- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
Potting the Seedlings
Plant each seedling into individual larger containers with potting soil to give them plenty of room to grow larger. Any type of pot with a drainage hole will do. Continue to keep them warm and watered from the bottom, with adequate light each day, along with the oscillating fan discussed in part one. Keep them in the pots for at least a week.
Pepper plants dislike cold, so they could die if moved outside into your garden too early. It is best to wait until all chances of frost are gone and the soil has warmed up. In our area that is usually between the end-of-March and early April.
“Hardening Off” is an Important Step!
The seedlings are used to an indoor environment where there is no rain, wind, or direct sunlight, so they need to be toughened up prior to transplanting them to your garden outside. This is called “hardening off” and is a crucial step that cannot be skipped if you want to have healthy, producing pepper plants.
The hardening process can begin when daytime temperatures are consistently above 60°F and 7 – 14 days prior to the day you plan to transplant the seedlings to your garden:
- During the first couple days move the pots outside to a sheltered, shady spot such as a covered patio. Choose a mild weather day that is not windy or has a storm forecast. Leave them outside for two hours and bring them back inside under the grow lights. Over the next few days, gradually increase the time the plants spend outside in the protected area.
- Move plants out from the sheltered area. Again, start at just a couple hours per day, then over five – seven days gradually increase the length of time your plants are exposed to the sun. Do this during the morning or evening hours since afternoon sunlight could burn them. Gentle rain and light winds during this time will help the plants get used to the elements but move them back to protected shelter as needed if extreme weather occurs.
- The plants will dry out faster outside, so check regularly and water as needed, which could be more than once a day. They can get slightly dry, but do not let them dry out to the point of wilt.
- Once your seedlings have been outdoors all day and the temperatures are consistently above 50°F at night, you can leave them outdoors during nighttime as well. But they will still need to be protected from high winds and storms.
Planting in the Garden!
Do not overfertilize. Peppers are light feeders but will benefit from a regular feeding of a well-balanced organic fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers.
Peppers are slow to mature, so depending on the pepper variety, when you planted them in your garden, and the weather, you should be able to reap the rewards of your labor between July and September! Enjoy!
Author: Denise Godbout-Avant, UC Master Gardener since 2020/h3>/h3>/h3>
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- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
What are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms, also known as toadstools, are the visible reproductive body of a fungus which produces spores. Mushrooms seem to magically appear and then quickly disappear. The fruiting body you see releases its spores to be spread by air currents, with the mushroom then drying up. When spores land in a satisfactory location they will germinate, sending out long filaments called hyphae.
The standard visible morphology of a mushroom is a stipe (stem) topped by a cap with gills on the underside, but mushrooms come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and uses. The common mushroom is the cultivated white button mushroom we see in stores. Other shapes include puffball, stinkhorn, morel, bolete, shelf, truffles, bird's nests, orange peel, and agarics. Colors vary from white, black, brown, yellow, and occasionally orange and reds. Sizes range from microscopic to 5 feet in diameter!
Many mushrooms also have an underground filament called mycelium (plural: mycelia). You can sometimes see mycelia when turning over a rotting log or by digging underneath a cluster of mushrooms. The mycelia will look like a stringy mat of white fibers in and around plant and tree roots.
History & Uses
The terms “mushroom” and “toadstool” go back centuries. Much of their mystery is due to their association with poisonings and accidental deaths. They were thought to be special and supernatural by many cultures including Egyptians and Romans who associated them with their rulers and gods. Chinese and Japanese cultures have utilized mushrooms for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Hallucinogenic mushroom species have a history of use among Indigenous people of Mesoamerica for religious purposes and healing from pre-Columbian times. People today correlate hallucinogenic mushrooms with the hippie period in the 1960s. Edible mushroom species have been found in 13,000-year-old archaeological sites in Chile. Truffles have been collected as far back as 1600 BC.
Poisonous mushrooms can be very hard to identify in the wild, so unless you have been taught how to classify mushrooms by an expert, it is recommended you buy from a reliable grocery store. Mycologists identify mushrooms by observing their morphology, getting spore prints, microscopic study, and with mushroom keys, though applying DNA technology is becoming common.
You can also grow your own mushrooms at home – kits are available online and at some plant nurseries.
Mushrooms in Your Garden and Lawn
- Common mushrooms in gardens include inky caps, stinkhorns, puffballs, or bird's nests.
- A “fairy ring” of mushrooms is an arc of mushrooms around a circle of darker green lawn, often in shady areas. They get their name from an ancient belief that fairies danced in these circles around the mushrooms.
- Mushrooms in lawns often develop from buried scraps such as pieces of wood or dead tree roots.
- A cluster of honey-colored mushrooms may appear at the base of a tree in the fall. These don't usually appear unless the host tree is dying.
- New lawns require frequent irrigation until established, thus creating a perfect setting for mushrooms, which is why they often appear in freshly planted lawns.
Remember, the mushrooms you see are the fruiting bodies that produce spores. Thus, removing them will not kill the underground mycelia from which they are growing, unless you pick them prior to their release of spores. However, you can try to reduce the number of mushrooms you have by decreasing the amount and frequency of watering your lawn and let the grass dry in between. For more information in dealing with mushrooms in your lawn, visit the UC IPM website at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74100.html
Whether you see mushrooms in the forest, in your lawn or neighborhood, I hope you can appreciate and enjoy these unique, complex, beautiful, valuable, diverse, and magical organisms!
-This article was originally published on December 6, 2021.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since July 2020./h4>/h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
Pepper seedlings take anywhere from one to six weeks to germinate, depending on the variety. When the weather and soil are warm enough, if you want to have pepper plants ready plant in your garden, now is the time to start the seeds.
This is part one of a two-part series. This article focuses on growing and caring for your pepper seeds. The second article will cover potting the seedlings, “hardening-off,” and transplanting them into your garden.
What Is Needed
- 6-pack seedling tray(s) with a clear lid (humidity dome)
- Good quality seed-starting soil
- Heat mat (optional, but very helpful)
- Grow lights and timer
- Liquid plant starter fertilizer
- Oscillating fan (helpful, but not required)
- Latex gloves (if planting hot peppers, but not needed with dry seeds)
Beginning Steps: Planting the Seeds
- Fill clean seed trays with damp seed starting soil.
- If using new seeds, plant one/cell; if older or have low viability rate, plant 2-3 seeds/cell. Follow instructions on the seed packet, but the rule of thumb is planting depth is twice as deep as the seed is wide. For pepper seeds, this would be about ¼ inch deep. Cover the seeds with soil.
- If the soil is not already wet, add water. It is best to always water from the bottom so not to disturb the seed. Add enough water into tray until it is about ¼ inch. Do not overwater! Dump out any excess water that has not been absorbed in 15 minutes. Peppers dislike soggy roots, so let the soil dry out a bit between watering.
- Cover the tray with the clear dome lid to help keep the soil warm and moist.
- Place the tray in a warm spot. It is recommended to put it on top of a heat mat, which provides a consistent heat source and helps speed up germination. The ideal temperature is 80-90°F. If it is too cold the seeds may not grow.
- Once the seedlings sprout, remove the dome cover and turn off heat mat.
Pepper Seedlings Care: Light, Fertilizer and Air Circulation
- The seedlings need to be watered consistently, but do not like wet soil. Always water from the bottom. Allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings, but keep it moist, never letting it dry out completely.
- Provide light as soon as they germinate! If pepper seedlings do not get enough light, they will get “leggy” because they are reaching for a light source. To keep them thick and compact, it is best to use a grow light, which is hung up a few inches above the tray and keep it on for 14-16 hours per day. The light should be close to the plants, but not touching. As they grow, move the light higher.
- Once the true leaves begin to form, it is time to start fertilizing using a liquid plant starter fertilizer. Following label directions, start with a weak dose at first, gradually increasing as the seedlings get larger.
- Once most or all the seeds in a flat have germinated, they need to have some airflow, so remove the plastic lids and run an oscillating fan over them on the lowest setting for a few hours each day (you can plug it into the same timer being used for the grow light). An alternative to the fan is to gently brush your hands over the top of the seedlings a few times each day. This will strengthen them and prevent mold in the trays.
Some pepper varieties grow faster than others, but in one to six weeks, your pepper plants will have started to outgrow the trays. Now will be the time for the next steps of transplanting to pots, “hardening” them (a vital step!), and finally, planting into your garden. This will be covered in the second part of this article, which will be posted towards the end of February.
With thanks to Tim Long, UC Master Gardener, for his expertise on growing peppers from seedlings.
Author: Denise Godbout-Avant, UC Master Gardener since 2020
- Author: Tim Long
This indicates only a 10% probability of frost in the Modesto Area by March 3rd. So, lets adjust our start times based on transplanting your starts outside on or after March 3rd.
You just need to back date from March 3rd the number of weeks suggested on your seed packets.
A few more popular vegetables would be started as follows:
Vegetable weeks before last frost earliest start date
Peppers: 8-10 weeks before January 3rd
Tomatoes: 6-10 weeks before January 21st
Cucumbers 3 weeks before February 11th
Summer Squash 3 weeks before February 11th
One last important detail. You need to “harden off” your starts before planting in the garden. This means taking about a week to adjust them to outdoor conditions. Move them out the first day for a couple of hours and then back inside to your starting area. Continue this each day while increasing the length of time outdoors and the amount of direct sun they get before transplanting.
Lots of good information is located on the seed packet that lists start times, depths, light, water and other needs.
The UC Master Gardeners of Stanislaus County are offering a spring vegetable class at the various libraries in February. See our Web page at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Calendar/ for times and locations.
Tim Long has been a UC Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.
Coming Soon: an in-depth article on how to start peppers, one of the most challenging vegetables to start from seed.