on them.

      A very important consideration when planting peppers in containers is proper drainage. You want to make sure both the container selected and the soil mix you use drain well. Your peppers won’t do well if the soil isn’t draining.

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