Answer: Pepper seeds need a soil temperature of about 80 degrees to germinate and do not tolerate cold soil or frost. For this reason most people start their pepper seeds indoors ahead of time (using a bottom heat source to warm the soil) and then set out transplants. Approximate timing for this would be to start them about six weeks before your last spring frost date and then transplant them to the garden about two weeks after the last spring frost date. You might be able to germinate pepper seeds outdoors in spring by making a slightly raised bed and warming the soil under black plastic for a few weeks. There is one catch to all this, and that is the seeds may or may not be viable, depending on what type of pepper they came from. (Many modern bell pepper hybrids produce nonviable seed.) You might want to try check that -- simply place some of the seeds in a barely moist paper towel and wrap it in plastic, set it in a warm place in bright light out of direct sun and see if they swell and germinate. If so, you're in luck.
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