How to get Bell Pepper seeds to germinate

Pepper seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate! I started with different varieties (California Wonder and King of the North) and had no success germinating them indoors (in soil and on paper towels), under growlights in soil, or outdoors in a cold frame.
bell pepper seedlings
King of the North Bell Pepper Seedlings

My goal was for my garden to be self-sustaining. To grow all my own plants from seeds without the use of electricity or relying on nursery transplants.

I ran a bunch of experiments with various plants - starting seeds indoors, under lights, outdoors, and in the outdoor coldframe. I started some in winter and some in spring.

More than a month went by before I finally got the pepper seeds to germinate - and those were in the cold frame outdoors.

To be transparent, I live in zone 4, and our spring was mottled with 20-70 degree weather. We had long stretches of warmth and long stretches of cold. We had rain, snow, and hail in April and May.

But I finally got half of my bell pepper seeds to germinate.

Just leaving them in a cold frame in 20, 30, 40, 50, and even 60 degree weather was not going to get them to germinate.

Leaving them in my house in 67 degree (constant) temperature did not cause germination.

I finally got them to germinate by taking advantage of the heat sinks within the cold frame.
growing in a solar greenhouse in zone 4

My cold frame is a basic poly box - small and not very insulating. I place bricks and stones inside the frame to hold heat (to radiate in the cooler evenings.)

I had tomatoes, squash, and melons all survive the 20 degree nights inside that cold frame (I did wrap the cold frame with another layer of plastic on the coldest nights.)

And using the heat sink bricks - I finally got the peppers to germinate. How? By placing the growing container on top of the bricks.

Duh!! Why didn't I think of that before? Peppers NEED heat to germinate. Most people use electric heating mats. Why couldn't or didn't I think to use the heat collected all day in those bricks to heat up the soil?
germinating bell pepper seedlings outside
2 bell peppers seedlings inside cold frame on top of heat sink bricks

It happened by accident because I planted things inside the coldframe and ran out of space. So I put my melon containers (which had not germinated in weeks!) on the stones because there was no ground space. I noticed that my melons finally germinated, and it all clicked. The peppers went on the stones and germinated within a few days.

The problem of germinating peppers and melons without electricity has been solved. Tell your friends!!


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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!

Angela

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