Peppers Seed seed starting wintersown

Seed Starting – Peppers – An Observation

In spite of feeling an urgency to get my plants in the garden — I’ve really tried to pay attention to what the weather and the plants are saying rather than hurry things along.

I’ve started my warm weather crops with variations of the wintersown method and with excellent results.  The seedlings are healthy, green, robust and growing!  (You know my past experience with pepper seedlings. ) So I’m trying to pay attention to how the seedlings are reacting to different variables.

My first peppers were planted March 18th. (I’ve already started more.) I planted in cell packs, put the cell packs in a flat and brought it inside to germinate — which was about two weeks plus.

Cell packs of pepper seedlings in a flat.

Then two days later I transplanted 3  to a jug prepared in the wintersown fashion and put them outside. On April 15th I removed the top part of several jugs and left them exposed to the air on warm days and under my coldframe during that cold rainy spell we had.  I left the other jugs closed and out in the open.

Pepper seedling that had top of jug removed looks good, but the ones inside the jug look even bigger.


Pepper seedlings that remained longer in the jug.

I noticed today that the peppers still in the jugs are almost twice as big as the ones that have had the tops of the jugs removed — even though they’ve been under the coldframe.

I think that pretty much confirms what we knew already —that peppers like warm weather and when we try to push them along they just sit there and don’t grow until conditions change. Also it shows me that those jugs make amazing little greenhouses!

All my observations may not make a bit of difference in the end result. But I’m sure am enjoying experimenting with different variations of the wintersown method.

I wonder where I’m going to put all these peppers?

Related Posts:

Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So

You Can Plant in December

Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method


Organic Gardening is Easy, Effective, Efficient and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • You’ve motivated me to try this when I get home this evening! So for the peppers that grew the best – were they in jugs that had been cut in half and then kept taped shut? Or does the top half insert into the bottom half without tape? Also, I’m curious what kind of seed starting mix/potting soil you use. Thanks.


  • I would like to try the winter gardening method; where you use milk jugs, but we buy organic milk in a jug that is white. You can not see the milk through the jug or when it is empty your hand does not show through it. Do you think these containers would work? Would the brightness be enough?

    It is the only thing holding me back. Thanks for your articles on gardening.

  • Thanks for the quick reply. This is slightly off topic but one thing I have noticed for the 2nd year in a row is that my basil seedlings are extremely slow growing. They germinate and come up quickly and then hardly do anything for weeks. I have tried two different seed starting mixes. They were started under lights in my basement at around 65 degrees. Just yesterday I moved them onto the porch to begin hardening off. Temperature probably has something to do with this but I wonder if there is more to it. Last year a couple days after I put them in the ground they took off and did great. I wonder if the milk jug method would help.

  • Steve, I think I would try the milk jug method. All I know about growing under artificial light is what those who do it tell me. They say the lights should be two inches over the seedlings. If yours are further away — maybe that’s why it’s not growing — and if light is the reason, the milk jug outside might be the way to go.

    BUT — the main thing is that when you “put them in the ground they took off and did great”.

    I haven’t started my basil yet, but plan to do so this week or next. The “milk jug method” of course.

    Let me know how you do.

  • I think the cold frame might be the missing part of my puzzle. I’ve been taking my winter sown seedlings back inside in bad weather, so perhaps setting back their natural hardening off.

  • By the way, winter sown is a whole lot easier than the lights setup. I’ve tried both, and I will always go with winter sown from now on. Seedlings are so healthy.

  • The seedlings should not have to come inside or be put under a cold frame if they are in the jugs with the top and bottom taped together. They will be naturally hardened off. The seedlings that I have taken out of the jugs and potted, are the ones I have under the cold frames.

  • Great confirmation Sandra. Thanks. This will help a lot of folks.
    As you know, I’ve never had lights and a setup inside.

  • I am sending you a picture of the milk jug. It is more opaque than transparent like yours in the picture. This one still had a couple of inches of milk in it which you can’t see through it to see. I called Walmart to ask why they use these real white cartons instead of the transparent ones and they are to get back to me later. I told them where they sell organic milk they should have their milk in cartons that can be recycled by us organic gardeners. I hope this picture goes through to you. I can’t seem to drag and drop my image in, I will see if I can find an email address for you and email the image. Sharon

  • Hi Sharon,
    Received your picture. Here’s a repeat of part of my answering email to you.

    “Yes, I see what you mean about the jug being opaque. Trying one to see how it works is a good idea. I’d like to hear the results. My gut feeling is that its too opaque — but you will never know for sure until you try and I would definitely try.

    So glad you are enjoying TMG. Let me know if you feel there are other topics I should be covering.

    Looking forward to hearing “the rest of the story.”

  • Sharon – A couple of suggestions:
    I scrounge the neighborhood recycle bins on trash day. I don’t dig through the bins, but I find plenty right on top in plain view. I got about 15 cartons in about 20 minutes within 5 minutes of the house. People are really good about saving them for me when I put the word out to neighbors.

  • Thank you Sandra. I will have to get the word out to my neighbors. I might try putting up a notice at the Library that I am looking for the translucent cartons. Sharon

  • Theresa, I just want to make sure I’m understanding correctly. The transplanted seedlings inside the milk jug ‘greenhouses’ as per the winter sown method did better than the ones that were transplanted into just the bottom of the milk jugs and kept inside your cold frame. In other words, winter sown (after germinating indoors) performed better than the cold frame. Thanks for explaining.

  • With hindsight, Theresa… Would you have started your seeds indoors to germinate any earlier? The long growing season seems to be the key to getting red peppers (that and variety) – I wondered if you planned to start your seeds any earlier this year.
    PS – On my re-reading of your post, I think I’ve answered my question. The wintersown jugs DID out perform the coldframe.

  • The seedling that I germinated inside and transplanted to jugs and then sealed (cap off) and put outside — did outperform the ones transplanted in the bottom of jugs and left under the coldframe. I think had I had a hoop tunnel I would have had just as much success with that as with the jugs. My coldframe was just not warm enough.

    And yes — I am thinking of starting my peppers a bit earlier. Depend on if I can get another hoop tunnel ready for the peppers. No point in my starting too early if I can’t supply the heat they need.

    As you said —one key to getting more red peppers is to start early and have a long enough season for them to ripen.
    I am growing the hybrid pepper Carmen again this year as well. I had very good success with getting fabulous red peppers from those plants year before last.

    Hope I’ve answered all your questions. Let me know if not.

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