Peppers are among the most important plants in our garden. We like them grilled and in salads during the growing season, and they are among the easiest vegetables to cut up and freeze for use in recipes the rest of the year.

You can buy pepper seedlings at farmers markets and farm stands, but the varieties are limited. You can get Ace, some banana peppers and a few hot peppers. But if you want newer selections such as Cornito Giallo and Escamillo, the this year’s All-American Selections winners from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, or other exotic varieties you are going to have to start your own from seed.

Peppers are slow to germinate, taking two to six weeks depending on the variety before they come out of the soil, so you want to start eight or more weeks before your final frost date.

Peppers like warm temperatures, 80 to 85 degrees, so you probably need a heat tray or something similar to start. Plant the seeds just below the planting mix, and keep moist. Use an artificial light or put the seedlings in a south facing window. Water only slightly.

You shouldn’t rush putting the pepper seedlings outside, unless you use hot caps or a hoop house to keep them warm. Wait until temperatures rarely drop down into the 40s.

And then wait for your great grilling peppers in August.

— TOM ATWELL


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