Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peppers and Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Today it's time to plant my pepper seeds. That presents an issue for me, as unfortunately in addition to being an avid gardener, I am also an avid smoker. So for me planting peppers, is a surgical procedure. I prepare for it like a surgeon prepares for surgery.

I learned the hard way last year, I planted Jalapenos and Cayenne Peppers. Without knowing any better, I also smoked while I did it and I smoked in my grow room while I nurtured my growing seedlings. I don't do that anymore. What happened was that my peppers grew fabulously for about 5 weeks, to about two inches, then got spots, withered and died. I was so disappointed and confused. I thought I did everything I could to grow them properly. Thus began my education about Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

I will not begin to try and describe the virus, there are bunches of sites on the web that do a much better job of describing the virus than I could. I will simply describe the preventative measures I learned to take. They are as follows:
  • When planting, wash hands with soap and water thoroughly and then rinse in skim milk (Skim milk kills the virus) before touching planting medium or seeds. Something about the Ph level of skim milk. This is well documented on the Internet.
  • Absolutely no smoking in grow room, ever.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and rinse in skim milk prior to watering pepper seedlings.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and rinse in skim milk prior to transplanting pepper seedlings.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and rinse in skim milk prior to touching pepper plants as they grow.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and rinse in skim milk prior to harvesting peppers.

So last year after my peppers died, and I figured out it was Tobacco Mosaic Virus that killed them, and after learning the preventative measures mentioned above, I replanted my peppers a second time. I followed the rules meticulously and without exception and successfully grew healthy peppers to fruition.

So needless to say, if you are a gardener and a smoker like me, and want to grow peppers, be advised.

I planted the following peppers this year:

  • Jalapenos (Mildly Hot)
  • Cayenne (Hot)
  • Chiltepin (Very Hot)
  • Pequin (Very Hot)
  • Green, Red, Yellow and Orange Sweet Peppers

NOTE: Tomato plants are just as vulnerable to Tobacco Mosaic Virus as peppers. Follow all the same precautions with them as with peppers.


Sow seed in shallow flats, 4 seeds/in., 1/4" deep, in late March or about 8 weeks prior to transplanting outdoors. If possible, maintain soil temperatures 80-90°F (27-32°C). Pepper seeds germinate very slowly in cooler soil. When the first true leaves just show, transplant 2-3" apart in flats or 2" cell-type containers. (The use of 2" or larger cells will produce larger plants with better-developed root systems.) Grow plants at approx. 70°F day and 60°F nights.

COLD TREATMENT: Exposing the seedlings to controlled cold treatments can increase the number of flowers and fruits. When the third true leaf appears, grow the plants at a minimum night temp. of 53-55°F (12-13°C) for 4 weeks. The plants should receive full sunlight. After 4 weeks adjust temp. to 70°F (21°C) day and night. Feed at this point with diluted solution every two weeks at this point, at transplanting and at flowering. If this technique is used, peppers should be seeded 1-2 weeks earlier than usual.

TRANSPLANTING: Before transplanting, be sure that the soil temperature is at least 65°F. Transplant out after frost when the soil is warm and weather is settled. Ideal seedlings have buds, but no open flowers. Set plants 12-18" apart in rows 24-36" apart, or 2 rows on poly/paper mulch, 18" between plants. Water-in transplants using a high phosphorus solution. Do not smoke around pepper plants. Try to use black mulch under plants. Remove prior to summer or add topping of hay/straw mulch to keep soil from getting too hot.

NEVER TOUCH PLANTS OR SEEDS IF YOU HAVE USED OR TOUCHED ANY FORM OF TOBACCO UNTIL YOU HAVE THOROUGHLY CLEANED YOUR HANDS.  TMV- Do not plant Tomato and Pepper seedlings in the same bed. Spray seedlings with skim milk to lowers the PH on the surface of the leaves so they are less susceptible to mildew and viral infections.

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