Every winter we start our peppers and tomatoes indoors. About two months before the last expected freeze in North Texas, we start prepping our seeds. In the past, we would lay out the seeds on our dining room table and use heat lamps. This year, we have turned an old aquarium into a terrarium. I like this setup better, although we are still using our dining room table.
We re-hydrated the tomato seeds before planting them in their temporary home.
We are growing Flamenco tomatoes and wild tomatoes. The wild tomatoes will produce even in 100-degree weather. Both types have produced well and have good flavor. We have also started Redskin and Purple bell peppers. I gave some Purple bell peppers away last year, and they were well received. For seed starting medium, we use one part potting soil, one part native soil, and one part compost.
We put the seeds into a used, 55-gallon aquarium. These can often times be found for free on Craigslist. We put foil around three sides of it to help reflect heat and light. We put 15-watt florescent grow lights inside. I definitely like everything being contained inside the aquarium. I am less concerned about fire hazards this way; I worried before that my cat might knock things over, but now I things should be safe from her.
For now we are keeping the lights on all the time, and later we will start putting the seeds outside a little at a time to begin to acclimate the plants to the outdoors. We start out with just a couple of hours at a time and then gradually increase the time. When we are confident that there will be no more freezes, we transplant the seeds into the ground. We usually use a cover crop around them to help retain moisture. We have found that it reduces the need for watering and keeps the temperature of the soil lower.
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