Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables
Starting Eggplant, Pepper, and Okra Seeds Indoors
by National Gardening Association Editors
Unless you live in the Deep South or Southwest, you won't want to sow your pepper or eggplant seeds directly into the ground. Most gardeners in these regions prefer either to buy transplants or start their own indoors for outdoor planting when the weather and the ground have warmed enough.
Starting Up With Okra
Okra has a reputation for being hard to transplant and because it doesn't require a very long season, many gardeners will sow their okra seeds right in the ground at the proper time. But if you want to and are willing to take a little extra care of the long taproot or main root that okra develops, you can successfully transplant this crop.
Some Basics On Starting Seed Indoors
It's very easy to grow your own transplants, and growing your own gives you the freedom to pick your own varieties. It also lets you make sure the plants get the best care right from the start.
To grow your own transplants, all you need is:
- Sterilized soil or potting mix;
- Suitable containers such as peat pots, flats, Jiffy 7's, milk cartons cut in half, or anything that will hold soil and provide good drainage;
- A place to put the seeds while they're germinating that provides a warm, even temperature - bottom heat is especially important;
- Plenty of sunshine or grow lights;
For good germination, make sure the container has holes for drainage. If excess water can't drain, your seeds will rot.
All your efforts can be ruined by damping off, a fungus disease that attacks the emerging seedlings, if you don't take steps to prevent it. The best preventive measures are to make sure your potting soil mix is sterile and that you don't overwater. Purchased soil and potting mixes usually are sterile. If you want to use your own garden soil, you can get rid of the fungus organisms and weed seeds by baking the soil in a shallow pan (like a cookie sheet), in a 200° F oven for about an hour. Don't do this when you're hungry; the smell is enough to make you lose your appetite. And don't try to sterilize soil in a microwave oven: you may damage the oven. Another way to prevent damping off is to treat the seeds with captan, which can be bought at a garden supply store. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.