Selecting peppers to cold climate by direct sowing in southern Finland, trialling direct seeding okra, basil and eggplant

Probably one of the most anticipated trials has started. Yesterday I sowed something like 10 000 seeds of F2/F3/F4 peppers (c.annuum). You could say the ground has been peppered with seeds :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: (that feels like a compulsory pun). Originally idea was to also put clear plastic on to speed things up, but I got to plant a little later and the weather has been quite favorable and looks to continue over the coming week that it would maybe help a bit too much. And quite frankly, I got a little creedy. I have so many seeds that I wanted to make use of them now even thought I don’t have a strong precedent that this would work. It’s highly likely that I can get some continuity, but it’s certainly not certain. The cloth will be on when needed. Hopefully that’s only this early season when the ground still needs to collect heat, but if need be, it will be on if progress or the weather isn’t good enough. This first year continuity is the most important and to have some precedent on how well they do and how tight it will be getting seeds.

There are some okra, eggplants and basil at the end of the row to get some feeling of how likely this is to work. Those have now also clear plastic to help them get started, especially for okra, which might not think that planting them at +17C (64F) is appropriate. I dared to plant them now when it looks like it’s warming up again and sunny which should be enough under the protection. Okras are mostly with kandahari pendi landrace with some crosses with clemson spineless that I made last year. Eggplants are just some F1s that I had the most seeds of just to see if there is sense to go this way once I have excessive amounts of F2+ seeds. Basil are from F3 swarm that I grew last year.


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I have a few pepper volunteers in my zone 6a garden, so direct seeding is definitely an option. Quantity of seed will definitely boost your chances of getting some plants. I think if you use direct seeding as a selection criteria, then you’ll get peppers that are adapted to direct seeding.

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Yes it’s an option, but here it’s a bit tight. In general, even growing peppers from transplants is considered hard outdoors and needs a little help. Although the zone (by winter temps) is z5, summers are more akin to z3-4 on average temperatures. Some summers are hotter, but some summers it might never get over +25c (76F) which would be coupled with cold, close to freezing nights. It’s a risk I have to take if I want to select from huge amounts of seeds.

When it comes to adaptions to direct seeding, those might not be bad in general also. I think last year’s direct seeded tomatoes were better with water stress which might also be beneficial with transplants. If you think about it, just about every crop has been bred to be grown in controlled conditions. First in pots with watering and later with irrigation either in pots or in fields, or in suitable climates, with natural irrigation. Might be good to bring back some of those adaptions.

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Okras are up and also eggplants had started to emerge. I now removed the clear plastic from okra, eggplants and basil as the weather is so warm that even okra shouldn’t have much need for it for now. Maybe it can provide some selection as well as it still isn’t maybe as warm as okra would like it.

At least some peppers had come up 2 days ago, but today I had a better look when I did weeding and could see that most had at least some that had come up. There are some areas where there aren’t that many yet, but I’m sure it will change in a few days. Still a bit too early to worry about that.

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Weeded rows and culled some late germinating where there was extras. Only few spots remain empty where I transplanted 3 extra peppers I had left. At spots there aren’t than many seedlings, but if they have outsurvived others this far, I believe there is a good change they will grow well to maturity. Biggest have just started to grow first true leaves.

Eggplants have benefited from the early heating with clear plastic and are now growing like crazy.

Okras have done very well as well. Seems like it’s been favourable enough even if finnish heat wave isn’t really what they are accustomed. Sauna would be more suited for them. Now starts the real test for them. At least for the next week or so temperatures aren’t expected to exceed 20C (68F) and some days at might only be highs of 15C (59F). Night likely to be under 5C (41F) at ground level, but frosts aren’t likely. Black plastic and cloth are going to help, but still going to be challenge for okra. I was planning on putting clear plastic on during cooler period, but they are already so far along that there isn’t any need for faster growth. With the forecasted rain clear plastic cover might become hazardous itself so lets just see what they can deal.

Basil didn’t germinate that well. Only 5 have come up so far. I don’t need that many anyway. Plan was just to see how well they can make seeds direct seeded. Such a low germination was a bit unexpected though. Not sure what was the problem. Might be that there was more unviable seeds than I thought and conditions did some selecting. Or they would have needed surface to be kept moist. In any case it’s just a proof of consept for which 5 is plenty.

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Some of the best peppers now. They are about the same size as in last years trial at this time, the best maybe day or 2 futher along. Not all holes have this many or this big, but mostly the best in all parts aren’t that much behind. Did some culling of smaller/excess seedlings and weeding to help them grow. Looking at last years pictures, this is the point where the growth started to accelerate. Weather forecast doesn’t look too bad even if it has gone down from what was forecasted a couple of days ago. Highs around 20C (68F) and mostly sunny should be enough with the cloth and black plastic.

Okra made it through the coldest days. It seems that one row has been more affected by conditiones. That side seems to be dryer that might be part of the reason. Part might be that wind might have blown from that direction pushing cloth (and cold air) right on plants. So now there are a row that have gotten it easier and are likelier to make seeds as back-up and row that has had tough selection pressure, so that if they have time to make seeds, they are possibly more adapted to adverse conditions.