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Inconsistent germ rates - Need help before I start annuums

germination heat light temperature swing

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#1 Hybrid Mode 01

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:25 PM

     I started all my chinenses and wild varieties in early January and I need help figuring out why I'm having really bad luck with many of them. There doesn't seem to be any pattern connecting the varieties that refuse to sprout.

     Some varieties (cumari pollux, mustard fatalii, BOC, Peru Bitdumi) seemed to sprout pretty quickly. Maybe not every seed popped, but the ones that did look healthier and more robust than any pepper I've grown in years past. 

     A few weeks ago, I heavily replanted all varieties that didn't sprout (about a half dozen seeds in each pot). Of these, some (chocolate habanero, 7 pot burgundy, 7 pot bubblegum) germinated like I'd expect - almost 100% germ. This is where things get weird.

     Some varieties just refuse to sprout. And it's not the varieties that are traditionally difficult to germinate, either. I understand that my wild varieties and some of my pubes may take a while to sprout, that's fine. But what's up with 0% germ rates (for almost 10 seeds!) for varieties like Bonda Ma Jacques, Datil, 7 pot Madballz caramel among others?

 

 

 

(Start here if you hate reading long posts…)

 

     The only hypothesis I have (spitballin' here…) is that this is the first year I have used a heating mat for germinating. I keep it on a thermostat set to 83F. I also have eight 4' T8s over them set to 18/6. My  (possibly unfounded and hair brained) thought is that when the lights are on, the soil (4.5" pots under humidomes) warms up, causing the heat mat to shut off. Then, when the lights shut off, the top layer of soil cools until the heat mat has time to warm the soil (from underneath).

     Is it plausible that this is causing a temperature swing in the top layer of soil (where the seeds are)? Is it possible that temperature inconsistencies inhibit seed germination? If so, why aren't all varieties affected? Who shot JFK? Do I need to do something different, or just shut up and wait? 

     Questions? Ideas? Let's hear 'em!

     

 

Thank you in advance!

 

          -HM01


Edited by Hybrid Mode 01, 19 February 2015 - 01:26 PM.


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#2 hogleg

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:35 PM

Back and to the left.

 

No idea if its your problem. But the gottdam heatmats always have hot spots. And I swear I've cooked seeds because of it. Try and see if you're not getting starts from the same area of the mat each time?



#3 President Trump

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:50 PM

Get a thermometer and check your soil temperature with it. Don't rely on what you have the heat mat set on.

 

I don't think that the T8's put out enough heat to make a  significant difference in the soil temperature.

 

If you are getting 0% germination with ten seeds then you probably have some bad seeds or you are making a serious error. With the setup that you describe it doesn't sound to me like you are making any huge mistakes that would make then not germinate.

 

Be patient also. They can take a month or longer to germinate sometimes.

 

Go to a Chinese buffet tonight.


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#4 Hybrid Mode 01

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:57 PM

 

 

 But the gottdam heatmats always have hot spots. And I swear I've cooked seeds because of it. Try and see if you're not getting starts from the same area of the mat each time?

 

     Interesting… I didn't know that - not much experience with them. Having cooked seeds in the past, I know that this is a concern. 

     As far as the locations of seeds that have sprouted, I haven't paid attention to that. I tend to rotate the pots within my starting trays regularly to help keep moisture consistent (pots in the center of the trays dry out faster than those on the ends). From now on I will keep them in the same spot and use another thermometer to measure temps in different pots at different times of day.

     Now you got me thinkin'... Thanks for the input, hogleg! 


Back and to the left.

 

 

;)



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#5 hogleg

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:12 PM

Btw I'm talking about the 1020 hydrofarm mat with green writing on it. Supposedly you can get higher quality mats nowadays that have less inconsistencies.



#6 juanitos

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:14 PM

just don't use heat mats like me.

I had 2 varieties that just sucked at germ (like 15%) i'm guessing these were just old/crap seed.


Edited by juanitos, 19 February 2015 - 02:14 PM.

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#7 jcw10tc

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:16 PM

When I first tried hot peppers 15 years back had similar problems. Do all my germination in paper towels and ziplocs or plastic containers. Easier to be more precise with temperature and moisture.

#8 Hybrid Mode 01

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:18 PM

Get a thermometer and check your soil temperature with it. Don't rely on what you have the heat mat set on.

 

I don't think that the T8's put out enough heat to make a  significant difference in the soil temperature.

 

If you are getting 0% germination with ten seeds then you probably have some bad seeds or you are making a serious error. With the setup that you describe it doesn't sound to me like you are making any huge mistakes that would make then not germinate.

 

Be patient also. They can take a month or longer to germinate sometimes.

 

Go to a Chinese buffet tonight.

 

     Ahh, patience. I remember when I had some of that. Back when it was the middle of January and I didn't need to worry about only having half of my chinenses sprouted.  :D​ 

     I have been reluctant to chalk this problem up to bad seeds because with only a few exceptions, all the seeds I planted were bought this year. Also, some of the varieties I replanted were from a different source than the first batch. Batting .000 using seeds from two sources makes that seem unlikely. 

     I know that T8s don't emit a whole lot of heat, but the light they produce, combined with the greenhouse effect of the humidomes, is enough to warm the soil to the point where the heat mat shuts off during much of the light cycle. 

     I'm definitely going to stick an instant read thermometer in pots in different locations on the mat. It never dawned on me that there could be such inconsistencies in heat, but with both you and hogleg (two guru growers!) implicating that as a possible culprit, I think (hope) I'm getting a handle on this.

     Sorry if I seem argumentative or dickish with your suggestions, not my intent at all. I really appreciate your taking the time to think this through with me. 



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#9 Jamison

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:27 PM

I'd chalk it up to bad seeds.  I have some Datil seeds that I can guarantee will sprout if you'd like some.  What other varieties are you having problems with?  I'll see if I have them to send as well. 



#10 Hybrid Mode 01

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 03:11 PM

Btw I'm talking about the 1020 hydrofarm mat with green writing on it. Supposedly you can get higher quality mats nowadays that have less inconsistencies.

 

     I think I'm using a different brand - also has green writing, but labeled as "Growers Supply Company". Maybe higher quality than Hydrofarm, but I still don't trust it now!

 

 

just don't use heat mats like me.

I had 2 varieties that just sucked at germ (like 15%) i'm guessing these were just old/crap seed.

 

     Oh, man. Don't tell me these things!  ;) Not after I spent all that money on mats and thermostats! But, yeah. I may have to try something different if things don't turn around.

 

 

When I first tried hot peppers 15 years back had similar problems. Do all my germination in paper towels and ziplocs or plastic containers. Easier to be more precise with temperature and moisture.

 

     I used paper towels in ziplocs the last couple of seasons and had OK luck. I'm beginning to think my less than stellar results were more a product of overheating them, rather than the germination method itself. 

     Depending on what I discover by taking temp readings of different pots, I may just give non-soil germination another shot. Thanks for the input!


I'd chalk it up to bad seeds.  I have some Datil seeds that I can guarantee will sprout if you'd like some.  What other varieties are you having problems with?  I'll see if I have them to send as well. 

 

     I dunno, man. I find it hard to believe that Braves Fan, Frankie Ruiz, PepperLover, mpicante, ikeepfish and Wicked Mike are ALL distributing bunk seeds. In past years, I've had much higher germ rates using much shadier looking seeds that I acquired from much shadier sources. It just seems more logical that the problems I'm having this year are a result of a different and (for me, at least) untested method of germination. Occam's razor.

     I really appreciate your offer for the datils and other seeds, but I think I'll hold off until I do a little troubleshooting. I'd feel like a real dick if you went to the trouble of sending me seeds just so I had another batch to kill. Besides, it's getting a little late to be starting chinenses. I think I'll just see what happens with what's already in the dirt and (hopefully) fill in the blanks with more jalapeños. 



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#11 Ozzy2001

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 04:53 PM

I think I cooked some seeds as well. I had 72 cell sheet in a 1020 tray with a done on a heat mat. I had quite a few pop up but nothing from others.
Once I switched to a sterilite with double paper towel sprayed and kept moist I had much higher germ rates. I also put a folded terry towel down on the mat and set my sterilite up on 2 carpenter pencils so it sits just above the surface. I was having instances of the paper towel completely drying out from when I sprayed and left for work to when I got home, while the lid was dripping.

#12 Scorched

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 05:55 PM

I might have missed it but do you soak your seeds prior to planting? This is my 1st year as well with seeds and I went overkill with sowing not knowing what to expect with germ rates. I soaked all my seeds in half strength chamomile tea for 24 hours prior to planting. The first 72 cell tray I kept on the radiator with the lid on until first hooks appeared and then it came off and stayed off. Tray went on the shelf under the t8s immediately. The remainder went onto a 4 foot by 2 foot heat mat I got off of Amazon. No thermostat used cause I didn't feel like spending an extra 35 bucks. I put the mat under the t8s, put the 72 cell trays on it and turned it on. Hooks in 1 week and dome came off immediately and stayed off. Doing nothing else but bottom watering when dry, all eight 72 cell trays are now full of seedlings. Probably at 98% germination success. Some seedlings have just popped this week.  I have over 100 varieties going and am using seeds from some of the folks you listed above. Also kept the mat turned on while waiting for the rest to pop even though I've read not to. Worked for me.

 

On the other hand, I tried both the ziplock baggie and storage container paper towel/coffee filter method for four varieties that I'm growing 30 plants each of to sell as seedlings. I followed the directions, both covering with plastic wrap and not, and have had 0 germination. almost 120 seeds and not one has germ'd yet. They've been on the radiator for coming up on 3 weeks and still nothing. Maybe I did something wrong, too much water or something. 

 

Sorry for the length of this post and hopefully something I posted might be relevant. Just how I have had success with my first year with seeds.



#13 Hybrid Mode 01

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 07:40 PM

I think I cooked some seeds as well. I had 72 cell sheet in a 1020 tray with a done on a heat mat. I had quite a few pop up but nothing from others.
Once I switched to a sterilite with double paper towel sprayed and kept moist I had much higher germ rates. I also put a folded terry towel down on the mat and set my sterilite up on 2 carpenter pencils so it sits just above the surface. I was having instances of the paper towel completely drying out from when I sprayed and left for work to when I got home, while the lid was dripping.

 

     Good to know. I have been thinking about putting an insulating layer of some sort between the mat and the tabletop. I think it might help to eliminate hot spots on the mat. 

     When I set up my grow tables in January, I noticed that the surface of the table droops about 1/4" or so. The lack of contact between the mat and the more rigid trays that sort of span the gap formed by the drooping tabletop might be causing the edges (where the trays contact the mat) to be overheating. Putting something like a carpet remnant between the table and the trays might eliminate that gap and promote more consistent heating.

 

I have over 100 varieties going and am using seeds from some of the folks you listed above.

 

     Thanks for chiming in on this. That's good to hear. I have far more confidence in other THP members' skills at growing viable seed than I do in my abilities to put them to use!  :P     

     Once plants get bigger, I'm really good with them. I guess I'm just no good with babies. 

     

 

 

 

     I have been using two instant read kitchen thermometers to measure the temp of a few of my pots at different times of day. While I haven't seen temps that I believe would be high enough to kill seeds, I HAVE seen temps that are almost always a few degrees (<5) off from what my thermostats are reading at the same time. I figure if that's the case, it's conceivable that at certain times, seed-damaging temps may be occurring - just maybe not when I happen to be checking. 

     I'm going to go look for some cheap carpeting tomorrow and see if that allows the mat to make better contact with the trays. Until then, I decided to turn down the thermostat a few degrees and see what happens. I'll post in a few days with some pics of what I come up with.

     Thank you to everybody who helped so far!


Edited by Hybrid Mode 01, 21 February 2015 - 07:44 PM.


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#14 Scorched

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 08:40 PM

Hoping everything works out and everything starts to pop soon.



#15 KevinH

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 04:57 PM

I use Super Sprouter brand mats thermostat pans and domes. I use 18 inch t5 lights And cheap rapid rooter plugs.. thermostat is a must have..Read some of the glogs lots of insight.





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