After planting your seeds, start checking them in a few days to see if they've sprouted. But be patient! Seeds don't usually sprout overnight, and okra may take longer than peppers and eggplant. Making sure they receive consistent warmth will be the best thing you can do to help your seeds sprout.
Once sprouted, the seeds will need light. Remove the plastic and newspapers and put them in a sunny window or under fluorescent lights. If you're using lights, place the containers or flats a few inches below the tubes. As the plants grow, keep moving them so that the tips remain a few inches below the tubes. Too much distance between the plant and the lights will result in spindly, leggy plants. Plants need darkness, too, so make sure the lights are turned off for at least eight hours a night.
If you've placed your plants in a window, move them away from it on cold nights. Seedling leaves can be damaged if they come in contact with a very cold, frosty window, and the chill won't help tender, young plants, either.
Keep the soil moist but not wet. Water your seedlings gently and use room temperature water if possible.
Fertilizing your plants isn't necessary for a while. They have enough nutrients in their seeds and are getting nourishment from the soil. Wait at least a week or two after they've sprouted to fertilize, or even until it's time to repot. Watch out for overfertilizing. Use a small amount of a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer, such as seaweed mix, once a week. This will encourage healthy, stocky growth.
When your plants are three to four inches tall and start to crowd together in their containers, it's time to repot them into individual or bigger containers such as large peat pots or milk cartons. A plastic dishpan at least three inches deep is ideal for repotting. Poke some holes in the bottom of the pan for good drainage. Then, using sterilized potting mix, fill the dishpan almost to the rim. You can mix about a teaspoon of a balanced plant food or fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, in with each gallon of soil.
Water the young plants well before you transplant. The wet soil will stick to the tender roots, protecting them during transplanting. Using a tablespoon or other small utensil, carefully lift the plants out of the flat one at a time.
Make a deep hole in the dishpan soil and set in the plant, about an inch deeper than it was in the flat. Leave three or four inches between plants. Firm the soil around the plants and water gently. Fertilize once a week using half the recommended dosage of a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer mixed with one gallon of water.
If you can't or don't want to start your own transplants, you can usually buy the varieties you want at a garden center. Healthy pepper, eggplant and okra plants will be unblemished and have a nice, dark green color.
Watch out for tall, spindly plants. Often these plants didn't receive enough light when they were started. Blossoms on the plant are also a signal not to buy. A transplant's root system usually isn't strong enough to support flowers or fruit unless the plant is in a deep container. Also, check under the leaves for aphids, whiteflies and other insects - you want to buy a transplant, not future trouble!
|1. Starting Eggplant, Pepper, and Okra Seeds Indoors|
|2. Okra Seedling Care ← you're on this article right now|
|3. Hardening Off Pepper & Eggplant Transplants|
|4. Peppers and Eggplant in Containers|
|5. Soil Preparation for Eggplant and Peppers|
|6. Raised Beds and Spacing for Peppers and Friends|
|7. Transplanting Eggplant, Peppers, and Okra|
Article published on June 23, 2008.