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Seed Starting - Tea Tip
WARNING: This article discusses a popular seed pre-treatment method which some believe can improve sprouting times. Because this approach does not always work, and can even cause harm in some instances, please read this entire article before deciding if trying this approach makes sense for your particular circumstances.
How To Do It:
First, get a single-serve tea bag of regular tea (i.e. - normal tea, not herbal or flavored). Make a cup of tea. Then throw-out the tea, but keep the tea bag. You read that right!

Next, make a second cup of tea, with fresh hot water, but with the same used tea bag. Let it soak for about 4 minutes.

Now toss the tea bag, and add enough cold water to the second cup of tea to get one quart of liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature, if necessary.

Next, take a regular plate (or shallow dish), and two paper towels. Soak the paper towels in the diluted tea solution. Place one now-soaked paper towel flat across the plate. Place your seeds on top of it, then place the second soaked paper towel on top of them.

Now, cover the entire thing with Saran cling-wrap (or similar plastic wrap), and place it in your refrigerator for 24 hours. Be sure it's not in a spot that gets too cold! (i.e. - you don't want it to freeze!)

After 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator. Remove and plant the seeds immediately.

That's it!

Does It Work?
There is much confusion and many contradictory opinions as to whether or not this approach actually works. Tests by ourselves and others revealed the likely source of this confusion...

It appears that the benefits of this approach may be species or variety-specific! (i.e. - it works with some kinds of peppers but not others)

More specifically, it appears that this approach works with some, but not all, harder-to-sprout peppers. It did not appear to provide any benefit for peppers which were already fast and easy to sprout, and in some cases actually caused damage!

With regards to species, it seemed to work well (or at least did not cause harm) with the C. pubescens we tried, as well as some harder-to-sprout rare C. chinense (habanero) varieties. However, with some "cooking" varieties of C. annuums we tried, not only did it not help, it appeared to actually cause harm, by delaying or even preventing germination!

In particular, its possible benefits with the C. pubescens may make sense, as these originate in higher elevations in the Andes mountains, are used to cooler climates than other peppers, and may be more receptive to using cold to break dormancy; in addition, the tannic acid may help to penetrate the unusual seed coat which is unique to this particular species of pepper.

It has also been reported to be of some benefit with tepin seeds.

Given the mixed results we witnessed, we would not recommend using this approach for all kinds of peppers, however, it may be of some benefit for certain hard-to-sprout varieties.

If you have had any experience (good or bad) using this approach with any specific varieties of pepper, tell us about it!

For more advice of starting pepper seeds, see our Pepper Seed Starting Tips article.
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