The first year I started my garden, I also started plants from seed. I was off on the timing, used regular potting soil as starter in peat pots, and did not 'correctly' harden off my plants before transplanting. Everything I did was "wrong", and yet most of my plants lived and thrived! There were no cases of damping off, and the only real issue was the late planting time.
The next year, after doing research, I planted my seeds in a recommended seed starter mix and consulted my new "planting time" list. I used peat pots again, but followed proper hardening off procedures. When the plants were at the point where I was able to leave them outside 24/7, a large number of them mysteriously died. I was sad and confused. I took a few dead looking seedlings to the garden store, and was told the bad news. I had lost my plants to damping off, and they weren't coming back. The advice I was given to prevent the problem from occurring again was to use plastic instead of peat pots in hopes that that would stave off any lingering fungus and possibly reduce excess moisture.
So this year I used seed starting mix in plastic containers. I started everything at the correct time and have been careful not to over water. And yet I STILL had seedlings damp off. And they aren't even outside yet! Very, very maddening!!! From an action and consequences stand point, I have learned doing everything correctly is a bad idea, and doing everything 'wrong' is the way to go. I think the damping off this time may have been due to a lack of air circulation, but that is no different from the last two years either. There is some good news to report however!
On March 31st, I replanted the seeds that damped off. This included two of the Peter Pepper cells, one Habanero, one Garden Salsa cell, and all the Yummy Blend. I also planted the remainder of the Peter Pepper, Yummy Blend, and Bhut Jolokia seeds in round pots for an experiment. I read in two different books that using chamomile tea water to water your seedlings was a way to help prevent damping off. So I made chamomile tea, diluted it, and then let it cool to room temperature before using it to water the seeds in the round pots. Then I waited.
Notice the barren cells in the middle. (You can click the photo for larger view. )
I was pretty much ready to give up hope of ever seeing the replanted peppers emerge. In fact I was so concerned about the Yummy Blend, which was planted for my parents, that I went to the store and got another sweet pepper variety and planted that just in case! Everyday I woke up and went to bed staring at dirt. Not seedlings emerging, but dirt. Then on April 16th, I looked at the round pots and my eyes got large.
The replanted and experimental Yummy Blend peppers had come up! Only one of the three seen in the photo at right came up on April 16th, but that lone Yummy Blend seedling was soon joined by two friends. And as you can see, they are doing pretty well. I took the photo this evening after the sun went down, but you can see that I probably should have turned them one more time before sunset. They are Leaning towards the light.
The next pepper to "rock my world" was the Peter Pepper. A single sprout came up two days ago, but I admit my excitement was not AS intense. The main reason for that was because there were in fact Peter peppers from the original planting in one lonely cell of the pepper flat. When the two barren Peter Pepper cells continued to remain that way, I moved two of the three seedlings into those cells. Of course one of the contenders is pictured at left. It has actually been like that, with the seed skin still attached, for several days. It may or may not make it. That would be why it is a good thing the back up(s) has sprouted!
And that leaves us with one round pot to go. Now when I received the Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper seeds, all I knew was that they can be very difficult to grow and that they need it to be HOT, even more so than their counter parts. Upon picking up another book on chili peppers (the only plant specific books I own), I found out that the 5 week germination time applies to Capsicum chinense. Which is the species of chili pepper Bhut Jolokia falls under. (Other familiar members include Habañero and Scotch Bonnet.) So the fact that I hadn't seen any Bhut Jolokia was understandable. However, with the whole damping off debacle I was getting nervous! My Habañeros had come up with the rest of the peppers and only had that one incidence of damping off. (One of the Habañero seedlings is shown above.) The replant of those in the regular pepper flat did not come up, but similar to the Peter Pepper situation, I was able to move 'extras' to the empty space. With the Bhut Jolokia, I planted ALL the seeds I had and so far had nothing to show for it.
So when I peaked into the mini greenhouse today, my expectations were low. I removed the cover, and saw.... something! Is that? Is that a SPROUT!?!? Still in disbelief, I had to get closer. This involved removing the cellophane I had wrapped around the Bhut Jolokia round pot only, to give it even more heat. Upon removing that it became clear. Houston, we have a SPROUT! :-) Of course my label for the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper), made the event even better, because it was indeed as
though something 'dead' came to 'life' and said, "BOO!" to me. It was the perfect start to the day and a great Earth Day present!
Here is a LARGE close up of the Bhut Jolokia seedling. SEE! It does exist! < -------
And so I leave you with some pictures of the rest of the peppers.
Here you can see the entire pepper flat. (4/18) The early risers and also the ones that didn't damp off, are much taller for obvious reasons. The cayenne and Hungarian wax are on the far left. (Click on photo for larger image)
Close up of the "tall" club. This includes from left to right, top to bottom: Peter Pepper, Habañero, Mariachi, Garden Salsa (of which the replant came up), Serraño, Jalapeño, Super Chili, and Roster Spur.
Super Chili Hybrid