Your pepper sprouts breaking the surface and showing off their first cotyledon leaves for the first time is an exciting moment for pepper parents. But, now that they’ve finally woken up what should you do?
If you sprouted your pepper seeds under a humidity dome then you should remove it asap. While humidity domes are great for getting seeds to sprout, once the plants have broken the surface the humidity will be too much for them.
If you have other seeds you’re still waiting to sprout under the dome it’s still best to remove it. The others will have gotten a nice start on sprouting and should still come through. Alternatively, you could carefully prick out the early ones and move them to their own pots outside of the humidity dome but there’s a risk of the roots getting damaged or the plants suffering from transplant shock.
It’s way too early in your little plants life to be thinking about nutrients. If they’ve been planted in soil or a medium that already contains nutrients then they should be good for the first few months of their lives without needing a boost from nutrients.
If you give them nutrients now then there’s a chance the dosage will be too strong and will cause root burn which could kill your plants.
I usually start my seeds in seed cells and always end up impatiently waiting for them to graduate to larger pots. The wait is worth it though! The bigger your plant gets before you repot them the more likely they are to survive the process without suffering too many negative effects.
Wait until they’ve filled the pots they’re currently in or until they’ve got at least a few sets of true leaves before you repot them unless you absolutely have too.
You’ll be able to find plenty of posts about how under watering peppers can produce spicier chillis but that’s for when they’re older. Right now you’ll want to keep them well watered but not saturated. Too much water will cause root rot which can kill your plant and too little will stress it out.
Humidity domes help trap moisture so you probably haven’t had to water your plants all that much if you used one to sprout your chillies. Once it’s off, the soil will dry out faster so check it frequently while you figure out how often you need to water them.
Because mine are in tiny seed starting trays they dry out pretty quickly. I tend to check them in the mornings and evenings and water them whenever the soil looks dry.
I favour bottom watering and if you’re plants are in a container where bottom watering is possible then go for it! Bottom watering will help make sure that the soil is wet through and the roots are getting a good dose of it as well as encouraging the roots to grow deeper.
Again, it’s way too early for hardening off. Plants without a few sets of true leaves are too delicate for the harsher conditions outdoors. Keep them indoors and when they’re ready harden them off nice and slowly.
I tested out hardening off some pepper sprouts this year and the results weren’t good (the weather was pretty awful too!). The majority of them wilted and died in the first few weeks and the ones that did survive had severely stunted growth – 10 weeks and they’re only just getting their first true leaves.
Moving To a Sunny Spot
Once my sprouts appear I like to keep them where they are for the first week while they get established. If they don’t show any signs of problems and I’ve got space in a sunnier spot on my windowsill, I’ll move them there so they can get some extra light and warmth. I sprout my seeds in pretty bright light so it’s not a huge change but any changes in conditions can stress your plant out so make sure to keep an eye on it to make sure it can handle the move.
Caring For Your Sprouts
Aside from removing the humidity dome (if you were using one) and watering your plants whenever they look dry there’s not all that much you need to do differently. Check on them daily for signs of problems that you might be able to fix if you catch them early enough but honestly, it’s just a waiting game for now.
I’m a helicopter pepper parent so I always get really excited when my sprouts start appearing and it’s so tough not to start messing with them before they’re ready. All my plants are currently sprouting so I’ll be spending the next few weeks staring longingly at them just waiting for them to grow.